What’s your worst nightmare? Is it walking into an important meeting wear your pyjamas? Being locked in a cage with a man-eating tiger. How about sky diving and then realising that the parachute is faulty? Those are far-fetched examples. Maybe not the parachute one though – that’s quite a frequent occurrence. But I digress – everyone has thoughts of terror that plagues them and the thought of these nightmares manifesting in the living world is traumatising. My worst nightmare – fear. The irony is that I live in fear constantly.
I always thought that it was normal to always be tense and walk around with bated breath. In my mind, I believed that it meant that you were always ready to face any obstacle. CONSTANT VIGILENCE (any excuse for a Harry Potter quote). So now I have all these fears just casually chilling in my being. Fear of speaking to people, getting things wrong, worrying about how others perceived me. Am I good enough? Will I be accepted? Does this all even matter? Fear, in the meantime, is having a whale of a time. Just chopping itself into little blocks and piling up on one another like Jenga. And we all know what happens when it all falls down.
Growing up, I perceived it to be a signature trait of a Strong Independent Black Woman (insert snaps here) to bottle up emotions. You just don’t talk about your hardships and problems. You have a bit of a moan, suck it up and get on with it. But growing up in a diverse environment has taught me that the psyche is more sophisticated to just be confined to a stereotype. Anxiety does not discriminate and isn’t synonymous to a type of person. It happens to anyone. At any given time. But it doesn’t mean that it is a hopeless decline to despair.
There are many ways that are advise to keep anxiety at bay – eat a better diet that has a low concentration of crap (sugar, salt, additives), work out at least 30 minutes a day, five days out of the week. Keep a gratitude journal. Have conversations with people who care and will listen. But my greatest source of comfort can be found in the following ayats from The Quran. Below are a few that help me through all aspects of a busy life.
Whatever you’re going through won’t last forever. It may be difficult to remember that when you’re floundering in the depths of your situation. But it’s like gravity; whatever goes up must come down. No matter how dismally dark it may seem, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just remain steadfast in that frame of thought. I find the recitation of duas when you feel a bit overwhelmed is very helpful.
This is my ultimate favourite dua:
First things first, having an attitude of gratitude is vital in the fight against anxiety. Because it won’t go away. Fear is a fundamental aspect of life that we have to learn to deal with and have coping mechanisms that are not harmful to you. I was reading on The Millennial Muslim’s blog on writing a list of things you are grateful for each day and just constant remembrance such as Dhikr and Quran reading and contemplation. I began implementing that into my lifestyle and you would be amazed at the little things that make a big difference to how you feel. You are what you eat and if you have a poor diet, this will have a negative impact on the frequencies within your brain. Be sure to drink plenty of H2O, l’eau, wata (sorry it’s the Sierra Leonean in me coming out). Get a balanced diet full of veggies, fruits, grains and protein and eat regularly. But not too regularly. Remember you’ve got to keep the waistline in tact!
Sleep is vital. I know we live in an age where a barista should receive a doctorate in reviving sleep deprived zombies into upstanding citizens with a double-shot of espresso. But whilst the secret revival elixir held in an Arabica beans are a blessing; sleep is much better for you. It gives you time to fully recoup and rest your body. Lack of sleep has a major impact on your frame of mind. The less sleep you have, the more inclined you are to become depressed, moody, have hallucinations and could impair your memory significantly. My sleep pattern has become completely botched and that is one of the causes of the last panic attack I had. I really can’t stress enough the value of a decent night’s rest. It’s not every day #teamnosleep.
Stop preeing* other people’s lives on Social Media. This is a breeding ground for ill thoughts about yourself and others. In the grander scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter whether someone’s makeup game is on fleek, what reg plate that brother is pushing or if So-&-So is pregnant again. Because what happens is you are starting a competition for yourself that the other person isn’t aware of. You don’t know what that individual you’re speculating on is going through or what Allah has written for that individual. Especially when your state of mind and emotional well-being is shaky. I won’t be a killjoy and say quit Social Media. Just be aware of the content that you are curating and embedding into your brain because it plays a part in the direction your thoughts drift. And thoughts ultimately lead to actions.
All these suggestions I’ve made based on how I’ve tackled my anxiety are not just restricted to when you feel like you may suffer a panic attack. These practices are a part of your life. I once watched a lecture by Mufti Menk where the message was you need to know Allah when things are going well so that when things aren’t going the way you envisioned you will remember that Allah will always be there for you.
I pray that despite the darkness, Allah will always be the light at the end of the tunnel for you.
*UK/West Indian colloquialism for spying