We can all agree this year has been a tough one.  It has been filled with loss, uncertainty and ambiguity. Our lives as we know it have changed, altered into a reality which we have reluctantly grown accustomed to.  Over the last few months, we have been faced with constant change. We see a glimmer of hope, as the virus begins to stabilise, but then it resurfaces. We cling onto the hope that soon, we will back to normal -albeit a new normal. However, this waiting period is far more difficult for some than others.

“80% of people living with mental illness say that Covid-19 and the national response have made their mental health worse.” Rethink Mental Health

You may be feeling more anxious or frustrated than usual. It is important to remember these feelings are extremely normal. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.  During this time, it is important to focus on your well-being, to ensure you are addressing any overwhelming thoughts and feelings during this time, and doing what you can to alleviate them.

To help you better manage this overwhelm, we have prepared: 10 tips to manage your mental health and improve well-being during a pandemic. These 10 tips are simple ways in which you can improve your well-being during this time.

1) Stay Connected

The feeling of loneliness can be crippling; a feeling that is familiar within HHUGS households. With families separated from their loved ones and isolated from their local community, it can be a considerable struggle to be left to survive alone.

However, this feeling is new to many of us, as we are often surrounded by people daily.  Although we face social isolation, it does not need to mean that we are alone. Thanks to the power of technology, we can stay connected with our loved ones, wherever they may be, all over the world.  You can avoid feelings of loneliness, and isolation by staying connected.  Check in on your loved ones and reach out to those who may be vulnerable. By staying connected, you can talk through overwhelming feelings. This can help ease your anxiety. There are also many virtual classes and experiences, which can help pass the time, and connect you with like-minded individuals. 

If you do meet up with others in person, be sure to adhere to government guidelines on social distancing.

2) Be Kind

When the situation you are in can feel overwhelming, it is difficult to see a way out.  You may find it hard to imagine the light at the end of the tunnel. During these moments, you may be harsher on yourself, or others around you. You may feel upset, and frustrated with your own feelings. Others may find it difficult to discuss these feelings with their loved ones, causing them to shut themselves off and withdraw.

First and foremost, it is important to be kind to yourself. It is pivotal to acknowledge that these feelings are not your fault. No one is to blame for them in actuality, and it is perfectly fine to feel this way. Take some time out to unwind. If you are unable to be as productive as you usually are, then take a step back and listen your body.  Do something which you enjoy to take your mind of those feelings: Get lost in a book that you can’t put down, take a walk, appreciating nature around you, or indulge in a long, relaxing soak in the bath.   Many people enjoy creative activities, such as baking, painting or journaling, and find it helps relieve their stress.

Being kind to others, especially during this time as we experience the same feelings of uncertainty and change, can also help improve your own well-being and mood.  It is also a significant part of our faith.

The Messenger of Allah (saw) said,

“Verily, Allah is kind and He loves kindness. He grants reward for kindness what is not given for harshness.” (Aḥmad)

3) Focus on the Present

Often many of us have our weeks, months and years planned in advance. We prepare for our next exam, holiday or family gathering. However, over the last few months, many of our plans have been cancelled, much to our dissatisfaction. We are unable to plan too far ahead, as we unsure of how the future will fold. This level of uncertainty and lack of control over our own circumstances can be troubling for many.

To help combat these feelings, try to focus on the present. Focus on what you are doing on that day, or week. Embrace your surroundings, and the conversations you had that day. Be grateful for the little things you often overlook.

Whilst you ponder, engage in the remembrance of Allah. This can help you draw closer to Him, and find comfort. It will help bring inner peace, and a sense of calmness.

“Those who believe and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah, surely in the remembrance of Allah hearts can find comfort.”  (Qur’an, 13:28)

4) Stick to a Routine

It can be difficult to adapt to the challenges we face. It can heighten our anxiety, as we are unable to determine what will happen next. Therefore, creating a routine can go some way to alleviate this.  If you are working from home, remember to take regular breaks and have set meal times away from your desk, to avoid fatigue and burnout.  Allocate a few hours, each week, where you are connecting with others, or doing something you enjoy. This will help break up your week, and give you something to look forward to.

When you are feeling stressed or anxious, sometimes you may not feel encouraged to be productive. It is imperative, therefore, to find a balance. Be sure listen to those feelings and set some time aside to process them. However, it is just as important to not fall into a cycle of endless procrastination. By being productive, you will improve your mood and feel accomplished.

Within your routine, build the habit of your morning and evening Adhkaar. Spend some time reading and reflecting on the Qur’an, as this will surely give you peace and contentment, as well as, through its inherent barakah, increasing your productivity.  

Ibrahim Al-Maqdisi advised his student, ‘Abbas Ibn ‘Abd-Ad Dayim “Increase the amount of Qur’an which you recite and do not abandon it! For the assistance which you’ll receive with regards to the matter which you strive towards depends on how much you recite.”

5) Take care of your Body

Both our physical health and mental health are connected. If you are suffering from issues with your physical health, this can lead to mental health issues. Equally, engaging in regular exercise is proven to boost your mood.

To improve your physical health, you should eat a nutritious, balanced diet. You can implement this, by increasing your intake of healthy fruit and vegetables, and reducing your intake of processed food. You will subsequently strengthen your immune system and feel more energetic.

Eating a balanced diet can help reduce fatigue and improve your overall health. If you find it difficult to stay on track, invite your friends and family to eat healthily with you.

Getting enough sleep also plays a massive role in improving your well-being.  When you get enough sleep, your body can repair and process information and memories.  A lack of sleep can result in a weakened immune system, and exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

6) Know your Triggers

If you struggle with mental health difficulties, you may be aware of your triggers. Certain situations may worsen your anxiety, or make you increasingly stressed. During the pandemic, we are bombarded with information. On the news, we hear daily of new cases, new findings and new laws. If you notice a pattern of anxiety when hearing about the virus, it may be wise to limit your intake. Although it is important to keep up to date with new guidelines, you may want to limit your consumption of  social media, or news channels endlessly discussing the issues.

If you have other triggers which increase your anxiety, then try to limit or avoid those. These could include: caffeine, social media or news.

7) Keep Active

Exercising can help improve mental health. It reduces feeling of stress, anxiety and depression. It can also help improve self-esteem and cognitive function. Many of us may not be active as we once were. As we work from home, and limit our gym visits, we may have fallen of our usual workout routine. However, there are still many ways in which you can stay active. Whether it is doing your household chores, climbing up and down your stairs, you will feel the benefits. Enjoy some time outdoors by going for a walk, or connect with others online in virtual exercise classes and workout videos to keep fit.

“Researchers who pooled information from 49 studies from around the world, found that people who did the most physical activity were less likely to get depression than those who did the least.” – NHS

8) Helping Others

The pandemic has hit some of us harder than others. There may be individuals who are more vulnerable and isolated than you. Helping others is a way in which you can improve your mood, and mental health.

It can improve your self-esteem and sense of reward. You will feel more accomplished and thankful for the blessings you have, which you can use to serve others. You can support others from the comfort of your own home, by reaching out to those who may need someone to talk to. You can also give in Sadaqah to help those are struggling within this pandemic.

Giving to others, is a core part of Islam.  To relieve someone of their hardship is a great blessing both on the giver’s part and the receiver.

The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “ Whoever would love to be shaded by the Shade of Allah, let him help someone in hardship or waive a loan.” (Ibn Mājah)

9) Accept your Situation

A core part of managing your anxiety and stress is acceptance. Although it can be tricky to accept that you are struggling with anxiety, it can be empowering to acknowledge that it is a feeling that many others also share. You are not alone.  Moreover, there are many ways in which you can manage it. For some of us, these feelings may be fleeting, and with time they may pass. However, for others, they remain. Some of the tips shared in this blog may help alleviate them.

Accepting that you are going through an overwhelming period in your life, is a step in the right direction. Once you have identified a challenge or acknowledged a problem, you can now move forward to work towards reducing your anxiety.

10) Reach out for Help

These are just a few tips that may help you manage your anxiety. However, it is important to reach out to others, if you feel as though your anxiety and wellbeing has not improved. Do not feel ashamed to reach out and speak to someone you trust. Discuss how you are feeling with your loved ones. There are also many organisations which can help you talk through your anxiety, low mood and guide you to further assistance if you find it difficult to talk to those closest to you.

Share this blog with your contacts and help us make mental health a priority this October.