A little guidance to protect our mental health during the covid-19 pandemic and its uncertainty
What is worrying you the most during this pandemic?
There’s a number of mental challenges people may face as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and it’s coverage on the media. Hygiene guidance and the fear of being infected may fuel health anxiety and also make people who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies more difficult. Whilst many people can laugh off the issue and cope with the uncertainty with humor, it is important for the community to understand that some people may be genuinely afraid and rightfully so, since they may be part of an at-risk group, elderly or have a pre-existing illness or they have friends or family who are particularly vulnerable.
For those with OCD or health anxiety going on public transport during this time may feel like a nightmare. We also want to acknowledge that it could fuel a lot of struggles such as suicidal feelings, paranoia, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and much more. It’s hard to provide reassurance when something like this is invisible to the eye. Perhaps it is so anxiety-provoking because we cannot see what or who is infected. However, we should all be aware of where our fears actually lie and whether or not it is the uncertainty surrounding the issues that is making us feel a little uneasy. Collectively there’s a sense that we are out of control but this does not have to lead to panic.
As Muslims we are fully aware that Allah SWT is Al-Hafeedh (The Preserver, The Protector), and He is ultimately in control of the affairs on this planet, and only intends what is best for us – even if we can’t understand it. So even if this threat is unseen, and is a source of anxiety, we can be rest assured that if we “tie our camel” and rely on Allah SWT everything, in the end, will be okay In Sha Allah. This translates to staying calm, as calm as we can be, through putting our trust in Him and knowing that this is temporary and it will pass. Our patience, compassion and resilience is being tested, and we will come out stronger. Always try to emulate the Prophet (ﷺ) and his companions, ask yourself “what would the Prophet (ﷺ) do?”.
Regarding “tying our camel” or to put it in another way, taking due diligence to protect ourselves and others from harm, it’s also difficult to trust which advice you should follow when there are differences of opinion and a range of different voices on the subject. In times like this it may offer some comfort to listen to clear government guidance and simply disregard other opinions in order to reduce confusion. This is an exercise in trust, and frankly if people give in to hysteria there will be a lot more to worry about than the difficulty of finding toilet paper. Current advice can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public.
For those who have a tendency to overthink or worry about things, please, try as much as you can to stick to the advice and it is so important to focus on what you can control. You do not need to take a full shower after every trip outside. You do not need to self isolate if you do not have symptoms. You do not need a WW2 style gas mask. We understand that some people may be particularly vulnerable to believing they need to go to extreme lengths to protect themselves and others. However, as much as you can, resist this urge because these compulsions strengthen every single time you do them and can really cause you a lot of distress in the long run.
If you have a tendency to think the worst, here are just a few things you could do (not limited to this list of course):
- Something that could potentially be of comfort is to imagine something pleasant and not scary for a change, preparing for Ramadan might even be a good place to start.
- If you find yourself worrying about your health or someone you love, despite no symptoms, practicing your grounding and breathing exercises would be a good use of time and energy.
- Getting creative is always a good thing to distract you from the anxiety and stress of the situation.
- Corona Virus has given us the gift of time! If we do go into lockdown or you are self-isolating, you finally have that time to read that book you have been meaning to read, watch a movie, exercise, or do some DIY. Don’t forget, there’s always FaceTime or Video chat!
Listening to our thoughts too much and believing them as if they are real can be torturous. Acknowledging that our thoughts are thoughts and they may not be true, and challenging them, and refusing to give them power through deciding to acknowledge but not fixate on them is important. For example “this is an anxiety-provoking situation and it’s okay that I am worried but I choose not to obsess over this, I have followed advice and that is all I can do, I choose calmness and happiness and will now do an activity I like to get my mind off this. It is okay, even ideal, to have peace of mind in this situation.”
Prayer may be a source of particular anxiety as people may feel they need to attend congregational prayer and visit their mosque even if they are exhibiting symptoms. It’s important to note that this puts other people at risk, and a wide range of imams have recently encouraged those who have symptoms to pray at home in line with government advice on self isolating if presenting with symptoms. Seek further guidance if you are in doubt. Rest assured that Allah SWT knows your intentions and fearing to harm others is noble. If we should wish the best for our brothers and sisters, surely we should wish them to always be in good health and therefore protect them from any threat to this, including our presence if necessary.
“If you hear that it (the plague) is in a land, do not go there, and if it breaks out in a land where you are, do not leave, fleeing from it.” [Bukhari]
We have also created some easy to read and easy to share images, please do pass them onto family and friends and be sure to spread your positivity during this difficult time!
How are you feeling regarding this global issue?