Life is complex. Living from day to day, making choices from moment to moment, giving, taking, meeting, parting, carrying out responsibilities, forming friendships, repairing relationships, performing well in one’s endeavours, finding work, keeping it, obeying one’s parents, meeting the family’s needs, conforming to society’s expectations, following rules, obeying regulations, carrying out religious obligations, being a good child, sister, brother, mother, father, grandparent, relative, friend, employer, employee, neighbour, citizen, leader…servant of Allah… Phew! Gasping for breath yet? I know I am!
Each one of us is a story in the Book of the Creator, Allah, the Almighty, the Exalted; all praise is due to Him. Our stories will be made up of choices, conflicts, changes and continuous challenges. There may be on its pages invaluable rewards and priceless moments. When or where our story begins or finishes is out of our hands. What lies within our grasp is the chance to live life to the most that we can, to do the best with what we have, within the spectrum of our existence up to our final moment on earth.
Today, some of the things considered harbingers of progress and growth and the changing nature and structures of societies, amongst many other things, bring with them numerous health issues experienced in everyday living. For Muslims in particular, these issues are compounded by problems faced from community to community and globally by the ummah, such as tyranny, disunity, harassment, vilification, oppression and persecution.
Muslims thus suffer mental breakdowns from these problems, become unwell and need support, help, counsel and maybe even medication. Sometimes, we will feel unwell in the physical, mental, or spiritual part of our body – our soul. However, a person according to Islamic psychology is considered an integrated whole and as such, the mind, heart, body and soul are connected. Whatever ails one part will affect the others.
Sometimes, we just may get stuck and unable to stop certain patterns of thinking and behaviour which may be getting in the way of healthy functioning or progress in our lives. These could be caused by events or happenings in our childhood. The difficulties we face in life may manifest themselves in antisocial behaviour and mental illness like anxiety, phobias, obsessions and compulsions, eating disorders, clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders, personality disorders, substance abuse and addiction.
Personal resources, a strong support system, a healthy lifestyle, guidance from Allah and fortification from practices of ahadeeth and du’a and perhaps a session or two with a counsellor might help. They could significantly impact responses, reflections and insights and enable re-alignment and recovery of equilibrium for some people. For others, more specialised support may be needed from health care professionals with a range of training, skills and experiences. These may include GPs, counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers.
Allah has commanded us to seek help for whatever ails us and good counsel from others for guidance. The Prophet (sallahu alaihi wasalam) also said, “Allah has sent down the disease and the cure and has made for every disease the cure. So treat sickness but do not use anything haram.”
So where shall we begin? Here are my 5 A’s for wellness that will inshaAllah help you and me find some of the healing, peace and happiness we seek and also to achieve good quality of life here in this world and success in the next, ameen.
The first thing to do when we feel or notice something not quite right in our minds or happening in our bodies or find that we are not coping well with current or some past issue, is to recognise and acknowledge it. You may be having negative thoughts, crying over the smallest things, feeling irritable and angry all the time. You may be sleeping less, not concentrating, lacking motivation, suffering from heart palpitations, headaches, cravings or over indulging in food, sugar, shopping and engaging in reckless behaviour. It is time to acknowledge it. You cannot change or get help for what you keep denying or refuse to see. It is time to face it and face up to it.
Good intentions are not enough. One of the hardest things to do is act and stay committed to one’s goals. The longer it takes for you to move, the harder it will become. Failure to act can worsen the situation and have potentially catastrophic or fatal outcomes. Sheer desperation can push one to action but it takes courage to admit problems, own up to flaws, weaknesses or wrong choices and open up to the process of change and all that it entails. So be courageous; you are already on your way to acknowledging the problem. Go slow if you must, a step at a time is all you need to get you to a good place inshaAllah.
Ask Allah for help. Ultimately we must go to the source, to Allah -Ash-Shaafi – The Healer, for the shifa– cure, and believe in the promise of His healing powers. He said, “…when I am ill, it is He Who heals.” (Quran, 26:80).
There are many supplications recommended in the Qur’an , use them. Start by asking for forgiveness from Allah, follow with dua for protection against the whisperings of shaitan and the evil eye, request guidance and direction – for example, through prayer of istikhara and du’a for ease from difficulties and healing from pain. Increase acts of worship and give sadaqah charity in cash and kind.
Ask for help from someone you trust or feel close to. Talk to them and this may allow release and provide immediate relief. Ask for help from a professional. See a GP especially if you’re experiencing physical symptoms like some of those described earlier. The GP might suggest you to go for certain tests or counselling. However, you can see a therapist, counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist yourself. Therapy can be very beneficial, indeed critical to change, healing and growth. Therapists engage with empathy, listen, will help you gain clarity, find direction, heal, stop negative thinking and behaviour and can help you achieve your goals and dreams. Therapists can also suggest you go for medical tests or get other relevant health practitioners involved if need be.
Adjust your lifestyle. Rethink, Reduce, Reclaim.
Rethink some dietary choices. Make little changes; consume more water, fruit and vegetables, walk more, take the stairs, sleep a little earlier and do something nice for yourself – give yourself rewards once in a while. Cultivate simple relaxation practices like having moments of quietness and stillness in your day and try deep breathing exercises. Keep a journal or diary as it can provide an outlet for feelings and help in self-reflection. Reduce salt and sugar intake and the use of technology – social media, television, games, mobile phones and the computer. Reclaim your time; use more for family and friends, give more of yourself for instance by getting involved in a community project or charity initiatives, exercise your mind by reading books and doing puzzles, engage in the remembrance of Allah, recite and reflect on the Qur’an more.
You are not alone. Know that someone somewhere is or has gone through something similar in their lives. The pain you’re experiencing or those negative choices or behaviour you’re engaging in can and will stop inshaAllah. Work at getting better and no matter how bad it feels now or appears to be, don’t give up or give in. Most times, it will get worse before it gets better, so be patient; the rewards will be worth it in the end. Your attitude is key. Be your own champion, believe that you will achieve your goals and that you will find a way, your way by Allah’s Will.
On a final note, this piece is a guide and a reassurance that inshaAllah there is help, lots of information and resources and many pathways to achieve peace of mind. May Allah in His infinite mercy ease our pain and difficulties, grant us relief from what aches our hearts, bodies and souls and keep us patient and steadfast with faith, patience, prayers, hope and certainty of Allah’s Mercy, ameen.