By Kiran Ahmed (@theheartsfragments)

In a time like this, as we deal with the current Coronavirus pandemic, it can be extremely difficult to cope. The overwhelm, anxiety and depression have all risen, even for those who haven’t experienced mental health issues before. However, for those who already struggled with their mental health before this pandemic even begun, there’s no doubt it is extremely difficult for them now.

In life, we go through many ups and downs. Some suffer extreme challenges which can result in heavy trauma, some go through phases of change, losses, gains and so forth. I have heard many people say to me (and a statement I myself have said in the past), “I think I’m losing myself.”

For me, that feels like too heavy a statement to utter with the tongue. If I was to map this out in my head and mentally note what comes to mind when I think of that statement, it would bring about more negative responses, thoughts and ideas from myself. ‘Losing yourself’ surrounds itself with a negative connotation.

The idea of loss and never being able to return to your true or full self doesn’t hold much or even any hope at all. There’s something I started doing to shift my perspective and I would like to share this with you. Instead of thinking ‘I am losing myself’, try to say ‘I am rediscovering myself’.

If these statements were objects placed in front of us, I’m sure we would be attracted to the latter statement. It seems like there’s some interesting psychology behind this, as if you’re training yourself to think more positively about where you are in your journey. As apposed to ‘losing myself’ which as I stated brings about little or no hope, ‘rediscovering yourself’ feels a bit more magical, and brings some hope in embarking on a journey of growth, finding many gems along the way.

The truth is, we are not lost. We’re all strangers and travellers in this world and the goal is to discover ourselves along the way through many beautiful means. Our destiny was written before creation even existed, all we are doing is fulfilling and trying to live our best lives by becoming the best possible versions of ourselves.

I’d like to share a few tips on how to ‘rediscover yourself’ for those people who feel like they have little direction, are struggling with their purpose, have been dealing with any conscious or subconscious struggles, or carry any past or present pain.

1. Creativity

I think I can speak for most/all individuals in the creative community when I say that creative expression is an extremely beneficial outlet.

Creativity is not confined to one thing, some examples are – painting, drawing, singing, playing instruments, writing, creating amazing graphical content. Doing one or more of these things can help an individual express themselves and offload the thoughts and feelings that they carry within. Some of the best examples I have seen came from a place of pain, which were then translated into beautiful works of art.

It is documented that those who struggle with mental/physical health find a lot of healing and solace in creativity. There are no limits and that’s the beauty of it.

Now that we are self-isolating, why not use this time to pick up a new creative hobby? I personally enjoy writing poetry and creating spoken word videos – it’s always an interesting experience. Recently I have picked up a new hobby which is playing the keyboard, I have found it to be extremely calming and therapeutic.

2. Spirituality

There is a famous saying in the Islamic World that says:

“He who knows himself knows His Lord.”

I think this speaks tremendous volume. My interpretation to this is that the one who delves deep into themselves, the one who works to remove bad habits and fight their nafs (which is the biggest Jihad, the battle with the self), working to eliminate their character, knows His Lord.

Let me break it down into simpler terms; working on our character is one of the most important things we can and need to do as Muslims. Without this we cannot truly connect in the best way with our Lord.

Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani (may Allah elevate him and be pleased) in one of his works ‘The Secret of Secrets’ talks about the inner dimension of worship. The inner is just as vital as the physical worship. So one of my biggest tips for finding yourself through spirituality is to work on knowing yourself so that you can know and become closer to your Lord.

Other things we can work on is our Taqwa (consciousness of God) which links into being mindful, Sabr (patience in difficult times) and Shukr (gratitude in both easy and difficult times). In this time of Lordly Seclusion (a phrase my friend’s Shaykh used when addressing this situation – beautiful perspective), we can use our time to reconnect with Allah and ensure we walk out of both Ramadhan and this ‘quarantine/lockdown’ much better spiritually!

3. Mental Health

As someone who has struggled with their own mental health a fair amount, I will share a few things that have helped me stay connected with myself and allowed me to ‘rediscover’ who I am on my journey of healing.

Keeping a journal of reflections helps for one who is confused or feels lost. Consciously tracking your thoughts and emotions will allow you to identify any triggers, and indeed it helps reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and negative perceptions of oneself.

Once you become more aware of what you feel, your thought patterns, and how you react to certain situations, you gain a much better understanding of yourself as a person. This isn’t easy and takes a lot of work, but it is not impossible. If your heart and intentions are really set on creating a better life for yourself, that will drive and motivate you.

RECOMMENDED EPISODE:

Why Does Allah Hate Me? – feat. Sarah Sultan & Najwa Awad (Yaqeen Institute)

For more metal health related podcast episodes on Deenspiration, click here.

4. Daily Routine

Creating a daily routine has been so helpful for myself; it creates a sense of structure and organisation that keeps me occupied, meaning that I have less time to spend on negative thoughts.

I have experimented with many different things. Recently, a friend of mine told me to try yoga. I remember laughing to myself because I could never see myself doing anything like that. A few days later, I downloaded an app and started! I must say it was very helpful. It really helped me slow down and be more present in the moment. My mind felt a lot clearer and like an ocean that goes from its crashing waves, to stillness; my mind came to a calm state. I usually do this in the morning as it helps me start my day off well and enhances my productivity during the day. I was surprised at how much I was able to get done from implementing something different to the beginning of my day!

Something else that helps is creating a daily plan. I use an app called Notion – which I believe is free for students. I highly recommend it as there are many different templates you can use and experiment with. They are also good for keeping lecture notes, uploading important documents, reflections, project planning, and setting goals – there is so much you can do with it.

Having a routine allows me to work towards important goals, and this has helped me feel I am fulfilling my purpose slowly by making small achievements every day. Make sure not to plan unrealistic routines; keep some family and ‘me time’ in them, they don’t have to be a list of ‘to-dos’ which can be overwhelming!

Related Episode: The Prophet’s (pbuh) Daily Routine – feat. Mohammed Faris (Productive Muslim)

From the many things I have listed above, there is one I haven’t mentioned but is prevalent; hope. Having hope even while this journey of rediscovering ourselves may be difficult at times, when anxiety/negative thoughts creep up. Remember, this is part of the journey. Walking into the unknown is beautiful but can be scary as it feels like we are walking with our eyes closed – not knowing where we’ll end up next! However, there is surely greatness waiting for us on the other side, we cannot be welcomed by it until we take the steps into self discovery. Even if you meet roadblocks along the way, you will always find your way back, with hope. Stay safe and well – peace be with you.

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