Why am I so emotional?
Why do I keep obsessing over things others consider trivial?
I want to change completely and stop being sensitive.
Why can’t the chatter in my mind stop for one second!
I hate myself….
That’s how my day went, a cycle of panicking and self-loathing. I was always either stressed, upset or worried about something or someone.
Until I learned that it was time to stop and quit this never-ending cycle of misery that drained my energy.
But is it really that simple?
I have tried so many times and failed until I decided to approach my anxiety differently. I decided to embrace the fact that I come with my anxiety. It is a part of me that can be managed rather than it managing me.
Ultimately, this notion paved an easier path for change. The following tips have helped me become comfortable in my own skin and live a much more relaxed life:
Face your fear but also divide it up
You keep postponing that one paper because you are so terrified of not being able to do it “perfectly”. And with every attempt you take, you feel overwhelmed and end up quitting.
A month has passed and you still haven’t felt ready to start, sound familiar? Well, I got news for you. Rarely do we feel ready or motivated enough to sit through hours of hard work without doubting ourselves. I am literally doubting every word I am writing at the moment. But I know this is a natural part of putting myself out there.
Hence, whatever is causing you anxiety and fear, divide it up into manageable tasks. Going back to the previous example, instead of dedicating a whole day to writing the paper, do it in chunks. Divide up your fear. Spend an hour daily writing something. And every time you start feeling incompetent, just remind yourself you can always go over it again later. By doing so you are piling up your work gradually without feeling overwhelmed.
It’s okay to feel uncomfortable
I have always thought the goal of having a better mindset is to avoid any negative thoughts and feelings. However, this is a bit paradoxical since the problem with distracting yourself every time you experience any negative emotions makes you prone to more negative feelings. It’s like you are panicking about the possibility of panicking. Therefore, allow yourself to feel it and remember it will pass inshAllah.
Easier said than done right? How do we actually implement this in practice?
Personally, this is what I do:
1- I try to sit back and observe my thoughts without resistance to let them pass. Trying to fight thoughts will make them persist even more so letting go is key here.
2- I name each emotion I am experiencing: I feel angry. I feel sad. I feel irritated because of so and so... Labeling emotions can pinpoint the real issue behind them.
Accept yourself and your sensitivity
Accept that you might be more sensitive than others and that sometimes your anxiety can stifle you from doing certain things. But let me make something clear: accepting does not mean surrendering! On the contrary, you are acknowledging your challenges and can manage them without wanting to be someone else.
Allah (SWT) created us to serve certain purposes on this earth. Surely the main purpose is to worship Allah, but each one of us will leave a different imprint, right?
It took me a minute until I embraced the fact that I am a package deal that come with all these different emotions. It can get super overwhelming… sure. But I learned that highly sensitive people “feel” more. This means that they can be really good at reading people and have high levels of empathy towards others.
Therefore, I figured why not help people through my ability to connect with them easily? The same can apply to you. You are special in your own unique way. So, what you currently dislike about yourself can be your path to serve others and eventually fulfill your purpose.
Istighfar (asking Allah for forgiveness)
Seeking forgiveness on a daily basis has helped me tremendously in dealing with my anxiety. Constantly repeating Allah’s names along with asking for His forgiveness puts me in this state of ease. It feels like a constant reminder that without Allah, I am nothing and that I don’t control my affairs but He does. That alone is a relief.
Also, seeking forgiveness is literally a way out of distress and tribulations.
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:“When the believer commits sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents and gives up that sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished. But if (the sin) increases, (the black spot) increases. That is the Ran that Allah mentions in His Book: “Nay! But on their hearts is the Ran (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn.” [83:14]
Ibn ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) said:The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.”
Ditch perfectionism and adopt Ihsan (sincerity)
I was once preparing for a job interview, and a friend of mine advised me to mention “being a perfectionist” as a strength quality. I did because I believed it really was one.
That definitely changed when I began having anxiety because the font in my 20-minute PowerPoint presentation didn’t look “perfect” enough.
Being a perfectionist is not healthy nor favorable. Not only does it hold you back from reaching your full potential, but it can also cause anxiety, stress, and even panic attacks. Constantly criticizing yourself because you are not doing things as perfectly as you want will eventually take a toll on your mental health.
Instead, look for a sincere intention in every little thing you do. If you know Allah is watching you and will reward you for your honest effort, wouldn’t you think twice before neglecting your duties even though no one else is watching?
Doing something for the sake of Allah will give you the peace of mind that you exert the effort but the outcome is in His hands only.
It was narrated that Abu ‘Umamah Al-Bahili said:”A man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said: ‘What do you think of a man who fights seeking reward and fame – what will he have?’ The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘He will not have anything.’ He repeated it three times, and the Prophet (ﷺ) said to him: ‘He will not have anything.’ Then he said: ‘Allah does not accept any deed, except that which is purely for Him, and seeking His Face.'”
Other possible reasons for your anxiety
If you’ve been trying to manage your anxiety but nothing seems to work, there could be other underlying causes.
I have always had physical symptoms that indicated imbalances in my hormones. That was my first clue to seek help from a professional to treat my anxiety from its root cause. In my case, I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which causes hormonal imbalances that contribute to emotional instability. Thus starting from there helped me understand my anxiety much better.
P.s: let me know (in the comments or DM me on my Instagram page) if you have PCOS too, so I can share with you what I learned through my journey.
Repressed anger starting from childhood
Most of us suffer from childhood traumas that become repressed anger in our bodies. That’s why sometimes we get furious over ordinary issues. These issues act as triggers that ignite an old childhood memory and our brain acts the same way it did as a child.
Traumas are usually perceived as a huge incident that caused physical and/or emotional infliction. However, trauma is defined as “any event beyond a person’s ability to master at the time“. Meaning if you went through an experience that induced feelings you could not fathom or comprehend, a trauma is formed.
These traumas don’t magically go away regardless of how much time has passed. As a result, they can sometimes be translated into anger and inexplicable sadness. Therefore, healing your traumas is a must, not an option.
So the next time you get inexplicably angry, ask yourself:
Why am I feeling this way?
What am I really afraid of?
Deal with your undesired emotion from the inside out. Dig deeper and find out the real reason behind it.
Personally, “Homecoming” by John Bradshaw helped me embark on a journey of self-healing. It talks about healing your inner child and childhood traumas.
These tips have changed my life and I hope they change yours too, but we are all different and what works for me might not work for you. One thing, however, is certain. Don’t be hesitant to ask for help. We all need each other’s aid in this life and most importantly we need Allah’s guidance through every single step.
Read part one on my Instagram page below.