Are you a silent warrior? Find out the ways one can deal with Mental Health Issues in the light of Islam, by Huda Syed

This article is part of Arriqaaq Magazine - Unfurl

Her eyes held back an inner tornado of tears. Behind that pressured smile were flashes of painfully hidden memories. Her mind echoed those very thoughts that had pierced through the inner walls of her heart. A feeling of heaviness in the chest, fatigued after years of holding onto so many confusing emotions.

Us humans, we’re intelligent beings for the most part, but when it comes to dealing with our emotions, not so much. If you’ve experienced any of the above mentioned emotions, which I’m pretty sure you have, what kind of judgments did you make about yourself? Perhaps,

“Why did I breakdown in front of everybody, I’m such a loser”
“Why do I have to get so anxious, I must have seemed like such a wimp”
“I feel miserable but I cannot refuse, why am I so fickle-minded?”
“I’m struggling and I need help but I can’t ask for it because I’m afraid they’ll find out I’m really weak inside”

Ever wondered why we are so secretive and critical when it comes to our emotions and how we’re truly feeling? It’s mostly because we’ve internalized that being sensitive is shameful. We run away from our emotional side, refusing to sit down and ask ourselves a simple question that could lift a lot of that heavy weight off our chest — “What is bothering me and why?”.

Instead of working to find a lasting solution, we often choose to brush our emotions aside and wake up each day feeling absolutely drained instead.

Profound sadness, anger, jealousy, fear and anxiety is something we all experience. Not knowing how to handle these varying emotions can have ugly consequences. On the contrary, feeling equipped and having a personal go-to strategy to help you deal with your emotions can make a world of a difference not only to your own well-being but to your relationships as well.

What works for others, may not work for you. Inevitably, reflecting on how you can effectively manage your emotions is a very intimate individual experience that requires you to delve into that dark and intermingled side of your brain. Sometimes, it’s necessary to wade through the darkness to arrive at the light.

Here’s three practical tips that could really aid you in handling difficult emotions and thereby increase your emotional intelligence:

1. Your emotions are messages from your heart, stop ignoring them.

Anger. Fear. Jealousy. Sadness. What do we do when we feel these emotions? We push them away. Hide it. Avoid it. This often leads us to be stuck in this cycle of battling against our own feelings.

What if we sought Allah’s aid and tried to listen to what our feelings are trying to convey instead? Our emotions serve a purpose. They are like messages carrying important data regarding your inner state of being.

Think of your emotions like this incredibly amazing GPS that gives you information on where you are, where you want to go and what is in the way. So if you do not want to feel lost, you need to listen to its messages and not dismiss them as mere distractions.

So the next time you’re struggling with your emotions, remind yourself: Emotions are data. Instead of running away from them, embrace it. “I feel really upset. I wonder why that is? What is this emotion trying to tell me?

Many of us lose control when we’re angry and this causes us a lot of agony and regret once we have calmed down. We could prevent this cycle from repeating if we took time to understand what triggers our anger and why.

As believers, we need to learn from our experiences. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The believer is not stung twice from the same hole.”

If your emotions got the better of you in the past, it’s time you showed them who their boss is!

2. Tell it like it is: Be honest with yourself.

Once you have ended the inner struggle by acknowledging the emotions you’re feeling, what’s the next step? You can start the process of transforming that emotion, whether its anxiety, sadness, anger or anything else.

The first step is to call the emotion by its name. A lot of recent research suggests that when we name our emotions, it reduces its intensity, helps us to slow down and opens up the opportunity to make better, more deliberate decisions. This is backed by scientific evidence, activity in the Amygdala (a region of the brain involved in generating emotions) reduced when a person labelled their feelings, as per research at UCLA. Therefore, name it to tame it.

So why is labelling your emotions important? Naming emotions seems to bridge the gap between thoughts and feelings. If you’re feeling lost in a spiral of confusing emotions, labelling it helps bring you back to your rational self. So next time you’re feeling a difficult emotion, start by naming it: I am angry, or anxious or sad. Just tell it like it is.

You can do this mentally or write it down on a sheet of paper but make sure you’re keeping it real. P.S. if you’re afraid someone might read it, use the note-taking app on your phone and start by writing down the name of the emotion you’re feeling.

By far the most powerful way to do this, is talking to Allah in sujood - the most peaceful position in this life. You may be excellent at hiding your feelings from the people but there’s no way you can lie to Allah. So allow yourself to be completely raw and real before Him as this is a remedy that will soothe your heart and ease your burden like nothing else.

3. Embrace the help: A good support system is crucial.

At times we may feel that we’d rather be alone or that we don’t need help from anyone else. Although this can feel liberating in the short-term, it can eventually leave us feeling isolated and lonely.

Surah Asr is a concise yet immensely comprehensive Surah of the Qur’an that teaches us that ‘victory’ in this worldly life and the hereafter is through:

  • Eeman (Having faith
  • Doing righteous deed
  • Advising each other to truth and patience

We are in need of someone who will admonish us and advise us. It is of crucial importance to surround yourself with righteous company because the one who will advise you is the one you keep company.

If you’re being oppressed or abused, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Allah has forbidden oppression for himself and He has forbidden it for the people. Wisdom lies in knowing where to draw the line and seek societal help to free yourself from the oppressor.

In essence, surrounding yourself with a solid support circle by maintaining genuine and healthy relationships with family members and friends is vital for your well-being. If you’re finding it overwhelming to deal with your emotions on your own, don’t be afraid to reach out to the people you trust. You could also seek professional help from therapists, there is no shame in it as Islam encourages us to take the means and place our trust in Allah.

To conclude, I’d like to ask you, do you want a good life? Indeed the Owner of it has given us a simple way to achieve it and that is that you have Eeman, perform righteous deeds and make the hereafter your primary concern. For if you do that, Allah will gather your affairs, place contentment in your heart and the worldly life will come to you even though you don’t want it.

Huda Syed holds a Masters in Counselling Psychology. She aspires to be of service to Muslim sisters by providing psychotherapy in the light of the Qur’an and established Sunnah.