ONCE met a man who had to do an important piece of scientific work in a given time. He worked from Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock until Monday morning at 10 o’clock without interruption, except for one hour’s sleep and the necessary time it took for nourishment.
After he had finished he was, of course, intensely tired, but instead of going right to bed and to sleep, and taking all that brain strain to sleep with him he took his dog and his gun and went hunting for several hours.
Turning his attention to something so entirely different gave the other part of his brain a chance to recover itself a little. The fresh air revived him, and the gentle exercise started up his circulation, If he had gone directly to sleep after his work, the chances are that it would have taken him days to recover from the fatigue, for nature would have had too much against her to have reacted quickly from so abnormal a strain—getting an entire change of attention and starting up his circulation in the fresh air gave nature just the start she needed. After that she could work steadily while he slept, and he awakened rested and refreshed.
To write from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning seems a stupid thing to do—no matter what the pressure is. To work for an abnormal time or at an abnormal rate is almost always stupid and short sighted.
There are exceptions, however, and it would be good if for those exceptions people knew how to take the best care of themselves. But it is not only after such abnormal work that we need to know how to react most restfully. It is important after all work, and especially for those who have some steady labor for the whole day.
Every one is more or less tired at the end of the day and the temptation is to drop into a chair or lie down on the sofa or to go right to bed and go to sleep. Don’t do it.
Get some entire, active change for your brain, if it is only for fifteen minutes or half an hour. If you live in the city, even to go to walk and look into the shop windows is better than nothing. In that way you get fresh air, and if one knows how to look into shop windows without wanting anything or everything they see there, then it is very entertaining.
It is a good game to look into a shop window for two or three minutes and then look away and see how well you can remember everything in it. It is important always to take shop windows that are out of one’s own line of work.
If you live in the country, a little walk out of doors is pleasanter than in the city, for the air is better; and there is much that is interesting, in the way of trees and sky, and stars, at night.
As you walk, make a conscious effort to look out and about you. Forget the work of the day, and take good long breaths.
When you do not feel like going out of doors, take a story book—or some other reading, if you prefer—and put your mind right on it for half an hour. The use of a really good novel cannot be overestimated. It not only serves as recreation, but it introduces us to phases of human nature that otherwise we would know nothing whatever about. A very great change from the day’s work can be found in a good novel and a very happy change.