The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Stress,
Anxiety, Rest & Relaxation


The natural role of twentieth-century man is anxiety. ~Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead, 1947

Take-it-easy and Live-long are brothers. ~German proverb

Of the power of mind, over body... I have seen some striking instances, and can safely affirm, that mental agitation is a strong, predisposing cause of disease. ~"An intelligent correspondent," quoted by Georg Ernst Stahl (1659–1734), quoted by John Sinclair (1754–1835)

The man who does not relax and hoot a few hoots voluntarily, now and then, is in great danger of hooting hoots and standing on his head for the edification of the pathologist and trained nurse, a little later on. ~Elbert Hubbard, "Richard Wagner," Little Journeys to Homes of Great Musicians, 1901

I don't like the word "stress." It's a Madison Avenue word. It's something that can be cured with flavored coffee and bath bubbles. ~Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing, "Night Five" (S3, E14, 2002)

Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness. ~Richard Carlson

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, 1963

To see the stillness of a tree,
Knowing it has been torn with wind —
To see the stillness of a pool,
Knowing it has been swept by flood —
To see the stillness of a stone,
Knowing what fires gave it form…
This is to know that stress will end,
This is to know that peace will come —
For wind and flood and flame have passed
To leave this quiet here at last.
~Roland English Hartley, "Stillness," in Arizona Highways, March 1954

He presented a striking instance how men, for the sake of getting a living, forget to live... Men get the harness on so fast, that they can never shake it off, unless they guard against this danger from the very first. ~S. M. Fuller (1810–1850), Summer on the Lakes, in 1843, 1844

I may say that we have had somewhat too much of "the gospel of work." It is time to preach the gospel of relaxation. ~Herbert Spencer, 1882

We live longer than our forefathers, but we suffer more from a thousand artificial anxieties and cares. They fatigued only the muscles; we exhaust the finer strength of the nerves; and, when we send impatiently to the doctor, it is ten to one but what he finds the acute complaint, which is all that we perceive, connected with some chronic mental irritation, or some unwholesome inveteracy of habit. ~Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, 1854

But no one can get inner peace by pouncing on it, by vigorously willing to have it. ~Harry Emerson Fosdick

Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow. ~Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I'd Like to Give to You

To escape from nervous fatigue in modern life is a very difficult thing. ~Bertrand Russell, "Causes of Unhappiness: Fatigue," The Conquest of Happiness, 1930

What might be called hygiene of the nerves has been much too little studied. ~Bertrand Russell, "Causes of Unhappiness: Fatigue," The Conquest of Happiness, 1930

One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important and that to take a holiday would bring all kinds of disaster. If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who considered his work important. ~Bertrand Russell, "Causes of Unhappiness: Fatigue," The Conquest of Happiness, 1930

Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath... My time was diced up into minutes and hours rather than into seasons and the movement of the moon and sun. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down. ~Natalie Goldberg, "Lazy," Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, 1990,

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way.  ~Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I'd Like to Give to You

Half a loaf is better than nervous prostration from overwork. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor

Heatherlegh is the dearest doctor that ever was... He says that more men are killed by overwork than the importance of the world justifies. ~Rudyard Kipling

Overwork started his illness, kept it alight, and killed him, poor devil. Write him off to the System — one man to take the work of two and a half men. ~Rudyard Kipling

And there are myriads more who have lost the look of peace and wear the tensed look of fear and misgiving, who trail their heavy lives as a convict drags his ball and chain, wearing the grey prison pallor, and looking away with lusterless, longing eyes to the green fields of being. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: VIII," A Soul's Faring, 1921

When cortisol surges, we call it "fear," but when cortisol dribbles, we call it "anxiety" or "stress." ~Loretta Graziano Breuning, Habits of a Happy Brain, 2015,

No man can live in the city, indeed no man can undergo the high pressure of modern business in any community, and not get a case of the nerves at least once a year... Neurasthenia, nerve exhaustion, mental collapse, are becoming more and more common in American business and social life. We work entirely too hard, speed up entirely too much. No amount of drugs, no amount of stimulants will ever cure that sort of thing. For the nerve-broken man or woman the wise doctor would prescribe just one treatment — no drugs, no stimulants, just sunshine and sleep and oxygen and good food, and freedom from all care. ~Emerson Hough, "Your Vacation," Out of Doors, 1915

      "NERVES" — We hear it everywhere. The physician tells his patient — "It's your Nerves." Sensitive and high-strung people complain of their "Nerves." You see evidence of "Nerves" in the street, in the cars, in the theatre, in business, and especially in your own home — right in your own family. We Americans are a nation of nervous people. It is caused by our "Mile-a-minute" life; the intenseness of our natures in everything we do. It is making us the most progressive nation on earth, but it is also wrecking our people. Medical records prove it. Millions of people have subnormal Nerve Force, and consequently suffer from endless organic and physical troubles.
      What is meant by Nerve Force? Well, we do not know. It is the secret of Nature. We do know that it is the vital force of life, a mysterious energy that flows from the nervous system and gives life and energy to every vital organ.
      Those who have passed through a siege of Nerve Exhaustion can understand the the statement that it is HELL — and its kin is Insanity. It is a mental torture. Often these people run from doctor to doctor, seeking relief from a mysterious "something the matter" with them, though repeated examinations fail to show that any particular organ is weak or diseased. Without an abundant supply of Nerve Force our lives are wrongly adjusted and we cheat ourselves of our birthright of health and vigor. ~Paul von Boeckmann, "NERVES:  A Subtle and Dangerous Malady which is Undermining the Vitality of the American Nation," c.1920  [a little altered —tg]

On even the most stressful days, magic is still sitting quietly in the corner, waiting to be noticed. ~Dr. SunWolf, 2015 November 30th tweet,

In all human activities, particularly in all matters of business, times of stress and difficulty are seasons of opportunity when the seeds of progress are sown. ~Thomas F. Woodlock (1866–1945)

Sometimes it helps to just take a deep breath, not forgetting to let out the deep breath you already took. ~Robert Brault,

It is indisputable that many lives are prematurely sacrificed by a too restless intellect and brain — the action thereof literally rushing a man into his grave. All through America, especially North and East, not only among the writers, lawyers, editors, preachers, &c., but through the ranks of the masses, there is altogether too much brain action, sapping the foundation of life, and of the enjoyment of life. The intellect is too restless. The parent bequeaths the tendency to the child — and he, when grown up, has it in increased force. Some direct it toward money-making, others to religion, and so on. It eats into the whole temperament, and produces reaction; then for fits of "the blues," and an unhappy life.... The homely advice to "take things easy," applies with particular force to this sort of persons.... A little calmness and coolness puts to flight three-fourths of the evils of their lives. ~Mose Velsor (Walt Whitman), "Manly Health and Training," New York Atlas, 1858 December 19th  [Thanks, Zachary Turpin! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

      In no epoch has, what for want of a better expression, I will term "mental excess," been more prevalent than in this. Newspapers, medical and lay, have frequently of late pointed out the evils of our present system of stuffing our youth and making all boyhood and girlhood one long period of cramming for examination. The examinations have become almost encyclopedic in their range. The whole system tends to confuse and distract the mind, to unfit it for the work of the world, to stunt originality, and to induce what has not inaptly been termed "brain-fog."
      Next comes the high pressure, the fever and fret of professional and business life, the haste, competition, and all-pervading disquiet, which has had no parallel in other times. The over-work connected with business, the severe mental labour of the professions, the anxiety, excitement, and harass of the mercantile world, all these are tangible factors of mental disease. It behooves us, I think, as physicians, to inculcate some pause and leisure in life, and to encourage the tendency which happily exists in this Colony to indulge in out-door sports and amusements of every kind. ~F. Norton Manning, M.D., "The Causation and Prevention of Insanity," 1880

If we don't go crazy once in a while, we'll all go crazy. ~M*A*S*H, "Bulletin Board," 1975, written by Larry Gelbart & Simon Muntner  [S3, E16, Hawkeye —tg]

Give your stress wings and let it fly away. ~Terri Guillemets

The field of consciousness is tiny. It accepts only one problem at a time. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942, translated from the French by Lewis Galantière, 1986

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
~William H. Davies, "Leisure," Songs of Joy, 1911

Stress is something that we are not always conscious of; it can exist on a cellular level and hide, masked by our ingrained insensitivity. ~Garri Garripoli, Qigong: Essence of the Healing Dance

Stress is the trash of modern life — we all generate it but if you don't dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life. ~Terri Guillemets

Releasing the pressure, it's good for the teapot and the water. Try it sometime. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson, tweet, 2009

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward. ~Spanish proverb

Look, there's no shame in that. You have a family, you work hard, and eventually your couch becomes your big, cushiony friend that really gets you. ~The Conners, "Scenes from Two Marriages: The Parrot Doth Protest Too Much," 2022, written by Dave Caplan  [S5, E2, Dan]

Like steam from a cup of hot tea that fogs our glasses, false urgency of matters at hand blurs our vision to important things in the distance. ~Terri Guillemets

Each day should have a clearly marked emergency exit sign. ~Dr. SunWolf,

When Mozart was composing at the end of the eighteenth century, the city of Vienna was so quiet that fire alarms could be given verbally, by a shouting watchman mounted on top of St. Stefan's Cathedral... In twentieth-century society, the noise level is such that it keeps knocking our bodies out of tune and out of their natural rhythms. This ever-increasing assault of sound upon our ears, minds and bodies adds to the stress load of civilized beings trying to live in a highly complex environment. ~Steven Halpern and Louis Savary, Sound Health: The Music and Sounds That Make Us Whole, 1985

If your teeth are clenched and your fists are clenched, your lifespan is probably clenched. ~Terri Guillemets

There are times in life when there's absolutely nothing you can do, also known as a chance to relax. ~Robert Brault,

...the wind tunnel of daily life... ~Terri Guillemets, "Blows," 2001

      Relaxation, in its best sense, is not four hours put aside every Sunday afternoon for golf; it is not a solid chunk of time hacked out of a busy week, in which one relaxes as furiously and intensely as one conducts business affairs. It is in all the interstices of a busy day that the most effective relaxation can take place. When work presses down most heavily, a 10-minute walk or a quiet cup of coffee with a crossword puzzle can restore efficiency to an amazing degree...
      The time to relax is when you don't have time for it; when you get the time, you are generally too exhausted to enjoy it. The way to relax... is to spread it out during the week, so that the tensions don't snap into listless apathy at the week-end. ~Sydney J. Harris, 1954

modern stress —
      toxic evil
toxic stress —
      modern evil
~Terri Guillemets

...loafing needs no explanation and is its own excuse. ~Christopher Morley, "Walt Whitman Miniatures," Mince Pie: Adventures on the Sunny Side of Grub Street, 1919

If your nerves are on edge, if you find it hard to plan, to concentrate, to execute, if your stomach is upset and temper none too good, I urge you to try a cure by nature. Escape from your everyday environment, forget its problems, and go to a quiet place where you can have in abundance nature's medicine of sunshine and fresh air. Camp, go to the countryside, go to your local city park — the most rural-looking park convenient to you. Listen to nature. Talk very little. Sleep whenever you feel inclined. Study the sky, the trees, the flowers, the myriad living things in the open spaces around you. Let nature minister to you until you once more feel really able to cope with the cares and tasks of the ordinary life. ~H. Addington Bruce, Nerve Control and How to Gain It, 1918  [a little altered —tg]

Harvest a moment to be free. ~Terri Guillemets, "Escape," 2018, blackout poetry created from Danielle Steel, Fairy Tale, 2017, page 92

I crowded far too many tasks into Yesterday. Today is now demanding music, chocolate truffles, and sporadic dancing, as compensation. ~Dr. SunWolf, 2015 tweet,

we need rests called naps
      and rests called play
we need little moving rests
      called getting away
~Terri Guillemets

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time. ~John Lubbock, "Recreation," The Use of Life, 1894

Letting myself get stressed out makes me feel like I'm rubber-stamping all my organs "Urgent!" ~Terri Guillemets

Although I myself, due doubtless to defective skill, have to work pretty hard, I do not believe in too hard work... A life spent in constant labor is a life wasted, save a man be such a fool as to regard a fulsome obituary notice as ample reward. Show me a man who, as the phrase goes, works himself to death and I'll show you an unimaginative dolt. There is a lot of amusement in this world and a man should get his full share of it. There probably never lived but two men who gained importance and honorable celebrity in this selfsame world who did not take considerable time off in which to have some sport... Alexander the Great, even in the midst of wars, had an eye for the more comely Theban maidens; the whoopee of Caesar and Marc is history; Shakespeare spent as much time with the bottle as with the pen; Frederick and later Bismarck obeyed that impulse on many an occasion; a number of the greatest composers led the lives of movie actors... ~George Jean Nathan

Is everything as urgent as your stress would imply? ~Terri Guillemets

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published 1998 Mar 18
revised 2021 Aug 1
last saved 2023 Mar 2