The sensation of "tiredness" is an experience everybody has known. There are people who feel constantly depressed, because they are working against fatigue, which acts like a brake, and increases the strain of work quite fifty per cent.
The woman who is always tired and jaded, looks and feels ten years older than she should, cannot do good work, nor can the man who has allowed himself to get into a state of chronic tiredness. Besides, he risks nervous breakdown at the same time. Some people take a pride in being easily tired. They recruit the ranks of the imaginary invalids, the hypochondriacs, the bores, whose keenest pleasure is the recitation of their symptoms.
But most men and women prefer to be well, and would give a good deal to overcome the tiredness and depression which handicap them so much. They can do so if they like. In ninety per cent of cases the tired feeling oppressing them is the result of physiological sins. It is something they should be ashamed of, because it means that somehow they have erred, either through ignorance or deliberate disregard of Nature's laws. But if we make hygienic mistakes, whether ignorantly or deliberately, Nature compels us to pay. She exacts her penalty, if not now, six months or two years hence. The "tired feeling" is a kindly warning, a hint that we should investigate the error of our ways.
Now, most people are intelligent enough to know when they are neglecting health laws. The mistake they generally make is in underestimating the results. The man who bolts his lunch at express speed knows quite well that he is acting unwisely, but he would be surprised if he were told that the tiredness, irritability, and disinclination for work which comes over him is due to this very fact.
Pain is a late symptom of dyspepsia, and the tired feeling of a very great number of people is due simply and solely to carelessness about food. Slight depression and the tired feeling are early signs of some failure in the process of digestion. Anyone can prove the fact by a simple experiment. Supposing you take a large, rich meal and eat it in a hurry, perhaps when you are rather tired. Then you begin mental work. Your brain is dull and stale. You are vaguely unhappy and depressed. If, on the other hand, you had rested for a short time and taken a light, easily digested meal of egg or fish, bread-and-butter and milk, you would have accomplished without the slightest discomfort the work you wished- to do.
If people realised how much irritability, un-kindness, depression, and chronic fatigue could be traced to unsuspected indigestion, they would be more careful about what they ate, and how they chewed it, every day of their lives.
There is a physiological or natural fatigue which is even pleasurable and easily repaired by rest. After physical exercise, or after two or three hours' brain work we naturally feel tired. But we know the cause in these cases, and the remedy also.
Scientists can show that fatigue is a chemical process, that when a muscle contracts certain chemical changes take place, the oxygen is used up, and carbonic acid and other substances pass into the blood. When we are tired out, blood contains an excess of poisonous material, and it is not until we have got rid of this that we shall feel fresh again. A stimulant will take away the sensation of tiredness simply because it excites the nerve centres temporarily, so that we do not feel depression for the time being. When the effect of the stimulant has worn off the tiredness is more oppressive and apparent than before.
The only way to cure fatigue is to get rid of these poisons, and prevent them accumulating in the future by a better mode of life. Take a very good instance to illustrate this point. Supposing you come in absolutely tired after heavy physical exercise. If you take a hot bath, and then have the muscles thoroughly massaged, you quickly rid yourself of the poisons of fatigue, because one function of massage is to get the poisonous products in the muscles removed into the blood to be excreted from the body.
Lack of fresh air is perhaps the second great cause of that tired feeling. If you sit in stuffy rooms, and get into the habit of taking shallow, inefficient breaths, your blood is deprived of oxygen, and contains an excess of carbonic acid which is depressing to the nervous system. Go into a stuffy room which is not properly ventilated and sit in it for an hour. At the end of that time you are probably not only tired, you are headachy and unhappy. This is all due to poisoned blood. Then if you sleep in a room with closed windows at night you will almost certainly waken up a little tired in the morning.
The only cure for this type of tiredness is more fresh air day and night. At the same time you should practise deep breathing. Indeed, one of the best temporary cures for tiredness is to go into the fresh air, or stand at an open window, and take perhaps ten deep breaths. The tired feeling is immediately relieved because of the oxygen you have taken into your blood by means of the lungs. If you must be in a somewhat ill-ventilated room during part of the day, make up for it whenever you can by taking long draughts of fresh air whenever you get out of doors.
If you breathe properly, and eat properly, there is every likelihood that you will find the tired feeling disappearing in a very short time. If not, then you should ask yourself what other cause may exist.
Perhaps you are too " busy " to take care of yourself, to rest enough, to see that you get food at regular intervals. Too little food is not so common a cause of tiredness as too much, but if an engine is to do its best work it requires a certain amount of coal, so also the strength of the body must be kept up if you are to keep well and do good work.
The woman who is too busy to sit down to a proper meal may not suffer from indigestion if she only eats a little, but the danger is that her body will not be sufficiently nourished and she will become anaemic, and anaemia is a very common cause of tiredness in women and girls. She makes the greatest mistake in the world if she neglects common-sense care of her health for lack of " time."
The woman who says, " I cannot think of myself, I have to take care of other people," rather likes to consider herself a sort of martyr. She is only a fool. Is it not wiser and better to take care of her health, so that she may feel fresh and well, and able to do her work for other people without risk to her own health ?
The very busy woman has all the greater need to take rational care of herself. It entails method. It means that she must go to bed as early as she can ; that she must have a certain amount of exercise in the fresh air, and take care to eat the right sort of food and masticate it thoroughly. Thus, she will be able to do her work ever so much better and keep fit at the same time.
When to Consult a Doctor
And now supposing you lead a really hygienic life, supposing you plan out your days in the best possible fashion, have plenty of fresh air, are careful of your diet, and still are tired; what is the reason of that ?
It may be due to some condition of ill-health which requires to be put right. Many women who are always tired ought to put themselves in the hands of a doctor to find out if there is some condition which is sapping their vitality, and which could be put right with a few weeks' treatment.
The aim of every wise person should be to get healthy and in good condition, to attend to any ailment, and then to keep well. It is absolute folly to take tonics if one knows that there is some definite reason of ill-health. Even if it is an apparently small matter it should not be neglected. Bad teeth may be the starting point of indigestion, anaemia, and constant tiredness and depression.
Then the eye is responsible for a good deal of tiredness and depression amongst both men and women. When no apparent cause can be discovered it is a good plan to have the eyes examined by an oculist so that any error of refraction that may be present can be corrected by glasses.
But it must not be forgotten that, apart from any ill, the tired feeling may be due simply to overstrain, tension. We all have a certain amount of nervous force or energy, and if we misuse this force or exert it in the wrong direction we feel tired mentally and physically. If we give way to the emotions of irritability, jealousy, temper, unkindness, we are more likely to feel tired. If we do our work on tension and work ourselves into a condition of overstrain, keeping it up all the time, never relaxing, never " letting go," we shall certainly feel tired.
The Need for Regular Rest
Too many women go through life on tension, abusing their nervous systems, working on the wrong lines. The tired muscle needs rest before it is fit to work again. The tired brain must sleep to recover its tone. The tired mind or spirit requires the cultivation of repose. Everyone needs to lie fallow sometimes, to take a respite from strain, to rest in mind and body completely.
A good night's sleep, an occasional complete rest during the day, the determination to let the mind relax as well as the body, will go very far to remove the tired feeling and make one fresh, energetic, and keen to take up work again. And when one has done this one has solved half the difficulties of life, for, unless one is healthy in body, it is impossible to work well or cheerfully.