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Dealing with Worries and Stress

Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

category: Coping with Adversity


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Acknowledging them and speaking about them dispels worry and distress. The slave is encouraged to have the attitude of thankfulness, which is the highest level he can reach, even if he is in a state of poverty, sickness or other kinds of misery. If he were to compare the innumerable blessings that Allaah has bestowed upon him with the bad thing that has befallen him, he will see that the distress is as nothing in comparison to the blessings. When Allaah tests His slave by means of these disasters and miseries, and the slave does his duty of being patient and accepting, then the difficulties become easy for him to bear, and he has the hope of earning reward from Allaah for submitting to Him, and being patient and content. This makes bitter things sweet; the sweetness of the reward helps him to forget the bitterness of patience.

One of the most beneficial things in this regard is to follow the advice of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) given in the saheeh hadeeth reported by Abu Hurayrah: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Look at those who are below you, not at those who are above you, so that you will not think little of the blessings that Allaah has bestowed upon you."

If a person keeps this important concept (of looking only at those below him) in mind, he will definitely feel that he is better-off than many others when it comes to good health, physical strength, and provision (rizq) such as food, clothing, shelter, etc., no matter what his situation. So his anxiety and distress will disappear, and he will feel increased happiness and joy in the blessings of Allaah which have raised him above others.

The more he thinks about the blessings of Allaah, both obvious and hidden, spiritual and worldly, he will see that his Lord has given him many good things, and has lifted from him many bad things. No doubt this too will dispel worries and anxieties, and bring joy and happiness.

Keeping oneself busy with useful work or the pursuit of beneficial knowledge

This will distract a person's mind from the matter that has been causing anxiety. Maybe then he will forget the causes of his distress, and begin to feel happier and more energetic. This is something which both believers and non-believers may try to do, but the believer is distinguished by the fact of his eemaan (faith), his sincerity and his hope for reward when he occupies himself with learning or teaching something useful or doing something beneficial. If he is keeping himself busy with worship, then this is worship, and if he is keeping himself busy with some worldly work or custom, then he tries to accompany it with the right intention, and seeks the help of Allaah to do this thing as an act of obedience or worship to Him. Thus his action will be effective in dispelling his anxiety, stress and grief. How many people are suffering from anxiety and constant feelings of depression, which result in various kinds of disease and illness. The right treatment for them was: to forget the thing that caused the depression and worry, and to keep themselves busy with some important work. It was important that the work with which they kept themselves busy was something that they liked to do and looked forward to; this was more effective in bringing about the desired good results. And Allaah knows best.

Looking for the positive aspects of the events in which he tends to see only things that he dislikes

Abu Hurayrah said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "No believing man should hate a believing woman. If he dislikes one aspect of her character, he will be pleased with another."

The benefits of this hadeeth include: lifting anxiety and stress, preserving tranquillity, continued upholding of the duties which are either obligatory or encouraged, and the achievement of peace between the two parties. Anyone who is not guided by the Prophet's words, but does the opposite, will see only the negative aspects of a situation, and will be blinded to the positive aspects. So it is inevitable that he will become anxious and depressed, the relationships between him and those with whom he is in close contact will turn sour, and he will neglect many of the mutual duties that both parties should pay attention to.

Understanding the true value and shortness of this life, and that time is too precious to be wasted in stress and anxiety

The wise person understands that his true life is one of joy and contentment. Life is very short, and he should not let himself get carried away with distress and depression that will make it even shorter. This goes against the true idea of life, so he is reluctant to spend too much of his life in distress and depression. In this regard, there is little difference between the righteous and the rebellious, but the believer can achieve this in the best way, in a way that benefits him both in this world and in the Hereafter. When misfortune strikes, or when he is afraid of something bad happening to him, he should also compare the blessings that he enjoys, both spiritual and worldly, with whatever misfortune has befallen him. When he does this, he will see just how much blessing he has, and the bad things will be put into perspective. Similarly, he can make a comparison between the thing he fears will harm him and the far greater possibility that he will be kept safe from it: the faint possibility that he may be harmed is far outweighed by the greater positive possibilities, and so his anxiety will be relieved. He takes into account the most likely scenario so that he can try to prepare himself in case it does happen, and he takes measures to protect himself against things that have not happened, or to alleviate or reduce the impact of things that have happened.

Another beneficial measure is not to allow one's work and other duties to accumulate

This means taking decisive action immediately, so that one is free to deal with whatever comes up in the future, because things that are not dealt with immediately pile up and are added to previous work that should have been done, thus making the burden even heavier. If you deal with everything at the right time, you will be free to deal with whatever lies ahead with a focused mind and adequate strength.

You should prioritize your work in order of importance, and try to choose things that interest you and that you enjoy, otherwise you will become bored and fed up. You can help yourself to achieve this by thinking clearly and consulting others, for one need never regret consultation. Study what you want to do in depth, and once you are sure about what action is needed to achieve your interest and have resolved to go ahead, then put your trust in Allaah, for Allaah loves those who put their trust in Him.

Constantly anticipating and being prepared for all possibilities

If a person is prepared for the possibility of the loss of a loved one, the sickness of a relative, incurring a debt, being overpowered by an enemy, or any other unpleasant possibility that has not yet happened whilst seeking refuge with Allaah and hoping to be safe from it then if his fears materialize, their impact will not be so great because he has already anticipated them and prepared himself to deal with them.

One important point that we should make is the fact that many ambitious people are prepared to deal with major calamities in a calm and patient manner, but they are unduly worried and stressed by trivial problems. The reason for this is that they prepare themselves to face major problems, but forget to prepare themselves to cope with minor troubles, which consequently cause them harm. The prudent person prepares himself to deal with both major and minor problems, and asks Allaah to help him and not leave him to deal with it by himself for even the blink of an eye. Thus both major and minor troubles become easier to bear, and he remains calm and serene.

Another remedy is to complain to religious scholars and ask them for advice

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