Tag Archives: anxiety management

“Expand my chest”

anxiety2If ever any one of you has experienced severe or prolonged anxiety you will know how difficult it can make your every day living. That feeling when your chest feels tight or heavy, the heart feels like a solid rock, breathing can feel painful and the stomach churns constantly. We may have to take more trips to the toilet than normal and may even experience shaking or trembling or tearfulness. Things that we could normally do easily, like driving, trips to the shops, talking to strangers etc can feel overwhelming and frightening. If we doanxiety not treat this feeling of anxiety it becomes heightened and panic attacks can ensue. This has a ripple effect where we become more and more fearful and the anxiety increases. Throw an addiction problem into this mix and all this becomes much bigger and more scary and is often something that leads to relapse as the person seeks a way to just make that feeling go away, a feeling that we often associate or misinterpret as a craving. Carers of addicts also experience high levels of anxiety as they live in fear of the next relapse or become exposed to oppressive and unacceptable behaviour from the active addict in their lives. Anxiety begins to effect the whole family.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an about the anxiety that Musa (Moses) experienced when he was tasked with going back to Egypt to call the tyrant leader, Firaun, to worship Allah and set free the Children of Israel, who he was oppressing through slavery. Musa (as) became afraid and anxious. For a fleeting moment he doubted his abilities, his chest tightened and he lost hope in carrying out this task. He was overwhelmed. Allah tells us about his duah;

tumblr_inline_mxj3e0dLMa1qjcw8k“Lord! Expand my chest for me, and ease my task for me and And loosen the knot from my tongue that they understand my speech.” 

Musa asked for Allah to expand his chest, meaning that he felt as though his chest was tight and constricted, thus displaying the feeling of anxiety. He felt overwhelmed with his task, worried that he would find it hard so he asked Allah to make things easy for him. And lastly, his inadequacies seemed bigger to him, making him worried. He was afraid that the people he was going to would not understand him, due to a slight speech impediment, and therefore he asked Allah to remove this flaw.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this duah of Musa (as). This verse from the Qur’an teaches us that it is Allah who has the ability to remove our anxiety and make things easy for us when it all seems so difficult and frightening. It is Allah that can make things easy. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, taught us another beautiful prayer;

اللّهُـمَّ لا سَـهْلَ إِلاّ ما جَعَلـتَهُ سَهـلاً، وَأَنْتَ تَجْـعَلُ الْحَـزَنَ إِذا شِـئْتَ سَهـْلاً  “O Allah, there is no ease except in that which You have made easy, and You make the difficulty, if You wish, easy.”

Knowing that a great prophet like Musa experienced anxiety should help us to be easy on ourselves. Some people may say to us “Muslims should not feel anxious when they havedont-panic Allah” are grossly mistaken. We are but human beings, and most of us will experience anxiousness at one time in our life. When we get anxious, this is the time to remember that Allah is the One who can pull us together and help us begin to rely and depend on Him.

Another example of panic and anxiety in the Qur’an, is that of Musa’s mother when she placed her little baby in the river;

“And the heart of the mother of Musa became empty. She was very near to disclose her secret, had We not tied up her heart , so that she might remain as one of the believers”(28:10)

This Verse is so beautiful. This is a Verse of Allah that needs to give us hope when our heart is feeling broken and we experience trauma or emotional pain. Allah describes her heart as being completely emptied out. Anyone who has experienced anxiety will know that the heart empties out of all other matters except that one thing we are worried about.  Allah tells us here that He intervened to strengthen her heart. He ‘tied up’ the broken pieces of her heart and held them together for her in order to get her through this test and keep her faith in tact. Therefore we must know that it is Allah who ties back the heart together when we are feeling as though we are in tatters and falling apart, broken into pieces.

So it is a very natural thing to panic and feel worried and anxious from time to time but the solution to prevent it and stop it lies in turning to Allah and trusting Him to help us.

5 Steps To Overcome Anxiety

1) Make duah, call upon Allah for help

Use the duahs mentioned above as they are from the Qur’an and sunnah and also make duah from your own heart in your own language, knowing that Allah will help you. Musa called on Allah to expand his chest when it felt tight and He knew Allah could do that.

2) Breathe!

breatheOne of the main reasons we may have a panic attack, or experience chest pains is because we are not breathing properly. When we are nervous or anxious we tend to take shorter breaths or even hold our breaths without even realising we are doing this. If you watch a sleeping baby, you will see that it is there bellies that rise and fall as they breathe. Babies know how to breathe and we forget. If we take a deep breath it is often our chests that rise. However, our oxygen receptors are actually in the diaphram, close to the stomach. When you take deep breaths try to ensure that it is your belly that is rising and not your chest. If we do not breathe from here, the receptors send a message to the brain saying “we are not getting enough oxygen here!” thus sending the person into a state of panic and they may begin to hyperventilate. For more breathing tips please click here 

 3) Try to remove the cause of your anxiety and lighten your load

If you are experiencing prolonged anxiety, you need to consider removing that cause from your life if it is possible. Seek help from others to try to make things easier for you. Call on family or friends to help you ease your task. Musa (as) knew that he would struggle to complete the task that Allah wanted him to do so Musa asked Allah to make his brother Haroon his companion and help him, and so Allah made Haroon a prophet too and granted Musa’s request. No more soldiering on alone! Time to get some help!

4) Exercise Peaceful park in spring

The scientific cause of anxiety is the release of too much adrenaline. The brain has gone into an emergency state and realises this chemical so that the person can either fight or flee, known as “fight or flight” syndrome. The body is not designed to constantly live in this state. Excess adrenaline can be burnt through exercise. If you are not ready to hit the gym yet, then a pleasant walk in a local park can do wonders. It is also very spiritual to come back to nature and sit under a tree for a while and breathe in fresh air. Cardiovascular exercise is recommended for 20 minutes at least three times a week, and this may include a brisk walk and will help lift the mood.

5) Positive self-talk

It is easy to fall prey to the whispers of Shaitan, who want us to feel weak and lose self belief. Musa (as) became fearful of his speech problem, but he called on Allah to fix it. Sometimes, Shaitan can make our flaws and weakness seem much bigger than they actually are. Allah tells us in the Quran it is Shaitan that causes us to be fearful (3:175), therefore seek refuge in Allah from his whispering several times per day. We must stop focusing on the things we struggle with, and start strengthening the things we do well.

May Allah help us to overcome our anxieties and move forward to complete our tasks and get through our days and nights without fear. May Allah help us to stay focused on trusting Allah to keep helping us and guiding us. May we remember that Allah will smooth out our roads so long as we keep turning to Him and may Allah keep us away from all those things that He is displeased with and guide us to those actions that earn His Pleasure. Ameen!

The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

 

By Lynne Ali-Northcott

Mental Health and Addiction

Dr. Nadia Rahman is a GP in London, UK. In this section, she offers her advise on how tostress overcome mental health issues such as depression. Addicts and families affected by addiction may find a number of various mental health issues are effecting their well-being. Mental Health is something not to be ignored. Addiction and mental health issues go hand in hand. Its a chicken and egg situation. It can be difficult to tell whether it was the addiction that caused the depression or it was the depression that caused the addiction. Which ever way round it is we have solutions. Here Dr. Nadia Rahman offers some of them;

‘Strategies for Overcoming Depression, Anxiety and Stress’ By Dr. Nadia Rahman

Addiction, anxiety, depression, and stress fall under the same umbrella of Mental Health conditions. As with all Mental Health Conditions there are, unfortunately, great stigmas attached to it, which seems to be the primary reason why a lot of people may not seek help (Wrigley et al. 2005). Being of the Indo-pak / subcontinent culture, stigma is often more prevalent than in other western cultures, as the person is looked upon as being weak and lowly, almost becoming an outcast in society. A few years ago mental health was never spoken about and was brushed under the carpet in many Muslim cultures like South Asians and Arabs and Somalis. 5-steps-to-reduce-anxiety-660x330

As a GP working in a very multi-ethnic area, I have started to notice a gradual change over the last few years. More and more people and families are starting to acknowledge these problems and this is truly the first steps of recovery for the individual affected. Individuals and carers are crying out for help on the NHS, but the problem now is long waiting times due to lack of resources and funding.

So what is the solution?

While waiting for professional help on the NHS, self help treatments and having a good support network of good friends and families are vital for those suffering from mental health issues. There is no doubt that these 2 important factors need to be present before any sort of recovery from any health / mental health problem can begin.

Even though the conditions itself may seem very different the management for all these conditions can be categorised into drug treatment, and therapies. I strongly recommend that anyone suffering with any of these conditions to see their GP to discuss further as each treatment needs to be tailored to the individual affected.

Mindfulness

There is a new, and amazing, therapy (which has been scientifically proven to help) that I would like to mention, mainly because of its similarity to the teachings of Islam. The following has been taken from the bemindful website:

“Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was designed specifically to help people who are prone to recurring depression. It combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching with elements from cognitive therapy to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression. Long-term courses of antidepressants are typically used to treat recurring depression. However, almost three-quarters of GPs think mindfulness meditation would be helpful for people with mental health problems, and a third already refer patients to MBCT on a regular basis.”

MBCT has been scientifically proven to help people with a range of mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome & insomnia, all of which addicts are often diagnosed with, often misdiagnosed as the patient resists to mention the extent of their substance misuse problems.

MBCT is also recommended by the National Institute for Clinical and Health Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for people who suffer from recurrent episodes of depression.

MBCT teaches people to pay attention to the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future, and to let go of the negative thoughts that can tip them over into depression. It also gives people a greater awareness of their own body, helping them to identify the signs of oncoming depression and ward off the episode before it starts.

MBCT techniques include the ‘three-minute breathing space’ – a meditation exercise that gives people a quick and easy way to step back from stressful situations – and preparing ‘relapse prevention plans’ to help people lift their mood when depression starts to creep up on them. It’s so effective that it could reduce the risk of a person experiencing a recurrence of depression by over 50 per cent.

‘Khushoo’

sajdah-silhouette-300x157I was fortunate enough to have a taster session in Mindfulness and the key component is having a strong awareness of our surroundings and then to focus that awareness on ourselves, on our movements, on our feelings. Instantly it made me think of my salah (prayer). We are encouraged to have ‘khushoo’ in our salah – (a great attentiveness and sincerity), and being aware that Allah is in front of us even though we can’t see Him (swt), we know He (swt) can see us. We have also been taught to pray as we have seen our beloved prophet (saw) pray, which is to pray slowly, taking care where our hands, fingers, feet, and even eyes are positioned.

“Then he should do rukoo, bowing as deeply as his joints will let him, until his joints take the new position and are relaxed in it.” This is an essential part of prayer. Whilst straightening up, he should say, “Sami’a Allaahu liman hamidah (Allaah listens to the one who praises Him).” Then he should stand straight until every vertebra has returned to its place. This is an essential part of the prayer.”

Be positive

A lot of these therapies teach the individual to let go of negative thoughts, and to be positive and upbeat. Allah (swt) tells us in Surah Ibrahim of The Qur’an;

“And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” (14:34)

As Muslims, we are encouraged to be positive. If we counted the blessings and contemplated on what Allah has given us we would never be able to be negative or down, we would always be able to see the positives even in the most dire of circumstances. This was said about Dr Taufiq, the doctor that tragically lost his entire family, including his wife and 5 children, in a house fire. Read about this tragic story here

Assistant Chief Constable Roger Bannister, from Leicestershire Police, praised Dr Taufiq’s “amazing strength” while sitting through the two-month trial. He added:

“He has lost his entire family in the most tragic of circumstances and has had to hear some very disturbing details of their final moments. It is difficult to understand how someone could cope with this but Dr Taufiq has done so with the greatest amount of dignity and courage. My hope is that he can begin to move on from this devastating tragedy and continue to draw the immense strength from his religion to be the inspiring man I believe he is.”

What is it that is helping Dr Taufiq? It is no doubt his love and trust in Allah, and knowing that Allah has not forsaken him. He has not allowed himself to be over taken by negative thoughts and feeling and even mentioned how, he “bore no hatred towards their killers.”

Is mental health acknowledged in Islam?

It most definitely is! There are countless Verses, Quranic stories, hadith (narrations from the Prophet Muhammad) and duas (prescribed prayers and supplications), about feeling down and depressed. Allah created us and Allah knows how we can feel, and so we have also been given the tools to bring us out of that path when we may fall into it.

In the supplication book Hisnul Muslim there is a specific section for anxiety and sorrow:

“O Allah, I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of Your maidservant, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Quran the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.”

The main tool and guidance is given in this dua – The Quran. If we were to use the mindfulness theory to be more aware and to concentrate on the words we recite, where our tongue moves to when we recite, the sounds of the letters in our ears when we recite, and the feelings in our heart when we recite, there is no doubt that within that would be our solace. The next part is to actually understand the words and to contemplate on it and to benefit from the lessons from within, so truly this book was given as a guidance, a guidance for every situation, every feeling and just for everything!

Finally, the last dua that is very small which I strongly recommend that we all learn and implement in our daily lives, like saying it when we are waking about our business before we sleep. The meaning is profound and is very relevant to the symptoms and sign people with mental health problems may experience:

“O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.”

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1) Sarah Wrigley,Henry Jackson,Fiona Judd and Angela Komiti (2005) ‘Role of stigma and attitudes toward help-seeking from a general practitioner for mental health problems in a rural town’ . Article first published online: 7 JUN 2005

2) http://bemindful.co.uk/mbct/about-mbct/

3) http://islamqa.info/en/13340