Symptoms of "Nerves"
And now that we have dealt with the causes of "nerves," what about their symptoms? We have already said that worry, irritability, temper, depression of mind are the commonest symptoms, but there are many others. You know that feeling of listlessness that comes over you when you have the greatest need of vigour and energy. That is "nerves." You know the restlessness and desire for excitement which exist to a morbid extent amongst so many people these days. The feeling that everything and everybody gets on the nerves, especially towards the latter part of the day, when control requires a superhuman effort, which has to be paid for by a worse attack of "nerves " afterwards.
You know that tendency to self-pity, that hopelessness and distaste of fife which the healthy schoolboy designates the " hump." Well, each and all of these are signs that your nerves are getting out of control, and unless you cure the thing at the beginning it may end in neurasthenia and nervous breakdown. In this series of articles we shall deal with the physical, mental; and the moral treatment for " nerves," because these three must co-operate if complete success is to be ensured. It is waste of time to try to cure neuralgia and spiritual despondency by drugs, diet, and fresh air. The mind must be made healthy as well, because in a large number of cases the victims of " nerves " are suffering from soul sickness as well as bodily ill-health. The soul, the character, the mind require bracing just as the anaemic blood is crying out for iron and the tired muscles want rest.
No person can be said to be perfectly healthy who is not sound in mind, body, and spirit as well as in physique. and this subject will have to be considered if the cure of "nerves " is to be effective. Have you ever noticed that a woman's toilet-table or her desk indicates accurately her type of mind, her character? The shiftless and untidy, slack woman who lacks the most important quality, method, gives eloquent expression of her health outlook by the hopeless disorder and confusion of her papers, ribbons, and toilet accessories. In the same way disordered nerves suggest a mind that is out of control and requires toning. The treatment will be taken up in detail later. Meantime we shall simply give a few rules which will indicate briefly the lines to adopt.
1. Attend to any health ailment that you know exists. If it cannot be cured by domestic measures, consult a doctor. Far more cases of "nerves" than you think are really due to some health weakness, and this is particularly true of women. The " nerves " may have dated from some illness, or birth of a child, and the only cure is attention to the physical cause which is at the root of the matter. In the same way digestive derangement is a frequent cause of nervous ailments. It is said that a mental or nervous breakdown may date from toxic poisoning, due to eating poisoned meat or putrefying tinned food. It is certainly a fact that nervous symptoms are commonly associated with dyspepsia, and the cure of indigestion will in such cases dispose of "nerves."
2. A modified rest cure at the beginning of treatment is generally necessary. This can often be accomplished without neglecting any of one's daily duties and work. It means ten hours sleep at night, and perhaps, when you can get it, one or two hours in bed after the midday meal. It means arranging your day's routine more methodically, so as to get the maximum result with the minimum strain. It means cultivating the power of relaxing mind and muscle at stated times during the day, perhaps only for three minutes at a time. We shall go into this in the next article. The nervous person is so often on tension with the jaw clenched, the fingers clenched, strung up to the highest degree. The sort of rest that type deems sufficient consists in lying down in a state of tension instead of sitting up. That we shall also prove to be useless as treatment for "nerves."
3. Plenty of fresh air, light, and gentle outdoor exercise must not be neglected. They are simple hygienic details which make a vast amount of difference to nervous ills, as well as to every bodily complaint.
4. Light, nourishing diet is generally necessary, because the nervous person is very often ill-nourished, and needs feeding up. If, however, the feeding up is injudiciously done, an attack of "liver " pulls the general health down still further, and accentuates the nervous condition. As a rule, a course of cod-liver oil or a few teaspoonfuls of cream thrice daily, with plenty of butte-and milk, is diet on the right lines if the system requires more fat. Strong tea, coffee, alcohol are better given up for a time. Very probably you will feel worse as a result, because you have taken away the artificial stimulation of these drugs. But it is far, far better in the long run, and by building up your system you gradually cease to feel the need of artificial stimulation.
5. The people whose lives consist of a good deal of drudgery may require more recreation, whilst those whose day is a continual round of pleasure will be all the better for the introduction of a little useful work on behalf of others. The value of healthy, interesting hobbies must not be forgotten, although constant excitement and habitual movement have to be avoided.
6. Lastly, try carefully to control the nerves. Repose can be cultivated just as happiness can be earned. "Nerves," and unhappiness, too, are pernicious habits or attitudes of mind curable by self-suggestion. Meantime, it will be well to cultivate periods of mental rest and bodily relaxation. Try to take your mind off the strain. That will be a good beginning. The question of " tension " will be dealt with in a subsequent article.
To be continued.