We’re almost at the end of 2020, a year unlike one many of us have ever experienced before. A year marked by global struggle and loss - of people, livelihoods, and connectivity - so the noticeable increase of anxiety is unsurprising.
The term anxiety seems to be everywhere. News headlines, friends venting before an exam, influencers’ social media, masajid workshops. It seems like everyone is talking about it these days...finally!
Mental health struggles have long been swept away under the rug, especially in our communities, but, more and more, there’s been a rise in curiosity, acceptance and, might we say - understanding.
What Exactly is Anxiety?
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” We’ve all experienced this at one point or another and a healthy dose of it is a good thing! The discomfort or concern about an outcome keeps us on our toes encouraging us to show up as our best selves. When these same feelings turn into fear or overwhelming negative self-talk, that’s a signal to us that we may need to get a better handle on it.
It’s not a first-world problem or a 21st-century struggle. The Prophets, peace be upon them all, went through their own difficulties leaving them sad, confused, and, sometimes, alone. For example, when the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), the most blessed of humankind, went through a period of 6 months where he didn’t receive any revelation from Allah, he had his own flurry of distressed and anxious thoughts. He (pbuh) wondered about the reasoning behind the silence and even thought Allah (swt) had become angry with him. Spoiler - this was far from the truth!
Life with Anxiety
Living with any type of anxiety - whether low-grade, clinical, and everything in between - can be manageable on some days but debilitating on others. If we aren’t able to identify our internal negative patterns in their early days, they can spiral and rule our lives by taking over our decision-making processes, create narratives about what people think about us, or even lead us to worry excessively about the future. Regardless of where we are on our journey, there’s always a solution to help us live a better version of ourselves.
Three Suggested Strategies to Self-Manage your Anxiety
While there are multiple ways to help us take control of our thoughts and feelings, here are a few that have helped our team this year. We encourage you to find ones that work best for your situation including clinical therapy, if needed.
Start a Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness, the practice or state of being conscious of something, has become quite the buzzword these days. Recent scientific studies on mindfulness show lots of benefits like better stress management and positive changes to negative thought patterns.
In Islam, being mindful is a type of muraqabah which refers to “watching and observing attentively”, both our inner and outer states.
When we start to create the time and space to sit in silence and reflect on our thoughts and feelings, we begin to identify those that are serving us, while letting go of those that perhaps aren’t anymore. This state of self-awareness allows us to develop greater consciousness and care for living our lives more intentionally.
To learn more about Islamic Meditation or Muraqaba, check out this Yaqeen Institute article: How to be a Mindful Muslim.
Try this beginner’s practice: During your morning routine, take out 10 minutes to sit in silence and just be in the present moment. Set a timer, and start by taking deep breaths, exploring the thoughts that come to your mind. Observe them and, with each breath, let them go. Once the 10 minutes are over, jot down some notes or talk to Allah - the Ever Watchful, the Most Compassionate. Commit to this a few times a week and see if you can identify patterns.
Use a Guided Journal
One of the best ways to self-manage our anxiety is through a consistent guided journaling practice. Guided journals come in all shapes and forms with the sole purpose being to help us to reflect and improve our lives. This tool is especially useful to pull negative thoughts and feelings from our minds and transfer them to paper allowing us to become aware and more empowered to adjust them. As we become more consistent, we may notice our thoughts becoming clearer and our hearts becoming more peaceful.
Some guided journals also provide the space to reflect on what truly matters to us while offering gratitude for our blessings. Gratitude, the state of thankfulness, is a transformative human emotion, one that recent positive psychology research says has a tremendous impact on the neural structures of our brain i.e. the place where negative thought patterns and self-talk lives!
The Dua Journals include a section to express gratitude, but one of our personal favorites is the “Dear Allah” journal. There’s a special addition that encourages us to write to Allah daily. Speaking to Allah through letter writing is a powerful means of sharing everything that’s on our minds including the things we’re grateful for and all that we may be struggling with.
To learn more, read our blog post on The Benefits of Guided Journaling.
To write your own "Dear Allah" letter and be featured on our platform, click here.
Increase your Remembrance
“Verily in the remembrance do hearts find tranquility.” [13:28]
One of the biggest keys to the ultimate fulfillment is found in this powerful Quranic ayah. By training ourselves to continuously remember the Ultimate Source of everything, we remember Who is in control and has the Power to change our condition - be it external circumstances or the state of our mind. We turn to Him for help through commonly used practices like dua and dhikr, which are also powerful self-management tools for anxiety.
“And your Lord says, ‘Call upon Me; I will respond to you.’” [40:60]
Whenever you’re feeling down or are caught in negative self-talk, choose 2-3 of Allah’s Divine Names that you’re feeling connected to at that moment. Use these Beautiful Names to call upon Him with your heart. Ask Him to help you with your thought patterns and any feelings that you want to let go of. Remember that He is always there for you with His Mercy and Love.
The beauty of these three strategies is that you can start as small as you’d like and build upon them as time goes on. It’s through consistency that we experience meaningful change.
There are many tools out there and it’s up to each of us to identify where we are on our journey and seek options accordingly. Remember, it’s never one-size-fits all, rather we seek solace in knowing that for every illness, Allah, the Ultimate Healer, has created cure(s) and that He always has our back. He’ll Guide us to our tools if we allow ourselves to be carried to them.