ESSAY: What Makes You Tired-and What You Can Do About It
Here is an astounding and significant fact: Mental work alone can't make you tired. Sounds absurd.
But a few years ago, scientists tried to find out how long the human brain could labour without
reaching "a diminished capacity for work", the scientific definition of fatigue. To the amazement of
these scientists, they discovered that blood passing through the brain, when it is active, shows no
fatigue at all! If you took blood from the veins of a day labourer while he was working, you would
find it full of "fatigue toxins" and fatigue products. But if you took a drop of blood from the brain of
an Albert Einstein, it would show no ...view middle of the document...
Yes, we get tired because our emotions
produce nervous tensions in the body.
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company pointed that out in a leaflet on fatigue: "Hard work by
itself," says this great life-insurance company, "seldom causes fatigue which cannot be cured by a
good sleep or rest. ... Worry, tenseness, and emotional upsets are three of the biggest causes of fatigue.
Often they are to blame when physical or mental work seems to be the cause. ... Remember that a
tense muscle is a working muscle. Ease up! Save energy for important duties."
Stop now, right where you are, and give yourself a check-up. As you read these lines, are you
scowling at the book? Do you feel a strain between the eyes? Are you sitting relaxed in your chair? Or
are you hunching up your shoulders? Are the muscles of your face tense? Unless your entire body is as
limp and relaxed as an old rag doll, you are at this very moment producing nervous tensions and
muscular tensions. You are producing nervous tensions and nervous fatigue!
Why do we produce these unnecessary tensions in doing mental work? Josselyn says: "I find that the
chief obstacle ... is the almost universal belief that hard work requires a feeling of effort, else it is not
well done." So we scowl when we concentrate. We hunch up our shoulders. We call on our muscles to
make the motion of effort, which in no way assists our brain in its work.
Here is an astonishing and tragic truth: millions of people who wouldn't dream of wasting dollars go
right on wasting and squandering their energy with the recklessness of seven drunken sailors in
What is the answer to this nervous fatigue? Relax! Relax! Relax! Learn to relax while you are doing
Easy? No. You will probably have to reverse the habits of a lifetime. But it is worth the effort, for it
may revolutionise your life! William James said, in his essay "The Gospel of Relaxation": "The
American over-tension and jerkiness and breathlessness and intensity and agony of expression ... are
bad habits, nothing more or less." Tension is a habit. Relaxing is a habit. And bad habits can be
broken, good habits formed.
How do you relax? Do you start with your mind, or do you start with your nerves? You don't start with
either. You always begin to relax with your muscles!
Let's give it a try. To show how it is done, suppose we start with your eyes. Read this paragraph
through, and when you've reached the end, lean back, close your eyes, and say to your eyes silently:
"Let go. Let go. Stop straining, stop frowning. Let go. Let go." Repeat that over and over very slowly
for a minute ....
Didn't you notice that after a few seconds the muscles of the eyes began to obey? Didn't you feel as
though some hand had wiped away the tension? Well, incredible as it seems, you have sampled in that
one minute the whole key and secret to the art of relaxing. You can do the same thing with the jaw,
with the muscles of the face, with the...