Whatever the effects are, whether exaggerated conscience, exaggerated anxiety, or irritability, the immediate cause of the trouble in such cases as I refer to is in the fact that the stomach has been given too much to do.
We give the stomach too much to do if we put a great deal of food into it when it is tired. We give it too much to do if we put into it the wrong kind of food. We give it too much to do if we insist upon working hard ourselves, either with body or brain, directly after a hearty meal.
No matter how busy we are we can protect our stomachs against each and all of these three causes of trouble.
If a woman is very tired her stomach must necessarily be very tired also. If she can remember that at such times even though she may be very hungry, her body is better nourished if she takes slowly a cup of hot milk, and waits until she is more rested before taking solid food, than if she ate a hearty meal. It will save a strain, and perhaps eventually severe illness.
If it is possible to rest and do absolutely nothing for half an hour before a meal, and for half an hour after that insures the best work for our digestion. If one is pretty well, and cannot spare the half hour, ten or fifteen minutes will do, unless there is a great deal of fatigue to be conquered.
If it is necessary to work right up to mealtime, let up a little before stopping. As the time for dinner approaches do not work quite so hard; the work will not lose; in the end it will gain—and when you begin work again begin lightly, and get into the thick of it gradually. That gives your stomach a good chance.
If possible get a long rest before the last meal, and if your day is very busy, it is better to have the heartiest meal at the end of it, to take a good rest afterward and then a walk in the fresh air, which may be long or short, according to what other work you have to do or according to how tired you are.
I know many women will say: “But I am tired all the time; if I waited to rest before I ate, I should starve.”
The answer to that is “protect your stomach as well as you can. If you cannot rest before and after each meal try to arrange some way by which you can get rid of a little fatigue.”
If you do this with attention and interest you will find gradually that you are less tired all the time, and as you keep on steadily toward the right path, you may be surprised some day to discover that you are only tired half the time, and perhaps even reach the place where the tired feeling will be the exception.
It takes a good while to get our misused stomachs into wholesome ways, but if we are persistent and intelligent we can surely do it, and the relief to the overstrained stomach—as I have said—means relief to the whole body.
Resting before and after meals amounts to very little, however, if we eat food that is not nourishing.