by Umm Amin
Bismillahi Arrahmani Irrahiim
SubhanAllah! Is the baby crying? Did you lose your job? Somebody is spreading rumors about you? People are talking about that hijab on your hair! Maybe you’ve got to get dinner on the table by 6 pm. Perhaps you are caring for a family member with a long term condition, like Alzheimer’s disease or Diabetes Mellitus. You might be noticing the lack of invitations to upcoming parties, or have it up to your neck with your three children that argue nonstop. You could be recovering from a loss or going through a divorce. Whatever individual test reaches you, chances are you can seriously benefit from stress reduction! Yes, you got it. Less stress: turn the intensity down and chill out! Alhamdulillah.
Stress is a biological response. Allah made us to respond this way. Whether it’s a cold ice cube in your hand, a startling noise, the smell of burning toast, a terrible sour milk taste, or seeing a vehicle approaching you head on; stress begins with intense and vivid stimuli that are sent to the brain. Your brain interprets the information it receives, and the threat is categorized into passing or an ongoing and real threat (Seaward, 2002). When your brain perceives a persistent threat, the nervous and endocrine systems pump up and prepare to respond. As a result, you may become jittery or on edge until the threat has passed and calmness ensues. Some of the physiological effects include a rapid heart rate, a pounding heart, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing, increased blood sugar, increased blood clotting, diarrhea, enhanced muscle strength, and increased sweating (Seaward, 2002). While these responses would normally be beneficial when you are trying to escape a frightening encounter, they can be irritating if you experience them for minor confrontations or your symptoms do not subside rapidly.
Most people experience a bit of stress now and then, but it’s usually experienced briefly. There are ill effects of ongoing or prolonged stress. Although the list of ailments is no comprehensive or all inclusive, stress can produce episodes of asthma, decreased immune response, tension headaches, fertility issues, heart failure, anxiety, depression, aging, muscular pain, gastrointestinal disease, ulcerative colitis, acne, diabetes, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, blood clots, canker sores, teeth grinding, gingivitis, and psoriasis exacerbations(Griffin, 2010; Heller, Lee, and Koo, 2011; Nazario, 2010; Seaward, 2002; Tofler, Silver, and Solomon, 2011). Unmanaged stress spirals out of control, other illnesses flare up, and it becomes difficult to do your daily activities like waking up for fajr on time or completing household chores.
Since stress is detrimental to our long term health, it interferes with our performance as wives mothers, sisters, and parents. Poor coping techniques make our loved ones frustrated with our stress responses. It is imperative to whittle stress down to manageable levels. Stress can be ameliorated with a variety of management methods including guided imagery, time management, organization, visualizations, aromatherapy, conscious relaxation, humor, breathing techniques, meditation, and exercise (Chang and Shen, 2011; Kornsweig, 2011; Seaward, 2002; Sibinga et al., 2011).
You may be thinking, that’s all good but how can I relate to stress personally? Think of where Allah says in the Qur’an, Surah Ibraheem, 32-34, “It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and sent down rain from the sky and produced thereby some fruits as provision for you and subjected for you the ships to sail through the sea by His command and subjected for you the fivers. And He subjected for you the sun and the moon, continuous [in orbit], and subjected for you the night and the day. And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor [i.e. blessings] of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” By taking a few moments to focus on the simple parables that surround us, we have the opportunity to reflect upon the bounties we cherish every day. Enjoying a few moments basking in the sun, or contemplating the freshness of the drizzling rain that in turn brings forth fragrant and delicious fruits reduces stress and reminds us to set aside a few moments for relaxation and reflection. It also provides a few moments to thank Allah for the numerous simple treasures we cherish on a daily basis.
That little voice keeps coming back to your head. In your mind you are saying, yea, but I need some real tips that I can put into my daily life. Finding a solution to your stress is an easy recipe. By starting a journal you can both jot down triggers to help you identify when stress is surmounting so you can take steps to intervene. You can also use reflective journaling as a means to positively cope and reframe your experiences to prevent your response to set backs or frustrations from being exaggerated.
There is an abundance of ways that you can fit stress reduction into your daily life. You can modify your lifestyle by adding in daily exercise, scheduling in naps or relaxations sessions, and limiting jitter inducing caffeine laden drinks such as cola, tea, coffee, and energy drinks. You can focus on having a positive outlook, and reframing problems to put them into perspective. You can ask for help, or exchange tips with other women while also enjoying the benefits of building loving friendship and engaging in camaraderie. You can learn relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, guided imagery, visualizations, acupressure points, or aromatherapy. Simply getting out into the outdoors relieves stress, increases your production of important neurotransmitters, enhances your mood, and affords you the opportunity to count the natural wonders and blessed beauties that surround you.
If you still lack beneficial strategies for reducing stress in your life, get out a pen and paper to start your personal stress buster list. Start out your list with some of the suggestions in the Ten Tension Reducers List, but add in additional ideas you dream up. Post the list in a place that will be easily accessible when you are feeling the constraints of stress. Make sure you pause and make a cognizant effort to select one of these liberating activities the next time you feel under duress.
Ten Tension Reducers
1. Spend 15-30 minutes reviewing surahs you have already memorized. You will find pleasure and comfort in reciting familiar words of the Qur’aan. Take a few minutes to reflect on the meaning of the ayat and apply them to your life.
2. Laugh. Tell a joke. Share a funny story with someone. Better yet, have a humor pal and send jokes to one another once a week. You’ll have something to anticipate in the mail!
3. Make a poem. Mount it on colorful construction paper. Decorate the edges with pretty ribbon. Gift it to a friend or loved one.
4. Take a walk in the park, or hike a nature trail. If you enjoy running, swimming, or biking, do it outside!
5. Plant a tree, a flower, or a small herb garden. Go back to enjoy it and rest by it from time to time.
6. Surround yourself with positive reinforcements and affirmations. Use quotes as well as bright, vivid images. Make a collage or paint a poster to hang up later. The picture you create will be both inspiring and invigorating later on.
7. Read a book to a child or elderly person. It will be a moment to relax and share together.
8. Practice deep breaths in which you draw air into your diaphragm and slowly let the air out. Mix it up by adding in a relaxing cup of mint or verbena tea.
9. Increase the colorful fruits and veggies in your diet! Get out to the local market to select fresh, beautiful natural food choices. Supplement that with a healthy dose of water each day.
10. Put a few drops of bergamot or eucalyptus oil into a warm bath. Top it off with some bubbles. It’s time for a good soak to relax your muscles and mind from head to toe.
Chang, K-M, and Shen, C-W. (2011). Aromatherapy benefits autonomic nervous system regulation for elementary school faculty in taiwan. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Griffin, M. (2010). 10 health problems related to stress that you can fix. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress management/features/10-fixable -stress-related-health-problems
Heller, M.M., Lee, E.S., Koo, J.Y. (2011). Stress as an influencing factor in psoriasis. Skin Therapy Lett, 16(5), 1-4.
Kornsweig, J. (2011). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): a monograph. Oriental Medicine, Spring, 19-33.
Nazario, B. (2010). How stress affects you oral health. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-teeth-2/stress-teeth
Saheeh International. (1997). The Qur’aan: An authentic, accurate, and clear English translation. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Abulqasim Publishing House.
Seaward, B. L. (2002). Managing stress: principles and strategies for health and wellbeing. 3rd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones an Bartlett Publishers, Inc.
Sibinga, E., Kerrigan, D., Steward, M., Johnson, K., Magyari, T., and Ellen, J. (2011). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for urban youth. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(3), 213-218.
Tofler, G.H., Silver, J.M., and Solomon, D. (2011). Psychosocial and other acute factors in acute myocardial infarction. UpToDate. http://www.uptodate.com
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