If 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 do 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;
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 have 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.
One 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!
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!