Anxiety is being afraid to face things which might happen. It’s being afraid to face our futures and the consequences of our actions. And it’s not just a psychological state. It affects our bodies in the following ways:
- Rapid heartbeat
In this world of uncertainties, anxiety is a pretty common problem. Probably everyone has suffered from it at some point. Many of us are perpetually anxious, and we just don’t know how to cease to be scared of the future.
Of course, this is different from thinking of the future and preparing for it, which is very much encouraged in Islam. We’re supposed to think about the hereafter all the time, and that thinking should be reflected in all the things we do throughout our lives. We prepare for getting Jannah and saving ourselves from the Fire. That is a praiseworthy characteristic, and that doesn’t fall under the category of anxiety.
We’re scared of a whole lot of things. We wonder how we’ll manage to pay next month’s bills, how we’ll manage to pass our exams, and whether we’ll look funny wearing that particular dress. We’re afraid of standing up and speaking to our colleagues during a presentation.
So how do we cease to be afraid and start living our lives with peace? Here are a few tips which may help.
Change of Attitude: Know that Allah says you don’t need to be afraid.
This phrase occurs so many times in the Quran that you probably know it by heart:
فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
. . . there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.
Allah says about a group of people that there will be no fear on them. Who are these amazing people?
Allah says this after He orders Adam and Eve to descend on earth:
قُلْنَا اهْبِطُوا مِنْهَا جَمِيعًا ۖ فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُم مِّنِّي هُدًى فَمَن تَبِعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ.
We said, ‘Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.’ [2:38]
Allah clarifies further in other places what is means to ‘follow My guidance’:
Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish prayer and give zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. [2:277]
So it means that if we obey Allah, we don’t need to be scared of the future.
Change of Attitude: Have tawakkul
Just remember that the Prophet (saws) said,
If you were to rely on Allah as He should be relied on, He would provide for you as He provides for the birds. They go out early in the morning hungry and return in the evening full. [Tirmidhi]
Let go of all your worries. Close your eyes and jump off the cliff, confident that Allah is there to catch you.
Change of Attitude: Develop Optimism
Some people have this unhealthy notion that a Muslim is supposed to be pessimistic – he/she has to wallow in grief and anxiety thinking about the worsening situation of the ummah and about the Hellfire. You just need to ask one question to dispel this idea: did the Prophet (saws) behave in that way? He was a very optimistic person. In fact, he advised us to think the best about Allah, and that automatically means being optimistic about the future.
Professor Lyubomirsky mentions some excellent methods of cultivating optimism in her book The How of Happiness. Here is one of them:
“Best possible self” diary: Take a nice notepad and paper, sit in a quiet place and take 20-30 minutes and imagine a future where all your plans and wishes have come true, and you’re at your best. Write down everything you can imagine it looks and feels like. According to Lyubomirsky , ‘You may discover new insights into yourself as you write about your future and your goals.’ We tend to focus more on the negatives when we’re anxious. This diary approach will highlight the positives in our minds and make us feel better.
Action point: Apply CBT
Once you know for sure that Allah guarantees you won’t be sad if you obey Him, have complete trust that Allah will take care of everything, and have a written record of positive outcomes, you are ready to fight Shaytan’s whispers. Learn more about CBT in my article How Shaytan Whispers.
Take about ten minutes everyday to do the following exercise:
Write down all the thoughts that are worrying you in the left column. Then take each thought individually, analyze it rationally and see if it really is practical to think like that. Then think about an alternative positive outcome that also likely. Write the positive thought in the right column. Here are a few examples for you:
|I’ll probably fail my exams
|I’ll probably pass my exams in sha Allah
|I’ll make a fool of myself during the presentation
|I’ll have an awesome presentation in sha Allah
Once you have done this for a few weeks, you will notice a big decrease in the number and intensity of negative thoughts that bother you, and you’ll have a database of positive thoughts to combat them with.
Note: If you are having a serious persistent anxiety problem, do not hesistate to check with a doctor or psychiatrist, because it could be a symptom of many psychological and biological problems.
* In order to understand Quran better, Learn Arabic at UQ Academy.