Deliberate Rest

Designing rest for a busy world

Tag: children

Digital distraction is for the birds

The Times reports on a “raise‑a‑chick plan to get pupils off phones:”

It is a question that parents the world over struggle with: how to prise children away from their smartphones? One Indonesian city believes that the answer is to give youngsters chicks to raise.

Physical activity after concussions: Another example of active rest?

A group of Canadian and American researchers have been examining children with concussions, and their impact that exercise has on their recovery after injury. They publish their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in an article on “Early Physical Activity and Persistent and Postconcussive Symptoms in Children and Adolescents.”

Rest has long been considered the cornerstone of concussion management, and pediatric guidelines universally recommend an initial period of cognitive and physical rest following a concussion. Cognitive rest recommendations include modification of school attendance and mental activities. Physical rest recommendations advocate avoidance of physical activity until postconcussive symptoms have resolved, endorsing gradual resumption of activities only if symptoms are not exacerbated…. [But] recent literature suggests that protracted rest may hamper concussion recovery, leading to secondary symptoms of fatigue, depression, anxiety, and physiological deconditioning. Increasing evidence suggests the introduction of controlled, light aerobic physical activity following pediatric concussion may be safe while promoting recovery by enhancing physical, psychological, and academic outcomes….

The objective of this study was to examine the association between participation in physical activity within 7 days postinjury and the occurrence of persistent postconcussive symptoms (PPCS) following concussion in children and adolescents. It was hypothesized that early participation in physical activity would be associated with lower PPCS rates compared with no physical activity.

The study found 3063 participants between 5 and 18 who had concussions, followed their recovery as their either rested, did “light aerobic exercise (eg, walking, swimming, or stationary cycling), sport-specific exercise (eg, running drills in soccer or skating drills in ice hockey), noncontact training drills (eg, complex passing drills), full-contact practice (eg, normal training activities), and return to competition (eg, normal game play).” About 70% of the participants engaged in “light aerobic exercise” within a week of their concussions.

The researchers found that

resumption of physical activity within 7 days postconcussion was associated with a lower risk of PPCS as compared with no physical activity. This finding was consistent across analytic approaches and intensity of exercise….

Available evidence suggests that gradual resumption of physical activity should begin as soon as tolerated following an acute concussion, with the exception of activities likely to increase the risk of re-injury. Rest exceeding 3 days postinjury was similarly or less effective than treatment regimens allowing for earlier participation in physical activity following a concussion; if prolonged, rest may predispose to secondary symptoms of fatigue, reactive depression, physiological deconditioning, and delayed recovery. Also in symptomatic adolescents, pilot evidence suggests that gradual resumption of aerobic physical activities results in superior symptom recovery from concussion compared with complete rest.

What accounts for these results? Why is exercising (at least aerobic, non-contact exercise) better for recovery than doing nothing at all?

A proposed mechanism by which exercise may improve recovery is through the promotion of neuroplasticity mechanisms and from possible effects on cardioregulatory mechanisms, possibly leading to improved cerebral blood flow. This is of particular importance in pediatric concussion, since autoregulatory dysfunction and abnormal cerebral blood flow regulation have been associated with PPCS in school-aged children. Controlled aerobic exercise may improve recovery by restoring normal cerebral blood flow regulation with the rate of symptom improvement relating directly to the exercise intensity achieved. Conversely, physical inactivity may predispose patients to PPCS through an activity restriction cascade model; it has been theorized that the psychological consequences of removal from life-validating activities, combined with physical deconditioning, may contribute to the development of PPCS after mild traumatic brain injury in youth.

In Rest, I talk about how active rest offers better, more complete recovery from work than passive forms. The Canadian concussion study offers another example, in a rather different context, of the superiority of active over passive rest.

“You will eat vegetable soup again today and like it; Mommy’s beginning chapter three:” Shirley Jackson and creative lives

The author and critic Ruth Franklin has a terrific article about Shirley Jackson in New York Magazine (it’s a selection from her new book, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, which comes out today– very exciting!) that includes these couple paragraphs:

Jackson often complained about the mental calisthenics required to be at once a mother and a writer — the “nagging thoughts” about finishing the laundry or preparing meals that often interrupted her creative work. When she was working on a novel, she once wrote to a friend, she preferred to “lock myself up in my cave for four dogged hours a day, and sneak a minute or so here and there for writing letters and making lunch (‘You will eat vegetable soup again today and like it; Mommy’s beginning chapter three’).” But many writers, especially women writers, learn to derive imaginative energy from their constraints. Alice Munro has said that she began writing short stories because as a young mother she had no time to write novels: “When you are responsible for running a house and taking care of small children, particularly in the days before disposable diapers or ubiquitous automatic washing machines, it’s hard to arrange for large chunks of time.”

Writing in the hours between morning kindergarten and lunch, while a baby napped, or after the children had gone to bed demanded a discipline that came to suit Jackson. She was constantly thinking of stories while cooking, cleaning, or doing just about anything else. “All the time that I am making beds and doing dishes and driving to town for dancing shoes, I am telling myself stories,” she said in one of her lectures. Many of her stories were already virtually finished by the time she managed to sit down at the typewriter. Her friend Kit Foster told of playing Monopoly one evening with Jackson and Hyman when Jackson abruptly withdrew from the game and went into her study, where she banged audibly at her typewriter. Less than an hour later, she emerged with a story that was sent off to her agent the next morning. The idea for “The Lottery” came to her while she was grocery shopping with her daughter Joanne, then age 2. After they came home, she put away the groceries, put the child in her playpen, and wrote the story.

Two things jump out at me.

The first is the “four dogged hours a day.” This is an incredibly consistent pattern in the lives of creative people. Whether it’s mathematician John Littlewood, writer Raymond Chandler, cartoonist Scott Adams, novelist John Le Carré, or a host of others, they regard four really focused, productive hours as a good day’s work. And given everything that they accomplished, I’m inclined to trust people like Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens on this score.

The second is how Jackson managed to both cordon off her time for writing, and create a kind of mental state that allowed her muse to keep trying out ideas even as while she had the kids at the supermarket.

There’s also this conclusion, which is very insightful.

She needed the children as much as they needed her. Their imaginations energized her; their routines stabilized her. More important, their heedless savagery was crucial to her worldview. Jackson could not come into her own as a writer before she had children. She would not have been the writer she became without them.

Jackson was one of those writers, like JRR Tolkien and Bram Stoker, whose fiction drew on and was intertwined with their lives. Tolkien’s books started as stories he told his children; Stoker’s Dracula was drew on his decades working as a theatre manager in London, and spending time in the company of actors, men of letters, police, explorers, political exiles, and other colorful (or dark) characters.

Personally, I’m in awe of the fact that Jackson managed to write when she had two small children; I ended up taking several years off from doing serious writing when my kids were younger.*  But she did that in part by finding a style of parenting that both sustained the kids and worked for her: “she could be permissive — or absentminded — to the point of laxness,” Franklin writes. Jackson illustrates a balance that it’s critical to strike. You can draw material from ordinary life or family or child-rearing; but even when you do that, you still need to be able to seal yourself off for a time, to make sense of it and reinterpret it and turn it into something more creative than a simple transcription.

*This wasn’t intentional, and by “serious writing” I mean “books.” I should also add that I don’t think a second of that time was wasted.

© 2020 Deliberate Rest

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑