ELEVEN Ways to Relieve Stress: Part 2
Assalamu’alaikum, dear readers!
Remember how we took a break from our first six stress-relief tips? Well, hopefully you’re refreshed for more reading because now we’re back with the final five ways to relieve stress!
7. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation (Mind/Soul)
Mindfulness can come hand-in-hand with deep breathing as it can also help combat the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking that is common with stress. Practising mindfulness may be one of the toughest stress-relief methods ever because it takes a great deal of concentration to properly achieve it. When stressed, it’s not atypical for your thoughts to immediately skew to the negatives of the situation and blow even the slightest negative conception out of proportion. When that happens, the influence that those thoughts have on one is so strong that, if not remedied quickly, may lead to a downward mental spiral.
Mindfulness helps your thoughts stay grounded in the present moment. To do that, concentrate on your actions in the current moment, whether you’re eating or taking the train. Channelling your thoughts to your actions in the present helps you to recognise that any negative thoughts are merely a fabrication, and that there is nothing in the present that can harm you.
This takes a lot, mentally, so mindfulness is commonly paired with meditation. In today’s world, meditation is guided and aided with the use of mobile apps. Some free meditation applications (with optional in-app purchases) that have perfect and near-perfect user ratings on both Apple and Android platforms are:
The Mindfulness App
Setting aside a few minutes everyday to develop a practice that prioritises the health of the mind uplifts the spirit and puts you in a better headspace to not only tackle assignment deadlines, but also perhaps other challenges that may unexpectedly pop up in life.
8. Develop a Positive Self-Talk Habit (Mind)
When under mental duress, it is easier to start blaming yourself for things that went south, or for not doing what you could have done so that you would not be in this situation, etc., instead of giving yourself the credit you rightfully deserve for doing the best you could, given your circumstance. I know that I personally struggle with this a lot, so I cannot emphasise enough how important I believe a positive self-talk habit is!
I believe that the habit of talking down to yourself stems from a personal belief that we know our capabilities, so we measure our performance against what we feel are realistic and achievable expectations for ourselves but when we reach our limit and fall short of those expectations, it is neither the fault of the situation nor the expectation but our own for reaching our limit too soon.
Scratch that. All of it. Throw away that entire mentality. It is so unhealthy! Just because the situation or expectation is not something we feel we can control, it does not mean that the blame should be put on ourselves because we could control our capabilities but somehow did not. No, more often than not, an outcome derived from doing our best in a situation where we are limited is the most ideal one.
There is nothing that can be changed to have made anything different. Nor would you want to! Remember that you have done your absolute best to the point of reaching the limit of your capabilities, so you deserve the words of affirmation you would give to another, like a friend, should they be in your position. Developing a positive self-talk habit helps to both boost your confidence and prevent any negative thinking from amplifying itself in your stressed mind. You deserve credit, and more importantly, you deserve peace.
Be nicer to yourself. You are your greatest supporter, so don’t let yourself forget it!
9. Obtain Social Support (Mind/Soul)
This, dear readers, is my go-to stress-relief strategy. Whenever I go through a difficult phase and feel overwhelmed to the point where I cannot bear the weight alone, I talk it out with a trusted friend or a close family member. Getting some help through social support, be it a listening ear or another mind to work with in solving whatever problems I’m facing, helps me feel much lighter pretty quickly. What’s great about reaching out is that it’s a quick way to relieve yourself of some stress.
Earlier, I mentioned the removal of stressors as a means to change your current environment, since the state of our surroundings is also crucial to our ability to cope with stress. Well, building a reliable social support circle can drastically change your environment for the better. Don’t underestimate the power of a strong, stable social connection that can comfort you with the encouragement you need. When you reach out to your loved ones in times of stress, they can be more mindful of your current mental state and can better bolster your moods. With your social environment adjusted to allow you the comfort you need to manage your stress, you will feel that you are not alone in these tough times – and that does wonders for your mental resilience and spiritual elevation.
10. Engage in Leisure Activities (Mind/Soul)
Making time for leisure activities is also a long-term strategy that helps with mental health. Doing what you love with absolutely no obligations can be a quick and rewarding way to shed stress as you can engage in an activity without needing to worry about being productive. You can unwind, release all the expectations of perfection you’ve been carrying and immerse yourself in something that brings you joy. Reading? Running? Baking? Boxing? Photography? Whatever it is, go do it! Find a good moment (remember the part in point #6 about giving yourself chunks of uninterrupted rest time?) and dedicate your time, body and mind to an adventure of your choosing. Taking a break by participating in leisure activities helps to raise your morale, improving your engagement in work later on.
It’s common to spend hours, maybe even days, fixated on producing deliverables without making time for ourselves. And there is nothing wrong with chasing productivity. But sometimes, we lose ourselves when we become so busy rushing to meet people’s expectations of us. Doing the things you love not only boosts your morale but also allows you to reconnect with yourself by finally doing something for you.
Depending on personal preference, leisure activities can also be done in a group. Staying glued in front of a computer/laptop screen for long hours, for example, can leave you craving social interaction by the end of the day. Spending time with friends and family can be an extension of obtaining social support and serves as a platform for you to recharge your personal and social batteries. Reconnecting with your loved ones by spending time with them can help ease your mind and lighten any heaviness you may be feeling when under stress.
11. Reach Out to Allah (Soul)
In our worldly pursuit of finding effective stress management strategies, how can we forget about the All-Knowing and Most Merciful? As Muslims, we are to bear in mind the importance of attending to both the worldly and the spiritual. Allah SWT puts us in a state of unease to test our faith, and when we feel low, it is apt that we seek Him as He knows best what lies in our hearts. One of His promises to His worshippers is guidance: “Call upon Me, I will respond to you” (Al-Qur’an, 40:60). In our difficulties, we are presented with the golden opportunity to improve our relationship with Allah SWT.
Apart from supplications after our five daily prayers, the Qur’an provides us with surahs that may help with stress as they praise the greatness of our Creator, depict the many blessings He has granted unto mankind, narrate stories of our prophets to aid us in comprehending His might and magnificence, and protect us from the whisperings of the Devil – all to instil confidence in our Lord and His plans. Some of such surahs and surah verses are*:
Surah Ad-Duhaa (Al-Qur’an, 93:4)
Surah Ash-Sharh (Inshirah) (Al-Qur’an, 94)
Surah Yusuf (Al-Qur’an, 12:87)
Surahs Al-Isra (Al-Qur’an, 17), Al-Kahf (Al-Qur’an, 18:10), Maryam (Al-Qur’an, 19), Taha (Al-Qur’an, 20:25-28), Al-Anbya (Al-Qur’an, 21)
Surah Ar-Rahman (Al-Qur’an, 55:13)
Surah An-Nas (Al-Qur’an, 114)
Surah Al-Mumtahanah (Al-Qur’an, 60:4)
May this list be of some help to you, dear readers. Do remember that this list is nowhere near exhaustive, so feel free to adopt other stress-relief strategies that work for you. In any event, please seek help if you find your load overwhelming. You don’t have to bear your burdens alone.
May He ease your affairs always, InshaAllah.