With businesses, workplaces, and schools shutting down for weeks, having everyone in the home for an extended period of time is bound to create a number of serious mental health challenges, especially for families with children.
This already happened in China, where domestic violence increased as mandatory quarantines were implemented throughout the country.
It is vital to not only maintain our physical health at this time, but our mental health as well. It is critical for our families, our children, our marriages, and our long-term well-being. Here are some ways to handle this challenge:
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, described Dua as the “essence of worship” (Tirmidhi). Allah Himself tells us to call upon Him, and He will respond to us (Quran 40:60). Only Allah is in control and He is the All-Powerful. When we are feeling overwhelmed, let us lower our heads and raise our hands in Dua to ease our hardship and relieve us of this difficulty in the best way.
In particular, Duas for God’s forgiveness, as well as those what help you remember and praise Him will be vital in easing stress and anxiety.
Use Islamic anger management techniques
It’s inevitable that at some point, minor annoyances will become major grievances when people are cooped up together for an indefinite amount of time. This is where anger management can help defuse a dangerous situation, be it between husband and wife, child and parent, or between siblings.
The Prophet said, “If one of you is angry while he is standing, let him sit down so his anger will leave him; otherwise, let him lie down” (Abu Dawud).
He also recommended making Wudu. He said, “Verily, anger comes from Shaytan and Shaytan was created from fire. Fire is extinguished with water, so if you become angry then perform ablution with water” (Abu Dawud).
Get physically away from everyone else for some time everyday
While avoiding crowded places and social distancing are key to containing the spread of COVID-19, this does not mean we can’t go outside to benefit from some distance between ourselves and those quarantined with us. Whether it’s spending time in the backyard for an hour, going for a walk alone, or a drive to pick up necessities, spend some time away from everyone else for the sake of your mental health.
Count your blessings - literally
In Islam, thankfulness to God, called Shukr, is key to being a good Muslim. Scientific studies have also confirmed that gratefulness leads people to being happier and less depressed. At a time when the current pandemic and resulting restrictions may make us think only of our deprivations, there is much to be thankful for. If we are safe, healthy, and with our families, these are all tremendous blessings. Just ask those who are sick or in high risk categories making them susceptible to COVID-19; ask those who have had to separate from loved ones because of the virus.
If we have enough to eat, an internet connection to keep our jobs or education going, as well as the ability to keep in touch with family and friends, those are all tremendous blessings. Ask those whose jobs are now on the line or who cannot stay home with paid sick leave; ask students who cannot afford an internet connection, or other tools to keep learning.
If you have never before kept a gratitude journal, this is the time to start. Every night before going to sleep, sit with your family and count all of the good things that happened that day and write them down in a family journal.
5. Connect with family and friends - remotely
Social isolation can literally kill you. But even if you are surrounded by family, friendships play a key role in keeping your mental health intact and reducing stress. With tools like Facetime, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with and check in on friends. Set a time daily or weekly with friends for lunch/brunch/coffee break. Then share conversation as you both enjoy your meal in your own homes.
6. Look forward to Ramadan
One of the ways to prevent spiraling into pessimism and sadness is to give yourself something to look forward to. At this moment, let that be the arrival of Ramadan in a few weeks, the blessed month of spiritual blessings and growth. No matter how long we have before quarantining ends, we can still look forward to a month when we draw closer to Allah. Remind yourself that insha Allah, this will end, and a better time is just around the corner. Start setting goals for Ramadan now, in anticipation for it.
7. Limit media consumption
It’s one thing to keep updated on the latest information about COVID-19 and how to stay healthy. It’s another to be unable to put our phones away or move away from the laptop, allowing ourselves to drown in useless material. Too much screen time has been linked to depression, anxiety, and in more extreme cases suicide, especially in young people.
Set a limit of how much screen time you and your kids can have outside of work or school daily.