Some Tips For Managing Stress
It was the spring of 1999 when I was diagnosed with stage 4B Hodgkins Lymphoma, a curable cancer, but still the big C. My son was almost three years old and I was working full time as the Senior Administrative Secretary at the Center for Ethnic Studies In America at Brown University so the reality of being seriously ill was frightening and a little depressing. The enormity of the situation that I was facing didn’t really settle into my mind until the day of the biopsy and in retrospect, I understand that managing the levels of stress and anxiety that I have in my life can not only promote good health, but can reduce and remove some of the stress in my environment. Islam has helped me enormously in reducing stress and in leading a healthy lifestyle.
The Holy Quran states in Surah Al Fussilat 41:44:
Had We sent this as a Qur’an (in a language) other than Arabic, they would have said: “Why are not its verses explained in detail? What! (a Book) not in Arabic and (a Messenger) an Arab?” Say: “It is a guide and a healing to those who believe; and for those who believe not there is a deafness in their ears, and it is blindness in their (eyes); they are (as it were) being called from a place far distant!”
Managing stress can be challenging, especially if you are juggling many responsibilities: worship, family, work and contributing to your community. However, as a follower of the saying that Allah (SWT) never bestows upon a believer a burden greater than she/he has strength to bear, I have faith that all of the tools needed for reducing and eliminating stress are available and accessible. The Holy Quran is one of those tools and can be very beneficial in promoting good health and behaviors that support a peaceful existence. We can be in a storm without the storm being in us.
Not all stress is bad for us according to Dr. Bruce S. McEwen, a leading stress researcher and head of the Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University, New York, NY.
“Good stress,” says McEwen, “Is when you are presented with a challenge, you rise to that challenge, generally have a good outcome, and you feel exhilarated,” he says.
“Good stress can help us learn and grow. Tolerable stress occurs when something bad happens, such as a job loss, but you have the inner resources as well as people you can turn to who help you get through it. Toxic stress is when bad things happen,” says McEwen. “And they may be really bad, or you don’t have the financial or internal resources to handle them.”
Surah Yunus 10:57 of the Holy Quran states:
O mankind! There has come to you an admonition from your Lord and a healing for the (diseases) in your hearts and for those who believe, a Guidance and a Mercy.
The physical, spiritual and mental practices of Islam are valuable in many ways for controlling and removing stress. Physical elements like establishing regular prayers and praying on time reduce stress first because we are turning to Allah (SWT), the Creator of all that exists, for help and guidance; and second because of its meditative nature. The spiritual exercise of remembering Allah (SWT) and asking for His intervention in our lives daily keeps us aligned with the unseen and prevents us from becoming too immersed in the activities going on around us which can easily turn into stressful circumstances and finally, the routine of reading the Holy Quran and the Hadith while seeking knowledge stimulates a strong and healthy mind that is able to more easily multi-task and prioritize, which also reduces anxieties and worries.
At the time of my diagnosis, I had been practicing Islam for a little less than a year and I was still in the early stages of learning the deen. I did not know that reading and reciting the Holy Quran was advised during illness and it wasn’t until I began chemotherapy that I was able to do so leisurely and without the distraction work, family responsibilities or the pain caused by the cancer. Listening to recitations of the Holy Quran had (and continues to have) a physical affect upon me and I experienced a supernatural sense of peace when hearing the words of Allah (SWT) despite my not knowing one word of Arabic.
The serenity that I felt reduced tension and helped me to heal faster. Research into the areas of sound therapy have begun to document that certain frequencies promote healing within the body and if the hypothesis of scientists is correct, I cannot imagine that there could be a greater healer than the sounds of the words of Allah (SWT).
It’s impossible to completely avoid stressful situations, but we can learn reduce stress and control our behavior during stressful situations. Some ways for managing stress are:
- Establish regular prayer and nurture your relationship with Allah. Surah Al-Baqara 2:186 says, “When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them); I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me; let them also with a will listen to My call and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way.
- Read and listen to the recitation of the Holy Quran. The words of Allah (SWT) are a purification and a guide. When our hearts are pure and guided by the instructions of Allah (SWT), we can react to the situations that occur in our lives in ways that avoid stress and conflict.
- Get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night so you have the energy to cope with stressful situations. Fill up and fuel your body with healthy choices rather than getting bogged down by high-fat comfort foods.
- Nurture close relationships. Often, we don’t appreciate how important friends and family can be for good health. Surrounding ourselves with people who have the best of intentions for us helps to provide the support that we may need when stressful situations arise.
- Learn to say “no.” This can be hard for many people, but saying no to one extra task at work or to that volunteer project can give you breathing room for other things in life.
- Learn to let go. Remember, the sky won’t fall if you wait another day to do laundry, clean the bathrooms, or write that thank-you note.
- Exercise. Physical exercise has been proven to exhaust stress and tension in people.
- Get help if you need it. If you can’t get seem to get relief from under stress and nothing seems to help, talk with a counselor.