We all want peace of mind, that special feeling that comes when we know we are doing the right thing. From a mental health perspective, this entails different things. Here are three of them.
Putting Yourself First
The word sacrifice is often used to describe actions that serve a greater purpose or benefit people other than ourselves. For instance, even if I am exhausted and haven’t slept, I will still get up, take a shower, have a quick breakfast, and head for work. The reason for me to do this is straightforward. I have a spouse and children who depend on me to bring in the money for food, shelter, and many other things. In most societies, this is seen as an act of sacrifice, one many times synonymous with strength of character, courage, and ultimately, love.
But what if I run out of gas or get sick? What will happen then to those close to me? While answers may vary depending on specific situations, one thing is certain. When people don’t take care of themselves, they are unable to take care of others. If you do not put on your own oxygen mask first in an emergency during a flight but rather place one on your son or daughter’s mouth, you will be risking both your life and theirs.
Choosing yourself is not an act of selfishness. If you are the primary caretaker of a disabled person and you need a meaningful break, having him stay for a few days or a week at a short-term accommodation facility for people with disabilities is not a crime or an act of negligence. In fact, it is the opposite. It is putting yourself first when you need it most so you have the energy, later on, to provide a helping hand to others.
The Value of Sleep
Many things are happening in our brains and bodies while we sleep. Among others, our metabolism decreases, leading to our bodies conserving energy, which will be used once we get up. In addition, the areas of our brain that are responsible for controlling our emotions increase their level of activity, which results in mental well-being and emotional stability.
It is no secret that when we are well-rested, we can make better decisions than if we are subjected to substantial amounts of stress and external pressure. Finally, the body gets to recover from the many events during the day and restore itself in preparation for the following 24 hours.
The question, therefore, lies in figuring out what the right amount of sleep means. Is it eight hours or seven? How about successful entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, who can stay productive with only four or five hours of shuteye per night?
In all honesty, the answer is it depends. It depends on who you are and what you do. It depends on your current physical state, your age, whether you are anemic or not, and of course, the type of food that you eat.
Still, the best course of action you can take is to listen to your own body and go from there. While some days, six hours might be enough, after a long and stressful week, it would serve you best to sleep in over the weekend. And keep in mind that your sleep environment is just as important, if not more, than the length of time you are in bed.
Forgiveness and Looking Ahead
As far as we know, no other animals aside from human beings feel regret. No matter the pain it will cause on a mother zebra, antelope, or gazelle, a lion won’t hesitate to kill its offspring, eat it, and move on. And it will never come back to apologize for what it has done. It won’t even remember it after a couple of hours. And, regardless of what you may think, a dog won’t either. What comes across as remorse for eating one of your favorite pairs of shoes is simply an instinctual reaction to punishment and looking at your angry face.
But we do feel regret and disappointment. Many times we do feel as though we could have or should have done better. Whether it is an exam we didn’t study for, a person we treated with rudeness or disrespect, a job we didn’t put our best into, or any other thing, regret is part of our humanity, an integral component of self-improvement and growth.
And while we have to take responsibility for our actions, we shouldn’t dwell on them. Instead, we need to accept what we did, ask for forgiveness, forgive ourselves, learn from this experience, and move on.
If you want a healthier state of mind, take care of yourself and get enough sleep. Finally, learn to forgive others as well as yourself. We all can do this. It is only a matter of making a decision and getting to it.