One of the saddest realities of our lives is that stress and anxiety have become normal parts of our life. It is one of the most silent problems that is affecting each and every person in a society albeit in different manners. Stressing for the right reasons such as not missing prayer may not be such a bad thing, but overall these two things can have long lasting and really bad effects on people. Anxiety is a psychological condition for which there are actually medications and though most people think that that is the extent of its harmful effects they are severely wrong. Anxiety can lead to multiple types of diseases including cardiac and digestive issues. Long term stress symptoms include, headaches, acne, chest pains, high blood pressure, fatigue, teeth grinding, depression and of course anxiety.
Managing stress is the sure fire thing if you want to live a happy life. Life throws a lot at you and if we get down from everything coming our way, then that can lead to depression. According to Muhammad Faris, the founder of a popular Muslim blog, Productive Muslim, and sufferer of stress at one point in his life, here are 9 steps that you can take to overcome your stress.
Exercise is one of the most effective treatments against stress. Not only does it reduce stress levels, but it can also reduce fatigue, improve concentration levels and the physical ability to fight disease. Research shows that doing exercise in the morning on an empty stomach has a greater impact than at other time. If you feel a lack in energy, you can eat a few dates to stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was reported to walk in a fast pace, now known as a power walk. In a hadith, Ali (RA) described Muhammad’s (SAW) vigorous way of walking:
“When he walked, he lifted his leg with vigor. He did not drag his feet on the ground like women do. When he walked, because of the speed and force of the legs, it seemed as if he was descending from a high place.” [Tirmidhi]
In another hadith about the Prophet (SAW), Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that:
“I did not see anyone walk faster than him, as if the earth folded for him. A few moments ago he would be here, and then there. We found it difficult to keep pace when we walked with him, and he walked at his normal pace.” [Tirmidhi]
Remember that if you take exercise as a chore, after sometime you could lose interest or find excuses not to do it. Therefore, try to encourage your family members to join you, as any activity done with others tends to be more enjoyable.
2. Breath Properly
Breathing exercises are another excellent antidote for stress. When you feel really stressed out, try this for 5-10 minutes:
1. Breathe in with your nose for 5 seconds
2. Hold your breath for 3 seconds, then
3. Slowly breathe out through your mouth for a count of 7 seconds
This breathing exercise will calm your body and you will start to feel relaxed. Just remember to breathe with your belly, specifically your diaphragm (the muscle that sits just below your lungs), rather than your chest, for more efficient breathing.
3. Get Your Diet Right
Most people do not realize it, but food can also affect stress levels. Certain types of food and drink can increase stress levels, such as fast foods, butter, cheese, meat, shellfish, sugar, tea, coffee, and soft drinks. This does not mean that you have to avoid them completely, but you should consume them in moderation.
Remember that Allah (SWT) says:
“… And eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” [Qur’an: Chapter 7, Verse 31] Fortunately, there are also some foods that can help relieve stress, particularly foods with a high vitamin and mineral content. These include fresh vegetables and fruits, yogurt and green smoothies. Eating fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, sardines and tuna three times a week, can also help reduce stress levels.
4. Rest Well
Sleep is a vital part of our life. To reduce stress-inducing hormones, a good night’s sleep is exceedingly important. When you are tired and not well-rested, your stress hormones increase. You can easily remedy this by sleeping 7-9 hours per night.
However, the best quality sleep occurs in the early part of the night, which is in accordance with the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) who advised us to sleep right after ‘Ishasalah. Sleeping around 9-10 pm also makes it easier to wake up for Fajr. However, if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep, get up and pray tahajjud. Also if you get chance, take a short power nap after Dhuhr.
5. Smile its Sunnah
They say laughter is the best medicine and not only is it good for the body, but also for the mind as it can reduce stress hormones. So whenever you get a chance, try to enjoy the blessings of a good laugh. Of course, a lasting smile (also sunnah) can be just as beneficial, as your brain is tricked into being happy thereby releasing stress-relieving chemicals. You could also try other activities that make you happy, like reading a book, baking, or taking a walk.
6. Good Company
The lonelier you are, the more you will attract negative feelings. Keep in touch with your family members and close friends to feel better and spread some love. To reduce stress, enjoy some time with your family and friends by doing any kinds of activity, for example, go for a picnic, a bike ride or just chat. Not only will it help reduce your stress levels but also help to build strong bonds between each other.
7. Free Time
In our busy life, we need some time to enjoy ourselves. You can use your free time in a productive way by doing something to serve your community, or simply relaxing and listening to Qur’an recitation, a lecture by your favorite lecturer, or reading any hadith or Islamic book.
This way you can increase your knowledge and faith, and also help calm your daily struggles. It is a necessary asset in the life of a person who wants to live stress-free. When you learn about of the struggles the sahabah made for their religion or how difficult it was for them initially to even pray five times in a day, a person can easily see that their struggle is small compared with that of our Prophet (SAW) and his sahabah.
As Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an:
“… and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed.” [Qur’an: Chapter 62, Verse 10]
8. Manage your Life
To manage your time properly, identify your ‘MITs’: most important tasks; and do those first everyday to get them out of the way. You can also develop a routine based on your regular tasks, so you can focus on the tasks that need more attention. If boredom is the reason for your stress, then simply use that time for learning or understanding verses of the Qur’an, or even try to memorize it. As Ibn Abbas (RA) narrated that Prophet Mohammad (SAW) said:
“There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) Health and free time for doing good.” [Bukhari]
9. Be Thankful to Allah
Most of us are not satisfied with what we have. You might be stressed about not getting that promotion, or unsatisfied with your job/salary, or tensed with your children etc. Remember that there are people dealing with harder situations that yourself; some are homeless, jobless, or without children.
In worldly matters, look to those below you to be humbled (looking above you triggers jealousy and ungratefulness), while in religious matters look to those above you to get inspired to reach a higher level of taqwa.
You must always be thankful for what Allah (SWT) granted you. You might think that what you want is better for you but He knows what is truly best for you. Allah (SWT) might be giving you what you need or He may be testing your iman so that you may call upon Him and increase in piety. The path you are on is the right one for you, even if you cannot see that right now.
Stress cannot solve your problems, but it only causes more, especially to your health and social life. So, be happy with what you have, be patient, try to do your best and ask Allah (SWT) for guidance.
Allah (SWT) said: “So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 152]
In reality, it is difficult to avoid all sources of stress as we encounter a myriad of situations on a daily basis, but do not let stress control your life. Try to make a little time everyday for your health and well-being, as they are blessings from Allah (SWT).