Contented Reader

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Nerves and Common Sense

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Nerves and Common Sense

Annie Payson Call

Project Gutenberg

When Annie Payson Call talks about ‘nerves,’ she means anxiety, depression, irritability, and stress-related illnesses.  It’s handy to have one word to sum up the crap our minds do to your bodies.  I might need to bring back ‘nerves.’  As a word, I mean.  I’m trying to avoid bringing back ‘nerves’ as an ailment.

She was a frequent contributor to the Ladies’ Home Journal, back in the day.  This collection, published in 1909, consists of work that was originally published then.

In many ways, women’s lives in 1909 were very different than they are now.  They were less likely to work outside the home (although Call does talk specifically to women who work).  They were less likely to have political power, social power, or even power in their own homes.  It’s no wonder they were subject to ‘nerves.’

Call’s advice is sensible and practical.  And it’s in some places surprisingly similar to the advice a person might get for creating good mental health today.  Learn to relax.  Meditate.  Learn to work without rushing or panicking.  Learn to accept irritating people’s presence without resenting it.  She has some specific strategies for how to do these things, too.

…if you want to learn to help yourself out of “nerves” learn to rest when you rest and to work without strain when you work; learn to loosen out of the muscular contractions which the nerves cause; learn to drop the mental resistances which cause the “nerves,” and which take the form of anger, resentment, worry, anxiety, impatience, annoyance, or self-pity; eat only nourishing food, eat it slowly, and chew it well; breathe the freshest air you can, and breathe it deeply, gently, and rhythmically; take what healthy, vigorous exercise you find possible; do your daily work to the best of your ability; give your attention so entirely to the process of gaining health for the sake of your work and other people that you have no mind left with which to complain of being ill, and see that all this effort aims toward a more intelligent obedience to and trustfulness in the Power that gives us life. Wholesome, sustained concentration is in the very essence of healthy nerves.


Written by Contented Reader

September 20, 2012 at 7:07 am


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