If you are feeling anxious, depressed, and angry, it’s understandable, as reported coronavirus cases have surpassed the terrifying mark of infecting over 1.5 million people worldwide.
The United States has the largest number of infected individuals and Muslims around the country are reporting higher incidences of sleeplessness nights, anxiety, and confusion, as the death toll steadily rises daily.
“I haven’t been able to sleep for weeks. I am an entrepreneur and am currently out of work since the massive shutdown amid the pandemic. I am having trouble assisting my children with their digital learning, as I am desperately trying to find work to stabilize my family,” Aisha Turner, single mom of three, told us.
Anxiety and stress are global crises, as mental health helplines have reported an exponential increase in phone calls to their crisis line.
Muslims are struggling to identify spiritual remedies to adjust their mind frame while easing their anxiety around the growing pandemic. Local imams and experienced scholars are working tirelessly to provide resources, support, and services virtually to their community to keep their hope and spirits high.
“I have benefitted from many online programs but more importantly I spend a lot of my time in zikr (remembrance). My favorite zikr is to whisper ya salaamu to myself repeatedly until I can sense the calmness in my own heart,” Saudia Shabazz shared with us.
Let’s address the four major problems that are impacting the mental health of the Muslim community and steps to address those issues.
Our lives have shifted dramatically during the past few weeks and many of us may not recognize the feelings of increased heart rate, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal distress as anxiety.
There are many tips to reduce anxiety and an individual should start with exploring self-management strategies like mindfulness, yoga, prayer/meditation, art, exercise, and a healthy diet. Additionally, Muslims should be encouraged to focus on gratitude and the many positive blessings they experience daily.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “When a person spends his entire day with no other concern but Allaah alone, Allaah, may He be glorified, will take care of all his needs and take care of all that is worrying him; He will empty his heart so that it will be filled only with love for Him, free his tongue so that it will speak only in remembrance of Him (dhikr) and cause all his faculties to work only in obedience to Him.
Anxiety can lead to insomnia and sleep-related problems. The fear of the unknown can result in difficulty falling asleep, awakening in the middle of the night, and having a difficult time falling back asleep.
People are encouraged to reduce nightly screen time and caffeine and increase their daily intake of sunlight, healthy meals, and exercise. In addition to these practical tips, Muslim are encouraged to say the recommended duaa for sleeping, “In Your name my Lord, I lie down and in Your name I rise, so if You should take my soul then have mercy upon it, and if You should return my soul then protect it in the manner You do so with Your righteous servants.” Making duaa for a peaceful sleep is highly effective in combating sleeplessness.
Although stress and depression are expected during a global pandemic, mental health experts are deeply concerned about individuals who may already have a predisposition to depression. The unprecedented threat of COVID-19 can exacerbate the symptoms of depression and potentially lead to a mental health crisis and suicidal thoughts.
Depression is recognized as a medical illness and must be treated medically, however, there are a few practical tips to help offset some of the symptoms of depression. Journaling, creating a wellness toolbox, and positive affirmations have all been linked to supporting the symptoms of depression.
Muslims are encouraged to increase their reliance on Allah SWT, daily readings of the Quran, and supplications to Allah during times of depression and sadness.
Verily, with every difficulty there is relief} [Al-Sharh:5,6]