How to Avoid Nervous Breakdown

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Mind tricks you every moment. You are duped by this mischievous mind every moment. You should have an intelligent understanding of its ways. If you turn the searchlight of knowledge on this mind, it will disappear just as darkness will disappear when the lamp is brought.

You must be a psychologist, too, if you want to lead a happy and healthy life and if you want to progress on the spiritual path. Most of the physical ailments spring from a diseased state of mind. Kindly remember this. Emotional imbalance leads to all sorts of nervous troubles and physical illness also. That is the reason why a real sannyasin, even though he is starved, homeless and friendless, is happy and full of vigour. He has inner strength.

You should all lead a well-regulated life. Proper hours of work and rest are necessary. Then alone can you be healthy and peaceful, and have ample time for sadhana. Then alone can you achieve success in all your undertakings. Go to bed at 10 pm and get up at 4 am You will have strong nerves.

Another reason why most people suffer from nervous breakdown is that they do not know how to utilize the holidays. They are more busy on holidays than they are on working days! They waste more energy on holidays, in the name of recreation. There is in fact no re-creation but a double destruction. Observe mouna on all holidays. Devote all your time to sadhana. Do this for six months from now; you will yourself experience the truth of what I say.

If you want to enjoy sound health and peace of mind, then give up indulging in useless wasteful activities. You should discriminate and analyse each action: ‘Is this necessary for me to achieve the goal of life? ‘If the answer is ‘No,’ then refrain from that action. Restrain the mind. The mind will revolt. You have given it too long a rope. You should find out intelligent methods of weaning it away from its wonted ways. You can conserve a lot of energy by avoiding gupshup, idle-gossip and aimless wandering. Once you cultivate a healthy habit of engaging your body and mind in useful activities, you will find you are more peaceful, more healthy and you have more time for sadhana.

The worrying habit is the biggest drain on your nerve-power. A bhakta or real sadhaka can never worry himself. He has perfect faith in God and His Goodness. He has self-confidence. He is serene. He is bold. He is cheerful. He takes things as they come, as the Lord gives him. He achieves a lot, while a man who worries drops from his hand the golden opportunities that are put into it by the Lord.

The secret of healthy life

Very few people realize that evil qualities like hatred, jealously, anger, touchiness and impatience are harmful to themselves rather than to those towards whom they are directed. A ft of anger that lasts ten minutes takes away more energy than would working at the plough for two days without food. The slow gnawing jealousy eats away nerve-power more rapidly than white ants eat through dry wood. Over-sensitiveness, impatience and worry bring on grey hairs scores of years earlier than they are due.

Be serene. Look within. Strive. Exert. Give all your thought to the eradication of your own evil qualities within; you will never get angry. Look into the good qualities of others – you will hate none. Learn to admire others’ achievements – jealousy will disappear. You will try to emulate; you will try to grow and achieve; and you will not be impelled by jealousy to hold back those that are marching forward. Jealousy will create an inferiority complex, will disable your mind and ruin your health. Jealousy is at the root of the nervous breakdown of millions of people all over the world.

Another important rule if you are to lead a healthy life is: live in the immediate present. Concentrate all your attention on the work on hand. Live this day well. Yesterday has joined the hoary past, a finished product on which you need bestow no more attention. Tomorrow is yet a long way off; and it will bring with it time enough for its work. Forget the past; ignore the future. Live in the present. The future will take care of itself.

If you adopt this wise method, you will never work with tension. You will be calm, serene, concentrated and efficient. You will achieve more than your fretting brother who, when he has work to do now, thinks more of the past or future than the present. Time passes by this inattentive man, and he has less time to do the work in. He is always in hurry. He lives on the edge of his nerves. His mind rules him; its whims and fancies are his hard taskmasters. How can he achieve anything?

However difficult the work, if you have to do it now, take it up, apply all your energy to it and finish it. Let it not act as a dead weight to bear your nerves down. Application and completion make the impossible possible. Do not vacillate. Take things easy. Let no task frighten you. Make up your mind quickly. Take quick decisions. You can do so only if you have a calm mind. Men of vacillation have never achieved anything.

Learn to master your mind. Solve your own problems. Jump over the hurdles on your path. Do not carry your miseries to others. Give up the complaining-habit. One who complains of this and that spends all his life in complaining; he has no energy, nor the willpower to achieve. His mind is eager to find out a cause for complaining; his life is a series of failure; and every time he blames his failure on somebody or something. He becomes an easy prey to nervous breakdown.

Wisdom lies in accepting those things over which you have no control. Do not grumble. Accept them cheerfully and willingly. And, you should also equip yourself with the courage to change the things that are under your control. Apply yourself. You should bring your mind under your perfect control. You should change your angle of vision, alter your mode of thinking, stop all waste of mental energy, turn the rays of the mind within and realize the Self.

From Sivananda’s Lectures, during All-India and Ceylon Tour – 1950, chronicler Swami Venkatesananda, address given on 23 October 1950, Hyderabad