Sunday, April 16, 2017

Coping With Stress and Depression In The Modern Day World

Published: ICNA Noor Magazine

Membership to the stress-free, all-benefits club is not what a Muslim’s life is like. Allah SWT had informed the Ummah beforehand about this: “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits,” (Surah Al-Baqarah, ayah 155). There will be storms and dark clouds and they will test the moral fiber and tawakkal (belief in Allah) with which we handle adversity. Depression, whether emotional or an onset of medically diagnosed major depressive disorder, is a test from Allah SWT. Modern day Muslims are stressed due to social and political pressures and there is a fair chance of spiraling downwards into a state of depression. Hormonal imbalance, metabolic disorders, medicinal side effects, and trauma contribute to clinical depression which requires prescription drugs and professional counseling for treatment. In both circumstances, however, nearness to Allah SWT and a Sunnah compliant lifestyle are miracle coping mechanisms.
Sabr (Patience) and Tawakkal (Trust in Allah)
Allah SWT aids those who are patient. In Surah Al-Baqarah 155-157 He says, “Give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, "Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return. Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” Sabr and Tawakkal led the early Muslims to victory after they were expelled from their Makkah homeland by the murderous and malicious Kuffar. Prophet Ibrahim AS’s wife Hajar’s trust in Allah SWT won her His Help and angel Jibr’il AS struck his wing and sprouted up the stream of Zam Zam for her thirsty infant . “Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” Surah Al-Baqarah, 153.
Instead of questioning Allah SWT’s will in troubled circumstances and breaking apart, understand that good and bad comes from Him and He knows best the wisdom behind it.
Shukr (Gratitude) - Say Alhamdulillah!
Allah SWT knew that Man would take His Favors for granted and so He says in Surah Ar-Rahman, verse 13: “So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?” And it is this denial, or taking for granted the Bounties of Allah SWT, that leads to feelings of dissatisfaction from life - and hence, depression. Individuals who do not express daily gratitude to Allah SWT, the Supreme Benefactor, lead high stress lives of continuous struggle to achieve the impossible. Feelings of greed sneak in and a person persistently tries to compare his blessings with those of another.
Shaytan’s whisperings of ingratitude blind us and we miss out from seeing our silver lining. “Why is Allah SWT doing this to me?”, “Why can’t He give me more (or better)?” The demands of a dissatisfied person can never really be met because the heart becomes a bottomless pit. And when it cannot be filled it creates a sink - that is the root of depression. Shukr (gratitude) is the best remedy. Count your blessings; write them down if you have to in a gratitude journal, and compare your state of being with that of the less privileged. Think of the war-inflicted or underdeveloped regions where populations are deprived of all joys of life. Saying Alhamdulillah is the first step to self-help.
Clinically depressed individuals suffer a brain fog that limits their abilities of having a perspective. While a psychiatrist can counsel them to think positive, the family and friends can encourage them and help them realize the Favors of Allah SWT. 
 Arm Yourself with Dua’a – The Weapon of the Believer
Allah SWT needs us to turn to Him in need and plead our case. Dua’a is a weapon that disarms despair. The Qur’an and Hadith deliver dua’as for every scenario from the lives of Allah’s prophets through the ages. Prophet Ibrahim AS was saved from the fire and Allah SWT cooled it when he recited “Hasbun Allahu Wa Ni’mal Wakeel” ("Sufficient for us is Allah , and [He is] the best Disposer of affairs."). Surah Ali’ Imran, verse 3. At the time of the Battle of Badr 313 Muslims were outnumbered by an army three times larger. Clad in his armor, Prophet Muhammad SAW called for Allah SWT’s help: “"O Allah! I ask you the fulfillment of Your Covenant and Promise. O Allah! If You wish (to destroy the believers) You will never be worshipped after today." [Sahih Bukhari, 2915]. Allah SWT granted them victory and similarly He will respond to us if we call Him. Istikhara dua’a helps a believer make the best and Islamically correct decision. Fortress Of The Muslim is an ideal dua’as book that every individual must have for all sorts of tough and grieving times.
 Seeking Repentance
As human beings it is natural to err and Shaytan’s whispers are always attacking our nafs. The guilt of minor or major wrongdoings contributes to serious guilt, and consequently depression. You may be unable to forgive yourself but Allah SWT forgives and seeking repentance has healing powers. Half the problem disappears when you rest your case with your Creator. Prophet Yunus AS (Jonah) had been angry and impatient and did not wait for Allah’s Commandment and acted out of rage when he left the land. He was swallowed by a giant fish sent by Allah SWT, and through the darkness of its stomach he pleaded, “La Ilaha Illa Anta Subhanaka Inni Kunto Minaz Zalimeen” (There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.) Al-Ambiya, verse 87. And Allah SWT delivered him safe and sound from the fish’s stomach.
Emotional Management
There is global harassment and bigotry happening due to the negative press on Islam. And there are personal challenges of social acceptance as well that Muslims face. But “Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” Surah Al-Baqarah verse 286 . And so a great deal of emotional management is required to shield one’s self-esteem, confidence, and stamina from collapsing. We belong to an Ummah gifted with the promise of intercession by Prophet Muhammad SAW on the Day of Judgment. We should rejoice in this and the last thing that should come from us is a victim mentality which is the perception that everything wrong will happen to me. Toxic relationships such as those that disrespect your values, beliefs, and Halal lifestyle should be avoided to ensure psychological well being. For instance, women lose heart and discontinue Hijab after marriage because their in laws or the husband find it unappealing. And often people succumb to social pressure and compromise their Halal lifestyle. It is best to socialize and establish relationships in religiously inclined social circles to avoid being alienated and depressed.
Make a Sunnah Personal Management Plan
Stress, anxiety, and depression also stems from an unplanned life and lack of accomplishment. The daily To-Do List should be scheduled around prayer times. The balanced intervals can be ideal breaks to prevent being worn out. Following the Sunnah, sleep and wake up times should be early, and short naps should be allowed after lunch. Physical exercise should be included. And finally, to include an anxiety-free decision making remedy, keep the Istikhara dua’a at hand. When you hand your dilemmas to Allah SWT they get sorted in the best possible way and in your favor. Work on your relationship with Quran and Sunnah because they are the complete code of life. The daily Sunnah routine; therefore, should be used as a medical prescription. 
Seek Counseling and Self-Help
A local Imam, a knowledgeable friend or relative, or a psychological counselor are all good options to talk your troubles out and; perhaps, find some solutions. Ideal remedies to our life’s troubles are those that are Islamically correct; therefore, a religiously learned counselor is highly recommended whether you are a medically diagnosed depression patient or not. The ultimate Guide; however, is Allah SWT and the closer you are to Him the less stressed, anxious, or depressed you will be. There are good self help books written by both Muslim and non-Muslim authors that you can benefit from. The works of eminent Muslim scholars, teachers, and authors have revolutionized the genre of self-help and personal management by infusing basic principles with the wisdom of Sunnah. Islam in itself is an ideal self-help theology because its very foundations have been laid on patience, sacrifice, gratitude, and belief in Allah SWT as the One and Only Saviour.
To sum it up, if we take a look at Prophet Muhammad SAW’s life, he was one of the happiest people. In his sad moments he relied on Allah SWT and none other, he spent his days in service to Allah SWT and His Creation, his nights were spent in sleep or prayer, and he was a blessing for all. If we emulate him with full dedication, we would be happy with our lives and seek to make others better too, insha’Allah. Life is Allah SWT’s gift and each moment should be cherished.