Islamic teachings can help us in all areas of our lives, including understanding how to deal with Covid-19 anxiety.
Mariam, 22, has just graduated from university this year and is looking forward to starting a new chapter of her life. She would like to find a teaching job and is also looking forward to marriage. But the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic poses unanswerable questions: Will she find a job? Is it safe to work in school at the moment? Is it a good time to marry and start a family?
As these questions run through Mariam’s mind, giving way to anxiety, she asks herself, “Is it normal to feel this way?”
Normal Anxiety and Clinical Anxiety
Yes. It is normal to feel worried and anxious when faced with uncertainty or difficulties. In fact, in some cases, anxiety can be useful.
According to England’s National Health Service (NHS), anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear that can be mild or severe.
For example, feeling anxious about and exam or a job interview might help you focus more and prepare better.
On the other hand, when anxiety is severe, it can be a difficult condition to overcome, affecting your daily life or causing distress. In these cases, you should always consult your doctor.
Understanding COVID-19 Anxiety
Clinical anxiety appears when we stress ourselves over things that might happen in the future, the feeling of fear and worry that comes with uncertainty.
This form of anxiety differs from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and may be triggered irrationally. If you are experiencing clinical anxiety, please consult your doctor.
We might experience anxiety due to COVID-19 because our hopes and plans are on hold.
There are two main areas we can focus on to deal with this type of anxiety. The first one is our thought process; the second focus area is our lifestyle.
Mental Tips to Deal with Anxiety
A correct understanding of Tawakkul – trust in God – can go a long way in dealing with anxiety. Ibn Rajab defined Tawakkul as complete reliance and sincere dependence of the heart on Allah while in pursuit of our interests, and protecting ourselves against anything harmful to our well-being in this life and the next.
The understanding behind Tawakkul is that we know Allah is the Best of Planners (Quran 8:30), and we also know that He does not burden a soul with more than it can bear (Quran 2:286). So, we apply ourselves to the best of our abilities and then trust Him with the results. As the famous Hadith says:
If you were to rely upon Allah with reliance due to Him, He would provide for you just as He provides for the birds. They go out in the morning with empty stomachs and return full.Tirmidhi
Are Layla’s Worries and Anxiety Justified?
When Layla heard her baby sneezing a bit more than usual, she worried, is it Coronavirus? He is so small and fragile, how could he fight it?
Layla’s 71-year-old mother, technically in the high-risk category, also lives with them.
Anxious and worried about her baby, Layla tried to get a doctor’s appointment for him but was unable to get a booking until the next day.
That night Layla hardly slept for worrying about her son and mother. The next day, the doctor told her that infants are less affected by Covid-19 and that her son just had an allergic reaction.
Transforming our Though Process
Although justified, Layla could have controlled her worries better by following a different thought process.
The question is, was she able to more than she did? No. Layla did everything she could to keep her son and mother safe.
After that she could not do more. It is in such a case we need to focus on that we did our best and trust that those who rely on Allah the Almighty, He will suffice them. (Quran, 65:3) Allah also says:
When you have made the decision, rely upon Allah. Verily, Allah loves those who trust Him.Quran, 3:159
This is an important point to keep in mind when dealing with Covid-19 anxiety; we have to do our best to protect ourselves and loved ones and the trust that Allah is the best of protectors.
Leaving Unhelpful Thoughts
Below is a list of unhelpful thoughts to look out for to transform our thought process:
- Predicting the future;
- Assuming what another person is thinking about you;
- Exaggerating or blowing situations out of proportion;
- Pressuring yourself to follow a societal standard;
- Using the outcome of one instance as a generalization for the result of all other instances;
- Labeling yourself.
If these thoughts appear, we should sit down and reflect on them. Can we control the future? Can we control what someone else thinks? What is the most probable outcome of a situation, and how can we prepare for it?
We have to do our best to prepare for a situation, but once we have done that, we should trust Allah the Almighty and remember the words of the Prophet (pbuh):
Know that if the nations gathered together to benefit you, they will not benefit you unless Allah has decreed it for you. And if the nations gathered together to harm you, they will not harm you unless Allah has decreed it for you.Tirmidhi
Changing Your Lifestyle
Among the things we can do to control feelings of anxiety are: eating well, getting enough exercise, avoiding caffeinated drinks, doing something satisfying each day, and getting enough rest.
However, in terms of our thought process and lifestyle, the best tip is to remember Allah the Almighty. That is the single thing that will calm our hearts the most:
Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.Quran 13:28