Address your stress- Learn to help yourself!

stressStress is the most common problem humanity has to deal with. Every single being is under the spell of stress; he might be a poor teenager or an old millionaire, he will be consumed in ferocious storm of stress and depression. We all are victims of this battle; some might win, but most will perish. Stress has this power, not just to manipulate minds, but squander the body and soul altogether. Increased number of stress relief medications, enhanced therapeutic technologies, modified stress releasing machinery, escalating demand of psychiatrists, and psychologists show how our stress is becoming the ultimate victor of this battle.

Pressing the issue of increased suicidal rate in Muslim community is posing a big question mark on the lifestyle of a religion-oriented nation. It is unfortunate that Muslims are not very considerate about ‘dealing with stress’ issue on a massive scale. A special homework must be done in the scientific and therapeutic fields in the Muslim world, in order to design techniques which are compatible to Muslim mind set and lifestyle; rather than mindless application of the contrastive work of western scholars on Muslims. Meanwhile, we can try to win over the stress within our individual power frame. Usually, people run towards music, party, drinking, smoking, or drugs etc. to get rid of stress; but good news is that there are many alternative Halal (permissible) ways to beat stress. I have enlisted simple, yet powerful tips, which can help overcome stress.

1. Dhikr (rememberance of Allah (swt))

As a Muslim our very first source to beat stress is Dhikr. Allah (swt) said,  “Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.”  (Ar-Rad 13:28)

Now what is this Dhikr? Dhikr literally means to “hold something in conscious mind” and in Islamic terms it means “the remembrance of Allah”. He also said,
“And men who remember Allah greatly and women who remembers (Allah greatly)- Allah holds in store for them forgiveness and a great reward” (Surah Ahzab 33:35)
We find examples of Dhikr in the Quran and narrations of Prophet (sa). Quran itself is the best kind of Dhikr. The psychology behind Dhikr is very interesting. When a person calls his Creator and Sustainer in his conscious mind then he ‘unconsciously’ starts developing a sense of belonging- where he starts trusting his Creator and becomes contented with what is given or taken by Him. This contentment is the key to the door of happiness, and this sensation of felicity beats stress.

2. Follow the Sunnah
Muslims already have a set pattern of life style provided by our prophet (sa). The more you practice Sunnah, the more you beat the stress. Anyone can get those guidelines, anywhere, at any time, just by contemplating over the life of prophet (sa). Allah (swt) said in the Quran, “Say (O Muhammad) onto them that if you love Allah SWT than follow me. Allah will love you and forgive your sins”

When one is loved by Allah (swt) then there is nothing in this entire universe that can harm him/her, or even cause any discomfort. Living a sinless life, gives a great comfort to one’s heart and mind which helps beat stress.

3. Fulfil your obligations/responsibilities

Every adult has to deal with some specific responsibilities. As Prophet (sa) said: “Every one of you is a Shepherd (responsible) and every one of you is accountable for the ones you are responsible for.” In fact, the ever mounting stack of unfulfilled responsibilities and obligations are the cause of depression and stress. Hence, when one fulfils his/ her obligations sincerely on a daily basis then there is nothing to worry about at the end of the day.

4. Develop a habit of physical exercise

Study of Harvard Health shows that regular exercise enhances the action of chemicals in our body, known as Endorphins. These chemicals help in building immunity and serve to improve our mood. Walking briskly for 35-thirty five minutes daily, shows to have a significant influence on mild to moderate symptoms of depression. On the other hand, our Islamic tradition strongly recommends physical exercise where Prophet (sa) used to motivate Muslims to practice different types of sports. Develop a habit of daily exercise, and participate in your favourite sport, so that you can ward off boredom and stress.

5. Provide a helping hand

Helping others gives ultimate happiness. If we observe the poor or destitute closely, we develop a sense of thankfulness; and when we will be thankful to Allah (swt) for His bounties, He will give you more- that is His promise. Hence, start helping others. Find a welfare organization in your area, and participate in community service to beat your stress.

6. Find your vision/mission

Everything in this universe has a purpose of its existence. The tragedy of Muslims nowadays is the lack of vision in their lives; they are confused and negligent of their purpose of creation. Existence of vision in one’s life instils fun, trill and enduringness in it which is a very helpful component in beating stress.

7. Organize yourself
Organization of oneself is one of the most important things in one’s life. If you ponder upon the system of this universe, you will see that everything has its specific time of happening. Nothing falls off the set schedule. Similarly, humans are also designed to organize their lives, or else they will fall from the divine dignity. Start your organization from little things like cleaning your messy cupboard, your book shelf and room, office desk then move up and design your daily routine, manage your events, and make a timetable. Rest assure- the more you organize yourself, the more you beat the stress.

8. Be Patient

Sabr (patience) makes it easy to deal with depression and stress. When a person thinks that everything belongs to Allah (swt), and He has complete authority to give and take any of His bounties whenever He wills; only then, he will experience true peace. Allah (swt) the Almighty knows what is best, and if one is patient at the time of calamity, Allah (swt) rewards him in this world and hereafter. One should try to practice patience, and be contented for what Allah (swt) has ordained for him for He is not unjust.

9. Let Go

Psychology tells us, when a person experiences, or senses something- it immediately goes into his short term memory, and when, it is repeated few times, it becomes long term memory where it resides for a long time. So, when you experience something unlikely and depressive- try to let go of it. It might be extremely depressing, but thinking about it over and over again will just make it worse, and ultimately, lead you to severe depression. Letting go needs a lot of practice and patience as it involves the training of your brain.

Practice these tips and God willing, you will regain your strength to fight stress. May Allah (swt) grant us all the peace of heart and mind. Ameen.

Combating Depression, Sadness and Anxiety

Depression, sadness and pain related crossword(This article has been “proof read” by a foreign qualified Psychologist)

Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)

“But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its orders, etc.) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection.” (TaHa 20:124)

The above two verses from The Quran explain the basic requirement in order to achieve tranquility of the heart. The heart and mind shall be at peace when it is filled with the remembrance of Allah (swt); on the contrary, it will be full of anxiety and restlessness in its absence.

The “Shaytan” (Satan) wants to inflict pain to us. His work is done for the disbelievers but his main targets are Muslims. Anyone who tries to get closer to Allah (swt), Allah (swt) makes the path even easier for him; whereas somebody who continues to ignore his Creator, Allah (swt) appoints a Shaytan (Satan) for that person, and makes that also easy for him, so it is our choice to choose our course.

“And whosoever turns away (blinds himself) from the remembrance of the Most Beneficent (Allah) (i.e. this Quran and worship of Allah), We appoint for him Shaytan (Satan – devil) to be a Qarin (an intimate companion) to him.” (Az-Zukhruf 43:36)

In contrast to the above verse, Allah (swt) gives good news to those who remain close to Him and do good deeds, they will not only have contentment of heart in this world but will also have a good ending, which means good return in the afterlife. Insha’Allah.

The heart and mind shall be at peace when it is filled with the remembrance of Allah (swt); on the contrary, it will be full of anxiety and restlessness in its absence.

“Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and work righteousness, Tuba (it means all kinds of happiness or name of a tree in Paradise) is for them and a beautiful place of (final) return.” (Ar-Rad 13: 28-29)

A believer is grateful to Allah (swt) when he is blessed in some way, and he is patient when he is going through a test in order to wait for Allah’s (swt) help.  Imagine how Yaqoob (as) wept for his son Yusuf (as) and lost his sight. Imagine how distress and overwhelmed ‘Aishah (ra) was when people slandered her by telling lies about her, and she kept weeping so much that she said: “I thought that grief would tear me apart.”  (Source: Shaykh Al – Munajjad, Saudi Arabia)

Turn each worry into a Dua and each Dua into an action plan.

As human beings, we have a habit to get attached to people and worldly things. We also tend to expect quick results and humans are generally impatient by nature. Many times, even after much effort when the results do not turn out the way we planned, we get depressed. Most common reasons of depression are loss of wealth, health problems, demise of a family member and relationship conflicts. There is no running away from stress because in this life there will always be something small or big troubling us. All that matters is how you deal with it.

This article does not deal with the factors of stress, anxiety, and depression, nor is it a clinical advice. This article would help to develop an attitude to combat with it on a daily basis Insha’Allah. If you feel depressed, you are not alone. It has been estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians in America are for stress-related problems. Turn each anxiety, each fear and each concern into a Dua (supplication). Look at it as another reason to submit to God and be in “Sajdah” (prostration), during which you are closest to Allah (swt). God listens and already knows what is in your heart, but He wants you to ask Him for what you want. Allah (swt) is displeased with those who do not ask Him for anything.

A Muslim turns towards Allah (swt) and calls for His help in all types of distress.

Adopt the Prophetic approach

Our job is to carry out our responsibilities to the best of our capacity parallel with a clear belief that we do not control the outcome of events. Even the Prophets did not control the outcome of their efforts. Some were successful, others were not. There will be Prophets on the Day of Judgement with one, two and more people; and some with not even one. Does that mean Prophets with very few or nobody were failures? No! They did their best and had their faith in Allah (swt), but Allah (swt) did not choose guidance for their Ummah (nation). Similarly, our role in this life is to make the best with the given resources, and leave the rest in Allah’s (swt) hands. Regardless of the results of your efforts, you will be rewarded for the part you have played.  (Insha’Allah)

However, never underestimate your abilities. Understand the concept of Barakah (blessings from Allah (swt); and remember that Allah (swt) can and Insha’Allah will expand them if you are sincerely exerting your energies for the right path.

A person can be sad due to various reasons.  Depression may be caused with or without a reason. In all types of grief and sadness, a Muslim deals with it differently from a non-believer. A Muslim turns towards Allah (swt) and calls for His help in all types of distress. We can encapsulate it in two categories for easy understanding:

1. Due to a specific reason, such as loss of wealth or loss of a family member.

2. Due to no reason at all. Person may start crying or get aggressive for no reason.

In both of the above situations, it is essential for a person to have a connection with his/her Creator. Whether it is a medical healing or a spiritual healing, the Healer is only The Creator.

              15 Islamic tips to overcome sadness, depression and anxiety

  • Believing that Life and Death are in the hands of Allah (swt) only. Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “Wherever you are, death will find you out, even if you are in towers built up strong and high!” (Quran 4:78)
  •  Believing that ease and difficulty come from Him only.
  • Believing that Allah (swt) is the Only “Raaziq” (Provider). Our job is to make efforts and leave the rest to Him. Our “Rizq” (provision) was decided and written when we were 4 months old in our mother’s womb.  Fataawa Noor ‘ala al-Darb (p. 36). Shaykh Muhammad ibnSaalih al-‘Uthaymeen, Saudi Arabia  (quoted and checked by Shaykh Al-Munajjad, Saudi Arabia) “How many are the creatures that carry not their own sustenance? Allah (swt) says, “It is Allah Who feeds them and you, for He hears and knows all things.” (Quran 29:60)  Allah (swt) further says in the Quran, “And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose. Verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion” (Quran 65:3)
  • Believing that what He gave us was never our right and what He took away from us was always His in the first place.
  • Turning towards Allah (swt) in “Taubah” (repentance) in order to seek His help and forgiveness. Allah’s (swt) mercy overshadows His anger.
  • Keeping a clear focus on those who are less privileged and in greater pain than us.  This should be done on a daily basis as a reminder.
  • Take a spiritual break from the world and have a private moment with Allah (swt). This can be done in various ways such as, by going to Masjid for prayers, doing long prostrations, shedding tears during Dua and keeping total faith in The Creator or by going on a family vacation. It is extremely important to break the monotony of our daily routine before we reach our limits.
  • Recognizing the ultimate enemy- The Satan. He plays with our mind. We can put up a fight with him with Allah’s (swt) help.
  • Appreciate the blessings that cannot be bought with worldly wealth. Health, family and friends are some examples of such blessings that have no price tag.
  • Find a hobby. Involve in some community service. Be a volunteer or even start your own organization if you can. It gives an inner peace and satisfaction when a selfless deed is performed.
  • Staying away from negative people- especially the ones who keep putting us down. Keep a constant check of your company. The ideal company is of somebody who is positive, helps you get closer to Allah (swt); somebody who is honest to you and becomes your shoulder when you need him or her.  It is important not to have too many confidants.
  • Try not to verbalize the negative thoughts. Fighting negative thoughts is better than verbalizing them, which eventually turn into negative actions. Diversion is better and recommended by getting involved in something more positive and constructive.
  • Learn to let go of the things that are not in your control.
  • Exercise daily. Walking and swimming are one of the best exercises for depression. Healthy mind only exists in a healthy body.
  • Learn to forgive. Forgiving is important for our own peace. Once we forgive, we will be able to forget also. Keeping grudges is very unhealthy and self-destructive.
  • Do not fall prey to worldly material things and do not let them control us. We all want money, cars, house and jewellery etc. but there will always be people who will have more than us, and there will be ones who will have less- this is how it works. It is important to have decent living but it is more important to have good health, nice family and friends.

The above method is a road leading towards positive living.

Conclusion

A lot of worry and psychological stress is caused by not being content with the will and decree of Allah (swt). Even after getting what we want, we may still suffer from anxiety and fear of losing that blessing. There is no remedy for this apart from accepting the decree of Allah (swt), thanking Him for His blessings, and patiently bearing the difficulties and calamities that Allah (swt) has decreed for us.

Prayer

May Allah (swt) bestow His blessings up on us in this life and in the hereafter. May He give us peace of heart and mind, give us courage and wisdom and guide us to the right path. May He make us of those whom He loved and shown His mercy to. Ameen!

10 Reasons to Be Positive in Life

optimismIt has become a very common thing in our lives that if we face discouragement, disappointment or a set-back, we simply move towards the “negative zone”- that is towards the dark side of our existence. We tend to believe that it is the last stop of our life, and no good will ever happen to us again. But, we forget that life is a road of opportunities- one goes, other comes. Moreover, while being in the zone of negativity, we overlook the good things that have or had happened to us in our lives. This negative zone lead us to the path where we start to believe that “We are good for nothing”, and nothing good will happen to us again. It is the height of negative thinking.

Instead, after a disappointment or a set-back, people should remain positive. It will help them remain calm and composed emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Also, it will bring a new outlook of life which will be based on optimism.

Here are the ten incredibly motivating reasons to acquire a positive approach towards life.

1. Feel Better

One of the peaceful reasons of being positive is to feel better.  During a set-back or hard time, you usually feel down and powerless, because negativity is all around you- making feel like nothing will ever change. But, if you remain calm and take that set-back or hardship as a phase which will fade away. Then, this thought would surely make you feel better.

2. Ability to cope up

Well, hardships are a part of life. They will never go away. But, with positive attitude, you can cope up with the hard times which will help you to remain strong, calm and compose during tough times.

3. Motivation

Your positive approach will help you stay motivated towards your goal or aim in life, and no obstacle or hardship will ever de-motivate you.

4. Regain self-esteem

With positive attitude- you believe in yourself; you value yourself; you do not underestimate your potential or strengths, and you trust your decisions.

5. Attain Good Health

Positive approach keeps you away from tension, depression, and many mental illnesses. It gifts you a good health.

6. Happiness all around

Optimism is one of the charms that even during hardship, it keeps you happy and content with your life.

7. Gratitude

Positive perspective makes you grateful, thankful and pleased with all the blessings and gifts you have. It creates a huge distance between you and negativity or ungratefulness.

8. Gift of Courage

While acquiring this beautiful approach in life, it grants you one of the tremendous tendencies such as courage. It helps you to remain strong against every obstacle; it gives stamina to keep on fighting and eliminates our fears.

9. Make impossible, possible

Whether it is a test, exam, interview or an assignment, sometimes we feel it is impossible to accomplish. But, with positivity we can make impossible, possible.

10. Farewell to Stress

Usually, we feel stressful during important tasks or difficult times, which disables us to remain focus and determined. But, with optimistic attitude, we can say farewell to stress and welcome a happy life!

Men are from Makkah and women are from Madinah

MoM-Gender-Roles-1John Gray wrote a book titled “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus”. This bestseller sold over fifty million copies worldwide. It has some valuable stuff that has saved many marriages. It emphasizes the difference between men and women. It also lays failure of relationships upon not being able to understand these gender differences. We will reflect upon this book highlighting some points worth mentioning.

Firstly, it is imperative to understand whether the differences between males and females are innate or acquired. Are they biological or learned through social interaction? It is amazing to learn that babies react differently to certain stimuli so naturally when they have not yet acquired any behavioural characteristics. Hence, certain differences are inborn and inbuilt. Cultural expectations are different from the two.

How can we build a successful relationship?

For starters, a huge hurdle is the problem of generalization, even though every single human being is unique. We are always dealing with individuals. It doesn’t harm us to appreciate that men and women think and behave differently. A word of caution is that in spite of recognizing these gender differences, we do not fall into the issue of gender conflict. For Muslims, the basis of everything is Islam. In Islam, men and women are supporters and companions to each other. Their innate nature is meant to complement one another.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (May Allah exalt his mention and protect him from imperfection) said: “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! You will not enter Jannah until you believe, and you shall not believe until you love one another. May I inform you of something, if you do, you love each other. Promote greeting amongst you (by saying As-salamu ‘alaikum to one another).” (Muslim)

What does love mean? It is not just a word or an emotion. It governs our behaviour. Your beloved’s well-being is connected to yours. You are unhappy, when your spouse is sad. You cannot relax, if he/she is distressed. For Muslim homes, mercy should be the pre-dominant emotion that ensures peaceful homes.

In Islam, interestingly, men and women have been treated equally and same. Women are considered to be twin half of men. Whenever Allah (swt) addresses believers, He calls out to both men and women, unless the Prophet (sa) has specifically mentioned something that is gender specific. In reality, men and women are from the same planet, and they have more in common.

Some ways that they differ could be their unique ways of reacting to stress. Men retreat to their cave. We have a supreme example in our own Messenger (sa) of that. Perturbed about the despicable state of Arabia’s affairs, he spent solitary time in Cave Hira. Men value competence and like to figure out stuff themselves. The last thing a man needs in times of stress is intervention from someone.

Women, on the other hand, like to discuss things. When they work very hard, they expect men to automatically understand what’s troubling them. And when they have no clue to their feelings, women get upset.

The Prophet (sa) used to tend to his own clothes and help at home by serving his family. He didn’t wait for his wives to break down. He acted proactively.

Similarly, when the Prophet (sa) was shocked by his experience with angel Gabriel (as) for the first time, he ran to Khadijah (rta). Men want to be trusted and appreciated. Look, how she behaved. She validated and assured him.

Lastly, it is important to note that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah (swt) based on their worship.

Transcribed by Rana Rais Khan from a talk at Mercy Mission, Karachi.

Manage With Patience

Patience plan aheadIt was 6:15 a.m. Sobia woke up with the buzz of her alarm. She woke up in an instant as it was already late for Fajr prayer. She hurriedly rushed into the bathroom and performed ablution. She prayed and after that she quickly woke up her kids for school and made their breakfast. Then she got busy with her daily household activities. This sounds simple but not for Sobia. She could not manage all her tasks at the same time. She got angry and frustrated at times. She was not able to manage her level of patience. For those who are short tempered or get aggravated over the workload, be it at home or anywhere, you can maintain your patience level by following the few practical ways mentioned below Insha’Allah:

1. List your routine (make a things-to-do list)

Grab a paper and pen and jot down all the tasks you have for the day. In this way you can cross out the ones that are done. This will give you a clear cut idea what sorts of tasks you have. You can also prioritize your list depending on what you need to do first. Remember not to procrastinate. Once the list is done start moving on with the tasks required earlier. This will save you from the havoc of workload, and you will feel relaxed once all your jobs are divided for the day.

2. Learn to manage time

Manage your time according to your duties assigned. Think about what would require less time and which one of your jobs is time consuming. Dividing your time wisely will save you from haphazard situations and you won’t feel guilty later. Time management is the basic element. It saves you from chaotic situations.

3. Stick to your time-table

Try to stick to your time-table. Do not hesitate to relax. Take some time out for yourself also. If you are fresh and relaxed then you can manage chores efficiently. Keep this running in your head that you will enjoy after all the stuff is done. So, get started and take a deep breath.

4. Family time

No matter how busy you may be, you ought to take out time for your family. You can always share your difficulties with your elders and they are likely to give you a wise advice as they know the phase you are going through. So never forget to take a few moments out of your busy schedule and take Dua of your elders.

5. Sit back and relax

Take a preview of your day or week. Think of all the chores that have been accomplished. Feel proud of that. Appreciate yourself. Share your victory with your family or a close friend. Think of your mistakes and weaknesses. Assess it and relax for you accomplished your desired tasks.

Protract patience and live your life peacefully. May Allah (swt) give Barakah in our time and guide us to use it wisely. Ameen!

Stress Less – Workshop Registration

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Parental Pressure – Tips for Teenaged Boys

life

  •  Are your parents forcing you to select a particular field in studies?
  • Are they giving you too many responsibilities now that you are growing up?

Listen up
You need to take it to your head that you’re growing up, and anyone would expect a boy to be mature in thinking as well as responsible! It’s not necessary to start arguing, because that’s not manliness!

Explain clearly
Talk to your parents about what you wish to choose and why. Sometimes, they may not even know what your choice is.

Be organized
Being organized can help you a lot with your responsibilities! If you are forgetful, maintain a little notebook where you can write down what you’re supposed to do!

If you are stressed out, always turn to Allah (swt) first!
As a boy, you may be a little hesitant to express your emotions or tell anyone how stressed out you are. But remember, you don’t have to lock yourself up, because Allah (swt) is willing to listen!

“If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided. (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

May Allah (swt) make your tasks easy!

Loss – Punishment or Reward?

loss

Our life is shaped by two types of important events. The first one belongs to Q1 and is termed ‘urgent’, such as a heart attack that needs to be tended to immediately. The second is Q2, which is important but not urgent, such as a patient who shows high potential signs of coronary issues leading to a heart attack. If Q2 actions are delayed, ignored or not attended to, they turn into Q1 situations, distressing us and resulting in losses.

Q1s are further divided into two types: internal Q1s and external Q1s. Internal Q1 could be when my car has been troubling me for days and needs to go to the mechanic for repairs. I have an extremely busy schedule; hence, I defer this visit to the motor mechanic, believing it to be a secondary priority. Hence, one morning, as I am driving, the brakes of my car fail and I ram into another vehicle. This is followed by an ugly brawl with the other motorist. I end up paying him for the damages, cursing my fate, being late for an important official meeting and succumbing to my frustration.

In this scenario, do I deserve sympathy from people or help from Allah (swt)? It was my choice to pend the car’s maintenance job and jeopardize my own and others’ life. Hence, this loss will be a source of Zulumat (darkness) and not a reward from Allah (swt). I earned this destruction with my own hands knowingly. Good fortune doesn’t hold forever. We need to learn to prioritize our life and be prepared, as we can’t read the future. Other examples of internal Q1 behaviour could be:

  • Studying at the last moment for exams and failing later;
  • Ignoring signs of a weak body, resulting in serious ailments;
  • Deliberately misbehaving with or annoying family members, causing disputes;
  • Forgetting about an official project or customer’s task, leading to reprimand from the boss or, worse, demotion or termination.

Now, we flip the scenario and imagine that my car was standing at a traffic light and another vehicle crashed into me from behind. What could I have done to alter this fate? Nothing. It was destined to happen. If I bear that moment with patience and recite: “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon (I am from Allah (swt) and to Him is my return),” this loss is accompanied with Noor (light). It becomes an act of pleasure for Allah (swt), as I surrendered to His decree and remembered that my possessions are a trust with me that can be taken away at any time. I didn’t resist, realizing that what had happened was beyond my control. I saved myself and others around me from unwarranted stress, misgivings, self-beating and bitterness. This graceful response of a believer earns the highest ranks of honour not only in Paradise but also in the sight of those in this world, who perceive Allah’s (swt) magnificence. This is purely an external Q1. Other similar examples could be:

  • Saving yourself from disappointment, after learning that your best examination paper was not marked honestly;
  • Suddenly discovering that in spite of living a healthy lifestyle, you have been diagnosed with a terminal disease;
  • Despite behaving generously and in the family’s best interest, you are unappreciated;
  • You perform your best in the office, yet the promotion or salary increment goes to another peer.

In all such cases, when our plan is scattered like the leaves in the teeth of a cruel gale, know Allah (swt) has planned otherwise. Pray for patience and deliverance. And know that Allah’s (swt) plots are unmistakably based on His infinite wisdom and love for the believer. This should draw us closer to Him. We should refrain from hunting for logical answers we cannot comprehend, due to our limited mental capacity.

Internal Q1s, however, should be and can be consciously worked upon, as they are within our circle of influence and can reduce the stressors and Zulm we commit upon ourselves. List your most frequently occurring internal Q1s. Analyze where you are going wrong. Double your resolve to plan and prioritize your life. If a loss still intercepts you after that as an external Q1 situation, you can pray for Allah’s (swt) Noor to come and relieve you. It’s not a loss but a better deal!

Fighting Stress with the “Four A’s Rule”

stress

A problem recognized is a problem half solved. When we find ourselves under mental pressure, we interchangeably call it anxiety, depression or stress. It is important to identify these as three distinct aspects of mental pressure, which impact our moods in different ways and, therefore, have to be addressed by appropriate kinds of treatment.

Anxiety is a generalized mood condition that can often occur without an identifiable triggering stimulus. Anxiety is related to situations, which are perceived as uncontrollable or unavoidable. disorders are characterized by a sense of doubt and vulnerability about future events. The attention of anxious people is focused on their future prospects and the fear that those future prospects will be bad. For example, how will my children turn out to be? What will be Karachi’s law and order situation? Will my future husband help me practice Islam?

Depression differs from anxiety. Depressed people are not preoccupied with worrying about what might happen to them in the future. They think they already know what will happen, and they believe it will be bad, just like the current miserable state they are in. They start believing in things like “I can never save enough for Hajj” or “I am not capable of learning Arabic”. The key symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad and/or hopeless;
  • Lack of interest and enjoyment in activities that used to be fun and interesting;
  • Physical aches and pains without physical cause and lack of energy;
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and/or making decisions;
  • Changes in appetite and weight;
  • Unwelcome changes in usual sleep pattern;
  • Thoughts of death and suicide.

Stress is completely different from anxiety or depression. Stress can be defined as a state we experience, when there is a mismatch between perceived demands and perceived ability to cope. Whether we feel stress or not depends upon the balance between how we view demands, and how we think we can cope with those demands.

Strategies for Fighting Stress

There is a “Four ‘As’ Rule” for fighting stress in our day to day life.

‘A’ for Avoid

“The greatest prison that people live in is the fear of what other people think.” (David Icke – English writer, public speaker and former professional footballer.)

You are responsible for what is in your head. Remember! A negative mind cannot have positive thoughts. If you are told that the food you are about to eat is poisonous, you would choose to be hungry than eat the poison. Similarly, if you know that a certain situation, person or experience can cause stress, don’t take the chance of digesting this psychological poison. Be wise enough to remove yourself from places and situations that can be stressful. For instance, if you have to go shopping and you know that you can miss your Maghrib prayer, don’t go shopping at that time or go to a mall that has a prayer area. Similarly, if spending too much on unimportant things will drain out your budget and you fear you will not be able to pay Zakah, control your desires, and avoid excessive shopping.

One of the reasons we find ourselves trapped in stressful, useless commitments is our fear of saying ‘no’. Saying ‘no’ is not rude, especially if you are avoiding a stressor. The way you say it has to be gentle, wise and accommodating. We don’t always need to shout, offend or abuse, while saying ‘no’. It can be said with a graceful smile.

Try to have clear priorities in life and avoid all distractions that come in your way to achieve your goals. For example, if you are asked to attend a late night party a day before your child’s exam, try to call, congratulate on the occasion and tell the host your reasons to miss the occasion. You can visit the host prior to the event or at a better time with a gift to compensate for the absence.

There are numerous incidents from the life of the Prophet (sa), which illustrate how he said ‘no’ without hurting anyone’s feelings. One of them is mentioned in the following Hadeeth:

Abu Dharr (rtam) narrated: “We fasted with the Messenger of Allah (sa) in Ramadan and he did not lead us in praying Qiyam until there were seven days left in the month, when he led us in praying Qiyam until one-third of the night had passed. Then he did not lead us in praying Qiyam when there were six days left. Then he led us praying Qiyam when there were five days left until one-half of the night had passed. I said: “O Messenger of Allah! What if we spend the rest of this night praying Nafl?” He said: “Whoever prays Qiyam with the Imam until he finishes, Allah will record for him the Qiyam of a (whole) night.” (An-Nasai)

Note the Prophet’s (sa) response to Abu Dharr (rtam). He did not reply ‘no’ to his question though his answer implied this. He simply informed him that if he follows the Imam, it will be as if he spent the whole night praying Nafl.

‘A’ for Alter

Avoiding is not always possible. In cases, when complete avoiding is not a good choice, you can alter the situation to have a pleasant and agreeable setup. Remember: our decisions are very important for us, but we need to show concern and respect for our family and friends, too, which is a very important characteristic of a Muslim.

A Hadeeth states: “…friendliness toward people is half of (one’s) intelligence.” (Bayhaqi) Here friendliness is considered to be intelligence, because it helps a Muslim be sociable and stay out of fights, abuses and trickeries, which can only be done by intelligent minds.

Alter situations to avoid confrontations.

If your husband does not like your cooking, try to see what you can do to alter that. Request your mother-in-law or sister-in-law for recipes that work. At times, it is only a matter of adding a few spices or getting rid of some. By doing a thing as simple as that, you can have a pleasant, joyful dining experience with your spouse.

If you find yourself spending too much time on maintaining your house, shift to a simple lifestyle that will give you relief from maintenance and a lot more time for studying religion and enjoying with family.

Another Hadeeth says: “The believer is one who is sociable (with others), and there is no good in one who is not sociable (with others), nor in one who is not met sociably (by them).” (Bayhaqi and Al-Hakim).

You cannot and should not avoid people, but meet them in a way that is best in Islam.

Abu Burdah (rtam) narrated: Abu Musa (rtam) said: “I was with the Prophet (sa) when he was encamping at Al-Jaranah (a place) between Makkah and Madinah. Bilal (rtam) was with him. A Bedouin came to the Prophet (sa) and said: ‘Won’t you fulfill what you have promised me?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Rejoice (at what I will do for you).’ The Bedouin said: ‘(You have said to me) rejoice too often.’ Then the Prophet (sa) turned to me (i.e. Abu Musa (rtam)) and Bilal (rtam) in an angry mood and said: ‘The Bedouin has refused the good tidings, so you both accept them.’ Bilal (rtam) and I said: ‘We accept them.’ Then the Prophet (sa) asked for a drinking bowl containing water and washed his hands and face in it; then he took a mouthful of water and threw it therein saying (to us): ‘Drink (some of) it and pour (some) over your faces and chests and be happy at the good tidings.’ They both took the drinking bowl and did as instructed. Umm Salamah (rtaf) called from behind a screen: ‘Keep something (of the water) for your mother.’ So they left some of it for her.” (Bukhari)

Again, note the Prophet’s (sa) response to the Bedouin to whom he (sa) had promised something but could not ultimately deliver. He told him kindly to rejoice but the audacious reply of the Bedouin ended up enraging them. He did not, however, make a mountain out of a molehill. He did not reply in kind. He applied the “alter” principle and directed the attention of those present to something else entirely different.

‘A’ for Adapt

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Just accept that you can’t always be the wronged one. Self pity and blaming everything on others is a full stop to progress. There are things in life that you can control and change through proper planning and time management. For instance, if you are always late for Salah, see how you can adapt your lifestyle to be punctual. Plan your activities such that they do not fall into Salah time. Stop all work with the Adhan. Get up and perform Wudhu. You can even switch off your phone. Likewise, if you are always late for work, maybe you can wake up a little earlier or use a route with less traffic. Try to adapt to situations that cannot be avoided.

The following incident from the life of Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (rtam) illustrates how the Companions of the Prophet (sa) used the ‘adapt’ principle instead of stressing about things (or people) they could not change.

The Prophet (sa) once sent Amr ibn Al-As (rtam) to Dhat As-Salasil, Syria, on an expedition. When he arrived in Syria, he noticed that the enemy was great in number. He sent a message to the Messenger (sa), asking him for reinforcements. The Prophet (sa) then sent Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (rtam) with a unit, comprising some of the early Muhajirun, including Abu Bakr (rtam) and Umar (rtam). Abu Ubaidah (rtam) was the commander of this unit.

Before dispatching this unit, the Prophet (sa) instructed Abu Ubaidah (rtam) that he should not differ with Amr ibn Al-As (rtam).

Abu Ubaidah (rtam) left with his unit and when he reached Dhat As-Salasil, Amr (rtam) told him: “You have come to reinforce my army and I am its commander.”

Abu Ubaidah (rtam) replied: “I remain in my position as you remain in yours.” (This meant that he would lead his unit while Amr (rtam) would lead the rest of the army.)

Amr (rtam) insisted: “No, you have been sent to reinforce my army.”

Abu Ubaidah (rtam) responded: “O Amr! The Messenger (sa) told me that the two of us should not differ. So even if you disobey me, I will obey you.”

Amr (rtam) said: “In that case, I am your commander and you are reinforcing me.”

Abu Ubaidah (rtam) agreed. Amr (rtam) stepped forward and led the prayer. After the expedition was over and the Prophet (sa) was informed about this, he said: “May Allah have mercy upon Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah!” (Ibn Katheer)

In the process of adapting, you may find the following tips useful:

  • Always keep ‘time buffers’: a certain amount of extra time in your schedule for dealing with circumstances beyond your control. For example, instead of running to catch a plane at the eleventh hour, leave a little early for managing the traffic jams. If you reach early, you will be less hassled and more relaxed.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle for managing your level of stress. Make sure that your routine includes exercise, healthy food, leisure activities and time for family.
  • Try to decrease competition and sense of time urgency in life. Keep your cool and show your strengths only when required. Your softer side should be prevalent.
  • Also remember that we have to understand the Islamic perspective of challenges and hardships. These may be:
  • Mismanagement: Not using Allah’s (swt) blessings properly means paying a hefty price. This includes our time, money, health and all forms of Rizq.
  • Punishment: Sometimes, it is our own evil that is coming around. A thorough repentance and mending relations with blood relatives is a very important remedial. During times of trials, along with repentance, try to give Sadaqah (charity) as well.
  • Blessing in disguise: When you find yourself buried under layers of darkness like Yunus (as), follow his example: remember the Creator of that darkness. Some lessons are learnt only the hard way.
  • Try to improve your life by identifying major causes of stress, which may be:
  • Love of the world: Controlling our reactions is crucial. Equally important is the need to take a closer look at our lifestyles. Too much love of worldly possessions creates fear of loss and depression. Limit your wants by knowing your needs. Avoid indulgence.
  • Lack of proper nutrition: Eating inorganic, fast food and lack of routine in proper eating habits spoils the mood. If one does not eat at proper intervals, or if one starves for too long only to fill up the stomach with junk food, then the brain is confused to the extent that it treats hunger as stress. The body responds to hunger not by eating (because it is not trained to), but by shouting, screaming and showing irritation.
  • Lack of proper sleep: Agitation is also a common reaction to sleep deprivation. A healthy, sound sleep makes us happy and relaxed. By staying up for too long, we become irritable and angry.

One more important factor keeping people away from emotional stability is uncontrolled thoughts. Have you ever noticed that your last thought before going to sleep is the first one that you have when you wake up? For the entire night, our brain is engaged in thoughts. So make Dua, thank Allah (swt) and think positively, as you lie down to sleep. Avoid horror movies or late night talks.

‘A’ for Accept

For circumstances beyond human control, we need to accept the situation and place our Tawakkal (reliance) on Allah (swt). This means that you should trust and depend on Allah’s (swt) will without complaining. “Nay! Verily, man does transgress all bounds (in disbelief and evil deed, etc.). Because he considers himself self-sufficient.” (Al-Alaq 96:6-7) If harm touches us, and we are not able to solve it through Halal means, then we should accept it as a decree of Allah (swt) and hope for good times to come in the future. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “So verily, with hardship, there is relief. Verily, with hardship, there is relief (i.e., there is one hardship with two reliefs, so one hardship cannot overcome two reliefs).” (Ash-Sharh 94:5-6)

Remember that perfection lies in being unapologetic about the imperfections of our lives. It is okay if your height, complexion, mental capacity or family life is not the way you wanted it, because it is exactly the way Allah (swt) wants it.

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

You will find within yourself a great energy to improve and enjoy if you stop questioning destiny.

In “Enjoy your Life”, Dr. Al-Arifi narrates the following incident. Once, the Prophet (sa) went out on an expedition with his Companions. After a while, their food started running out and they felt weak. The Prophet (sa) instructed them to gather whatever food they had. He spread his cloak. One man came forward with a date or two; another brought a piece of bread. When all the food was collected, they sat down and ate with contentment. It is quite obvious that none of them ate his fill, but at least they ate something. All of them applied the ‘accept’ principle without stressing about the fact that they had little food or where would they get more of it from.

Allah (swt) has placed our eyes at the front of our head, because it is more important to look ahead than to look back. Don’t dwell on things in the past. Learn from them and keep moving on.

Emotional stress is a subjective illusion created by the human mind. If stress were real and objective, like, for example, gravity, then it would impact everyone the same way. Stress eats away our bottom lines and affects our mental health, personalities and attitudes. Control it before it starts controlling you.

Don’t forget to develop a sense of thankfulness towards Allah (swt). The more we thank Allah (swt) for what we have and what is happening with us, the less we get upset for what we do not have and what is not happening with us.

Allah (swt) has promised in the Quran: “…If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My Blessings)…” (Ibrahim 14:7)

Dhikr in any form is a very good medicine for stress. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)

Likewise, it is our responsibility, as Muslims, to ensure that we are not triggering stress in the lives of others. We often do that unintentionally by asking too many questions about someone’s personal life, weak points and embarrassing aspects of their lives that they don’t want to share. Also, avoid pointing out other people’s anomalies or weaknesses.

If we wouldn’t have any difficulties in our lives, we would not have the chance for recognizing our true potential. We don’t need to be strong in every situation, we don’t need to be always winning and we don’t even need to be happy all the time. We just need to be Muslims in submission to Allah’s (swt) will, grateful for His blessings, patient in times of trial and never losing hope. Keep trying, seeking help from Allah (swt) and hoping for the best.

Let me reiterate this: Muslims are the Khulafa of Allah (swt) on the Earth. It is only because of our own condition that the world is in this state of chaos. We need to take control of our lives and stresses. We are responsible for the world we live in.

A 9-year-old’s stress

9-year-old

Summer vacation was over and the kids had just returned to school, starting their new session. It was still the first week in their new grades. One particular mother was having trouble putting the children onto an earlier bedtime schedule. Marium, her 9 nine-year-old would especially not co-operate. No matter what mum said and did, Marium would not just budge. Exasperated, mum requested her husband to take over before she ended up in an ugly tussle with their daughter. Following is the conversation between father and daughter:

Dad: “Marium, sweetheart, I want to talk to you. Mum is saying you are not co-operating much. Is something the matter? It seems like something is eating you.”

Marium: “I’ve got a lot of worries!”

Dad: “Really, well let me hear them all. Let’s talk in your room.”

Dad and Marium head to Marium’s room. Twenty minutes later dad comes out of the room smirking to himself.

A bewildered mum asks: “What happened?”

Dad: “Nothing. I put her to bed.”

Mum: “Just like that?”

Dad: “I wrote down her worries.”

Mum: “And?”

Dad: “And I read them back to her.”

Mum: “Then what happened?”

Dad: “I promised her that I will help her tackle her issues on the weekend. She put her list under her pillow, changed into her night suit and went to bed.”

The next morning when mum was changing Marium’s bedsheets, her list fell to the floor. Here’s what it said:

What’s worrying Marium?

  1. Messy closet and bedroom. She has to share her room with her younger sister Alyah who is a 4-year-old, not willing to put any stuff back in its place.
  2. Great deal of work at school and plenty of thick books to carry.
  3. Having trouble understanding the new Math chapter.
  4. Needs more spending allowance for school snacks as prices have hiked since past term.
  5. Lost brand new pencil case in school.
  6. Some younger kids in her school bus are naughty and irritating.
  7. Has no decent pair of sandals to wear to her best friend’s upcoming party.

Mum smiled as she read the note. She realized that as grownups we assume that only we have real troubles in life. It’s easy to forget that children can have them too. And just like us, they need someone to listen and take their worries seriously. For an adult they may sound childish and petty. But for a child they mean the world: a world they live in. The worst thing that an adult can do is dismiss or ridicule a child’s sentiments, terming them as senseless or wrong. As they say, you do not teach swimming to a drowning person. When listening to worries, just hear them out. Discussions can ensue at a later time. By then, some issues have already taken care of themselves and some are more open to be talked about.

“Children need to hear an unqualified acceptance of their emotions of the moment. A response that conveys full understanding without reservation or judgment empowers young people and grants them the courage to begin to deal with their problems.” (Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish)

Adapted from “How to talk so kids can learn”    

What’s Wrong with These Men?

men

Men on Vacations

You are on your dream getaway to the end of the Earth. Hand in hand with your husband, you board the plane and land on Kankoon islands. Once on the beach, you swing in a hammock, rocking gently. The palm trees above sway in the breeze. The calm blue ocean stretches before you as far as the sight can gaze. The warm white sand beneath nestles wondrous shells. You can feel a smile on your face, as you quietly hear the sounds of the waves rolling on to the shore. Such serenity, such tranquility, such peace! Ah! Just the time and place for romance.

And, suddenly, you hear a snort, a snore and a growl. As you flip around, your better half is fast asleep with his mouth wide open. The romance that was to ensue is obviously not going to take place. Frustrated and frowning, you wonder how anyone can bother to kill time sleeping in this paradise? After spending millions and travelling for miles away from the crazy mayhem at home, he chooses to doze off, instead of romancing me? Guess what? You shot in your own foot and gave him no other choice.

In order to understand a man’s behaviour, one needs to step into his world. For most of them, in the 8 to 10 hours that they spend at work, regardless of their profession, the day is filled with action and challenges. Planning, executing, leading, deciding, meeting, multi-tasking, directing and taking orders – this is usually a man’s day at work. This is a demand that he needs to meet every day. In our modern day and age, because of an over-competitive culture, less people are hired to tackle more work. Hence, this man generally has to take care of demands that require him to stretch his coping ability. If he succeeds, he feels pleasure and elation and a good type of stress called eustress. But if his coping ability fails to meet the demands, he feels low and disappointed, which gives him negative stress called distress.

Now, when such individuals are exposed to a non-challenging environment, where their perceived coping abilities outweigh the perceived demand created, boredom and frustration occurs. For such active individuals, it is best to opt for more adventurous holidays, such as trekking, bungee jumping, scuba diving, sky diving, driving into wilderness, camping or rafting. Chances are that such engaging vacations will thrill them. You will catch them smiling often and cracking jokes, as they feel decisive, confident, understanding and euphoric. This state depicts eustress: the good stress, under which you perform your very best. This is when the chemical messenger/hormone noradrenaline increases. Physically, one can feel goose bumps rise. Pupils dilate, hearing is acute, palms and feet become sweaty and a feeling of excitement engulfs without anger and hostility.

Thus, no matter how much you love the calm of coconut beaches, that’s not the place for your romantic retreat.

Even at home, Sundays for many families are miserable. Wives bitterly complain that their husbands either choose to plant themselves before a machine (laptop, television, etc.) or snooze every now and then. The best way to get them to their feet is to excite them with some action that challenges their perceived coping abilities. It could be building something, playing sport or cooking barbeque outdoors, in other words, anything that requires alertness, thinking and decision making. Otherwise, if you leave them lounging about at home, you will find them curled in a corner sleeping away most definitely, as they are bored out of their mind and find little to sink in their teeth into.

Men after Retirement

Now that you have an understanding of how a man’s work life generally is, you can very well imagine how he feels when he is given a golden handshake, retires or is asked to leave. Most men suffer from multiple disorders and serious health conditions after their retirement and not during their active work tenure. Why? They undergo strokes, heart attacks and other such fatal illnesses, when they are resting in peace at home, not while they were active in service. It’s because it is distressful for them to be of no use to anyone, while they most probably still could have been. They have enjoyed their moments in the limelight, raked in many badges of honour and have been the best workers on force like the salt of the Earth. For this reason, we often hear several embellished versions of their active employment days long after they have retired.

When this man is sent home after years of meeting challenges, his perceived coping abilities are still high but the perceived demand is very low. He is expected to rest, sleep, play with his grandchildren or read books, when he still could have been doing far more. It is a world they have a hard time being part of. We often hear our mothers and mothers-in-law complaining about our fathers and fathers-in-law that they have transformed into grumpy old goats and throw volcanic temper tantrums.

In Islam, there is no logic of retirement. Our beloved Prophet (sa) died at the age of 63 years and was working until then. The concept of retirement is the capitalist society’s need to replace old ideas with new ones, less vigour with more and old with new, in order to serve their demands. And, as a lollipop, they hand over some package or finances to console their lifelong servant, who has given the best of his years and ability to them. In reality, these corporations have made far more profits, while this man was employed with them, than what they offer him at the end of his service. They still get the better deal.

Hence, a Muslim man should keep this in view and gradually taper off, rather than sit at home and wait for death to catch him in his rocking chair. His family should facilitate this important transition and find value in his remaining energy, experiences and capabilities. Otherwise, the person, who experiences depression and loss of control, also produces large amount of cortisol: a chemical messenger/hormone that suppresses the immune system, if it exceeds its normal range. Prolonged effects of cortisol can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, chronic anxiety and depression.

The crux of it all is that every believer has to engage in activities that offer him situations to control and excel at. In cases of retired men, learning new technology could be interesting. Offering consultancy based on their experiences could be another area to explore. Offering services to philanthropic organizations free of charge or at nominal cost can be very motivating and gratifying.

Women play a very significant role in this. Get the men moving, when they find themselves redundant and useless. But refrain from nagging or overdoing it, as it may backfire. Hikmah (wisdom), pure Neeyah (intention) to help them and Dua (prayer) are very important. They all need situations worth exploring, glimmering with excitement, taking chances and making mistakes just like children do.

When Stimulants Become Stressors…

stimulants

What’s the first thing we do after waking up in the morning?  Besides going to the washroom, we try to freshen ourselves with a rejuvenating cup of tea or coffee and in some cases, light up a cigarette, too. Have we ever pondered over why we need such stimulants?

Stimulants are used to elevate mood and enhance self-confidence. They produce alertness, decrease fatigue and prolong physical work. All stimulants increase blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. The body temperature is elevated by the effect caused by increased muscle activity and constricted blood vessels. Many people consider only hardcore drugs to be stimulants, while actually the classification of stimulants includes caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines and cocaine.

To every upside, there’s a downside. Stimulants provide your body with a false and unpredictable high. However, the energy boost associated with intaking any of these stimulants is short-lived. This boomerang effect of going up and down only contributes more to anxiety, depression and stress.

Caffeine

The main stimulant in our lives is caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee, chocolates and even carbonated beverages. It acts as a stimulant to the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which initiates the fight/flight response, causing the adrenal glands to release more stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) into the bloodstream; these levels are already too high due to the stress we experience, and caffeine exacerbates them even more.

Caffeine is one of the most widely consumed drugs in the world today; yet, our body has absolutely no requirement for it. Professor James Lane (Duke University Medical Center) carried out research on 72 people, who regularly drank 4-5 cups of coffee a day. The data from this study revealed that this level of coffee consumption produced a 32% rise in levels of the stress hormone adrenaline and a 14% rise in the levels of the stress hormone noradrenaline. Professor Lane’s research also revealed that caffeine in 4-5 cups of coffee elevated the blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke by 34% and the chance of heart attack by 21%.

Nicotine

Nicotine, another common stimulant used in our society, is claimed to give relief and feeling of freedom within an individual. However, nicotine has been linked to stress. The relation between nicotine and stress is very much like that between the chicken and the egg – which one comes first? Does stress cause people to smoke? Or maybe the nicotine in tobacco causes people to feel stressed? The answers might surprise you.

It’s all part of a trick nicotine is playing on our bodies, and it starts with nicotine addiction. While many people may feel they are using tobacco as a way to relax or de-stress, nicotine actually causes the opposite effect. Studies have found that nicotine intensifies stress. Feelings of calmness or pleasure during tobacco use are really just momentary reliefs from the unpleasant effects that come along with nicotine cravings (including stress). Those feelings of stress and anxiety will return once the nicotine leaves the body system, and the cycle begins again.

Staying Away from Stimulants

  1. Withdrawing Daily Stimulants

The body that we possess is an Amanah of Allah (swt) and we will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement, as to how we treated this Amanah. Therefore, it is our responsibility to keep ourselves healthy and focus on natural elements, rather than becoming dependent on unnecessary stimulants. Ibn Umar (rtam) reported Allah’s Messenger (sa) saying: “Every intoxicant is Khamr, and every intoxicant is forbidden. He, who drinks wine in this world and dies while he is addicted to it, not having repented, will not be given a drink in the hereafter.” (Muslim)

One might argue that stimulants are not intoxicants. However, they certainly are co-related and a leading cause of deteriorating health and untimely death. What can be more fatal?

  1. Give an Alternative to Your Body – Fruit Teas

It can take up to three days to totally eliminate all stimulants from the body, especially caffeine.  People, who have given up such stimulants, have found that they are less stressed; also, their sleep improves and they have more energy. A common mistake many people make, when withdrawing from stimulants is that they don’t drink any other fluid. It is important to maintain fluid intake.  There are a number of alternatives to caffeine and nicotine, which may include such fruit teas as black currant or apple, such herbal teas as chamomile and peppermint, fruit juices and decaffeinated tea and coffee. Limit your caffeine intake or ideally switch to caffeine free beverages.

It’s important to reduce your caffeine intake slowly, over time and not to stop it all at once, because some people can suffer withdrawal effects and have severe headaches. Reduce by one cup per week and replace it with a decaffeinated version. Do this over time, until you have replaced all your caffeine drinks with non-caffeine tea, coffee, fruit tea, fruit juice, water, etc.

  1. Proper Sleep Management – Relax

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately, stress also interrupts our sleep, as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep.

Rather than relying on medication, your aim should be to maximize your relaxation before going to sleep. Make sure that your bedroom is a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause you stress. Avoid caffeine during the evenings, if you know that this leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed, so that you give your brain time to calm down. Try taking a warm bath or reading a calming, undemanding book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. You should also aim to go to bed at roughly the same time every day, so that your mind and body can get used to a predictable bedtime routine. Recite Surah Al-Mulk as per the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah.

  1. Channel Your Stress Effectively – Exercise

Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.

  1. Approach the Correct Solution – Pray and Repent

Abu Hurairah (rtam) narrated: When a matter would worry the Prophet (sa), he would raise his head up toward the sky and say: “Glory is to Allah, the Magnificent (Subhan Allahil-Adheem).” And when he would strive in supplication, he would say: “O the Living, O Sustainer (Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum).” (At-Tirmidhi)

In yet another incident, it was narrated by Abdullah bin Abbas (rtam) that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Whoever persists in asking for forgiveness, Allah (swt) will grant him relief from every worry and a way out from every hardship, and will grant him provision from (sources) he could never imagine.” This is a clear inspiration for us. Instead of relying on immediate solutions involving worldly stimulants, we should depend upon the ultimate Provider and Sustainer: Allah (swt). Ask Allah (swt) to free you from your stress, and eventually it will give you relief, Insha’Allah.

Some Conditions that can be Exacerbated by Caffeine

  • Stress
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Cystitis
  • Heart burn
  • Diabetes
  • Anger
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Palpitations
  • Glaucoma
  • Menopause
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Bi-polar depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Pre-Menstrual tension
  • Mood swings

Effects of Caffeine on Our Body

  • Increases heart rate
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Depletes vitamin B6
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Speeds up loss of vitamins and minerals
  • Increases blood cholesterol levels