In school (11-14y), I started to do well since it was easy and felt the best. I had friends who were really fun to be around. Then in high school, education got hard, I didn’t have study skills and I realized I hated studying. I wasn’t confident. I always try to appear flawless and not show my true color.
Now I’m in college taking a break. I feel so miserable. My depression lifted and I am using Dr. Burns feeling good CBT techniques to cope with certain negative distorted thoughts. But anxiety is making me ruminate. I can’t seem to enjoy things because I can’t stay focused.
Since 2017, I have been writing goals and yet I haven’t achieved any because I can’t stay committed. I haven’t prayed since last year because I don’t feel connected to God. When I look at my friends’ life, I feel jealous. When I see classmates doing things like writing a book or going rock climbing or even on halal dates or riding bike I get so jealous because I feel like they are stealing my life.
Things I want to do I never do because I feel I can’t. I don’t get accident by riding bike, I don’t want to write a book because I have no story to tell and also because I have so many other things I want to do like learning to cook, starting to pray, learning to design website, getting into shape etc. but I can’t seem to be focused on anything. Please help me.
In this counseling answer:
• Start with one prayer per day and maintain that. Step up to two once able.
• Diversify worship, find a style of worship that suits you best and a location you feel comfortable in.
• Break down long-term goals into smaller more easily achievable goals.
• Utilize a CBT journal to correct negative thinking patterns.
• Reign in your focus to one main goal instead of many.
As-Salamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu,
Thank you for taking the time to write in about your struggles and being so open. This is the first step, sister.
You say you struggle with focus and achieving goals. You have a history of anxiety/depression and have not prayed in a year. The good news sister is that you can turn this all around, inshallah, if you are willing to make a commitment to yourself. You can implement strategies to reign in your focus and improve your overall satisfaction in life.
Let us start with prayer and connection towards God. You are not the first Muslim to struggle with this. I imagine this spiritual poverty didn’t happen in one day. It built up over time possibly with a few missed prayers until it grew into missing all of them and slowly left your mind.
Just as losing that divine connection is not an overnight process, it takes time to build it back up.
Start with one prayer daily. Aim to pray at least once a day. Make that intention from your heart. Say bismillah and make du’aa’ for help.
Diversifying your worship helps to connect with your faith.
When you diversify your worship routine, it helps avoid becoming robotic and unfocused. For example, some people lean more towards doing charity or helping neighbors while others find they enjoy engaging in frequent dhikr. Find forms of worship that fit you and implement them in your daily life. Remind yourself to say bismillah before everything you do, and it becomes an act of worship!
Find a place that allows you to relax and reflect.
Like a sanctuary to listen to your heart and ponder on your faith. For some people this is sitting in the mosque, for others, it might be near a flowing stream or in their bedroom with the lights on low. A place where you will not be disturbed and can feel vulnerable. Use this location to make du’aa’, ask for guidance and read Quran. Even if you only use it for 10 minutes, that is 10 minutes out of a full 24-hour day which will only serve to help you.
“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me. O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient” [Quran 2:152-153]
You mentioned you make goals, but you don’t stick to them. Break your goals down further. When you turn one goal into 3 smaller goals, it becomes easier.
For example, you mention wanting to learn how to cook. Pick an amazing recipe you want to cook and make that the long-term goal. For your smaller goals, you could start with cooking eggs two different ways, cooking spaghetti with pre-made noodles/sauce and baking a chicken breast.
These three different small goals are relatively easy cooking tasks that teach different kitchen skills. If you learn to do these 3, then you can step up towards more difficult recipes until you are ready to tackle the one you identified as your long-term goal.
Reward yourself psychologically when you accomplish each small step forward.
Your goals should be realistic and achievable. Make a physical display with your goals written on them so it reminds you. I suggest using a dry erase board and hang it somewhere prominent you will see daily. Utilize phone apps that give you reminders about goals for the day.
Every night review what you did towards those goals. Say alhamdulillah and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Even if you burnt the eggs, you tried and learned not to cook them above medium heat.
You only fail if you stop trying. A failure is really a learning tool, not a setback.
You noted familiarity with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and cognitive distortions. Two common distortions which may be a factor for you are disqualifying the positives “it is one failure after another, it never works out how I wanted” or all or nothing thinking “I have to do everything perfectly or I’m failing”.
Identifying your distortions helps, but then you must take the next step and actively work on changing them.
Check out this counseling video:
Use self-talk to alter that negative thinking. Remember, if you alter your thoughts, it will alter your emotions, which as a result impacts your behavior.
Whenever you have negative thoughts impacting your emotions use these CBT steps:
- Write down the negative thoughts and situation in a journal
- Identify the cognitive distortions of those thoughts
- Write down positive thoughts that combat those negative ideas
- Write down evidence to support your new positive thoughts
- Reference your journal to inspire and help you when needed
Reign It In
I noticed a lot of great goals in your question, but you listed many. It will be easier on you if we narrow this down.
Make a list of all your goals then select your top 3. From those 3, pick the one that will take the least time to accomplish and make a plan to achieve it. This is where short term goal setting comes into play, as mentioned above. Break down your selected goal into smaller goals.
The reason I suggest picking the goal that will take the least amount of time is that after you accomplish it, inshallah, this will boost your self-confidence and make you stronger for the next goal you select.
Moving forward, here is a summary of your next steps forward.
- Start with one prayer per day and maintain that. Step up to two once able.
- Diversify worship, find a style of worship that suits you best and a location you feel comfortable in.
- Break down long-term goals into smaller more easily achievable goals.
- Utilize a CBT journal to correct negative thinking patterns.
- Reign in your focus to one main goal instead of many.
Sister, you stated you do not have a story to tell, but I disagree. Your story is one of triumph and victory. Despite the negative thoughts and anxiety which you felt held you back, you reached out for help.
Inshallah, you will push forward and improve on all these things. One day, you could inspire others with your story of overcoming self-doubt.
Take it one day at a time, one goal at a time and before you know it, you’ll see more and more accomplishments.
May Allah (most honored, most revered) grant you strength and guide your choices,
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.