Self-Serving for the Sake of Sanity

The joys of home ownership include gutters and neighbors and broken lawnmowers and reorganizing cupboards and quiet times alone. Life is beginning to settle down around our place, but that means that real life is also creeping back in. The real world always comes knocking eventually, right?

Because there is a real world out there that includes work and friends and stress, I have struggled to return to a routine. I know I write about this a lot, but I believe that a self-serving routine is one of the most important pieces of happiness.

Please don’t misunderstand my meaning of the term “self-serving.” I don’t mean selfish. I don’t mean ignoring family or work responsibilities for fun activities. This sort of self-serving is not healthy and doesn’t generally lead to real contentment.

By self-serving, I mean ensuring that your oxygen mask is in place before you help others. This can take the form of taking reflective moments for yourself before you try to deal with other people when they want to load their problems on you. Feeding your need for physical movement, or for flexing your creative muscle. These impulses, if ignored for too long, can result in mental fatigue.

The symptoms of mental fatigue I recognize in myself when I go too long without serving myself are a shorter fuse, an increased irritability, and a decreased ability to combat irrational thoughts. When I see myself acting in these ways, I like the person I present to the world a little less, and my overall contentment decreases.

So, to keep myself happy, and in turn present a better self to the world (it sounds trite, but appearances matter, right?), I do what I can to get 8 hours of sleep a night. I know, it’s a lot and God knows what will happen if I end up having children, but I have compulsively cried many fewer times when I sleep well. In addition, I try to journal or write every day. This feeds my creative needs. I got a fitbit a while ago, and it makes me more aware of my overall movement.

Most of all, I am trying to forgive myself when I can’t make all of the things happen. It’s important to try to stay on top of responsibilities, but it’s also good for one’s mental health to practice routine forgiveness. This is the most self-serving practice of all, and the most important. Sometimes it’s the most difficult to learn, too.

What are your self-serving activities? Share in the comments! I’d love to try some new ones!

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