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Self-harm isn’t just to do with slitting wrists or giving yourself physical pain; it’s the general notion of actions or doing things to yourself that cause yourself harm. Anything from telling yourself that you’re not good enough, to purposely putting yourself in dangerous or life-threatening situations can be included under the category of self harm; and all can have negative consequences.

Jihad an-nafs (the struggle of the self), is the most important struggle for a Muslim. It is the struggle against evil ideas, thoughts, actions and desires which are in disobedience to one’s faith. This term applies to self-harm, because, Allah (SWT) has made our bodies an amanah (trust) upon us, and we are obligated to take care of our minds, bodies and souls. This can be a struggle when one is going through mental health difficulties; as we often lose our self-worth and therefore put ourselves last.

It is important though that we take care of ourselves and treat ourselves with the respect that Allah (SWT), created us with. It can be hard. I’ve been there, I’ve had times where I’ve been going through a rough patch and blamed myself for things out of my control, consequently telling myself I deserved the negative things and that I wasn’t good enough for good things to happen to me. This is the wrong mindset and it does more harm than good. It’s a tough mindset to change though. As Muslims we want to be mindful of pride but we need to understand that self-care isn’t about loving yourself to the point of arrogance, it’s about taking care of yourself and treating yourself well enough to be able to worship, to be able to help others and also to live your best life.

Letting go of the people who are toxic in your life; those who say negative things to you and you start to believe them as their abuse becomes more commonplace can be a good start. Remember Allah (SWT) created you and that gives you respect and honour as a human being –  you deserve to be treated with dignity, especially by your own self.

If you’re struggling to look after yourself, and treating yourself in general with kindness, then here are some self-care tips that you might find useful insha’Allah.

  • Make sure your diet is balanced. I’m not sure how accurate the phrase “you are what you eat” is, but I do know that on days when I’m drinking water instead of cans of Monster, my body thanks me for it, and it’s a simple way of looking after myself. If your mental illness means you’re struggling to get out of bed then keep a bottle by your side and take regular sips, refill it every time you go to the loo. If you’re struggling to eat big meals then make sure you’re snacking regularly throughout the day. Fruit like grapes and berries are easy and things like crackers will fill you up.
  • Before you leave the house, stand up and say something positive to yourself. Hear me out on this one. Sometimes the negative voices in our heads can be so loud that they consume everything and we can’t hear anything positive. Saying something about yourself aloud, whether it be “I am intelligent” or “I helped someone today” can help drown out some negativity. I do it when I’m feeling down and it’ll make me smile for a while. This can be good if you’re experiencing self-esteem issues; to remind yourself of your worth.
  • When bad things happen to you, or when you’re in a continuous cycle of feeling down, it can harden your heart and make you disassociate yourself with others. When something bad happens to me I try to be extra kind and helpful to others, to make sure my heart remains soft. It makes me feel better to know I’ve helped someone out.

Remember, look after yourself and treat yourself well, emotionally, mentally and physically, because you’re the only one of you that the world has and as cliché as it sounds you are worth it!

Jamilla Hekmoun

Jamilla is a final year undergraduate studying Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies and Vice President of the Islamic Society at the University of Exeter. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, she is keen on improving the understanding of mental health conditions within Muslim communities. Follow her on Twitter @JamillaTweets.

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