Human life is an endless struggle, fight and strife with unresolved problems, pressures and critical situations. We live our congested, fast moving, competitive life with many complaints of disappointments, inadequacy, powerlessness, defeats, rejections, personal conflicts and continuous contest for the basic human needs. Our control over this life is limited to what we know, and not knowing what is coming can seat us in a circle of worry and fear.
We can define stress as anything or any factor that can cause mental, physical, or spiritual tension. Even though stress may be very essential for human to survive especially in dangerous situations, the excess of it certainly affects our health and productivity. Stressors can range from severe to mild including death of a close relative to crowded traffic.
We can not change the world that we live in, as it is not in our hand, thus we need to discover or follow a way that can bring us peace and Tranquility. Islam has guided us to this way when the prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told us about the peace that accompanies praying. It was stated by Imam Ahmad in Al Musnad that the Prophet (PBUH) has told Bilal, “call for the prayers, it will comfort us.”
This raises a very important question:
How do different types of worship can help us improve our mechanism in coping with stress?
The Islamic techniques for coping with stress
Medicine has been proven to be insufficient alone to satisfactorily eliminate the basic causes of stress, nor its symptoms. Newer strategies are being used nowadays including relaxation techniques, imagination, meditation (2, 3), and Yoga (4). In medicine, those techniques have been studied to determine their efficacy on treating stress, and they have been used in many treatment programs.
Many of these techniques are entrenched in Islam, i.e. in all types of worship if they were done in a correct manner. This includes:
The Faith (Iman) in the almighty creator and sustainer
If we understand the mechanism of stress and how does it happen, we could conclude that the level of stress can be determined not by the type or intensity of a particular situation but rather by the perception of that situation. One’s worldview is a major factor in activating stress reaction. According to Gary B. Palmer, worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy, fundamental existential and normative postulates or themes, values, emotions, and ethics (5). In other words, it is how we can judge this word.
Islam can help us understand the meaning of this life, and in Islam we can feel that we have control over ourselves. It has been noticed that the degree to which you believe that you are in control of your surroundings, is the degree to which you will, or will not, experience the stress response. In Islam, Muslims feel Allah, the creator and the sustainer of this world, supports them. Why would we feel stressed when we undoubtedly know that everything is already predetermined by God and is going according to his plan. If we have this faith rooted in our souls, it should logically be assured that one can rarely be stressed.
Allah says in his book:
U?U…U† O?O?O±O¶ O?U† O°U?O±US U?O?U† U„U‡ U…O?USO?O© O¶U†U?O “
Faith in life hereafter and accepting the Fated
It is one of the basics roots of Islam that every Muslim should believe in the hereafter world. Every Muslim knows that life (Dunia) is just a temporary stage of human journey. ‘Accepting the inevitable’ is a critical mechanism through which Muslim can face and cope with stress, especially when loss of loved one is the case.
Those who lack the faith in destiny and hereafter are totally deprived from the relief that comes from knowing that our deeds will not be rewarded in this world only but in the hereafter as well.
Allah says in his book:
U…O O?OµOO? U…U† U…OµUSO?O© U?US OU„O?O±O¶ U?U„O U?US O?U†U?O?U?U… O?U„O U?US U?O?OO? U…U† U‚O?U„ O?U† U†O?O±O?U‡O
The Meditation and contemplation
contemplation It means separating something from its environment and enclosing it in a sector.
With meditation which is a natural excellence of the mind, the mind is skilled to pay attention and to follow orders. By deep thinking and meditation person can release mental and physical energy. The basis of meditation is to take on a posture of body and mind that permits one to stay relaxed for long periods of time without spending considerable amounts of energy(7).
The importance of meditation has been proven by many researches and studies. Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard University physician noticed the effect of meditation on reducing stress(8). Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, introduced a program of meditation to treat patients with heart diseases in the mid-1980s (9).
The effects of meditations can be summarized by decreased heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen consumption, blood peripheral resistance (10), chronic pain, anxiety and muscle tension. It is even more powerful than sleeping.
Through meditation, one’s faith can be stronger and stronger by picturing Allah’s creatures (plants, animals, space, human body, etc.) and it is considered one of the important forms of Islamic worship.
Allah says in his holly Quran:
“Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! Glory be to Thee; save us then from the chastisement of the fire.” (3: 192)
The Remembrance (Thikr) of Allah
As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, meditation can be done by focussing our thoughts on an object or group of objects of the same group. Meditation can also be carried out by focusing on one word or a few words that give the person a sense of internal peace and calm; for example by repeating the words subhan Allah (glory be to Allah) or al-hamdu lillah (all praise be to Allah). Deep and silent repetition of such words produces the same physiological effects of meditation. It also adds an additional factor that helps in stress elimination and that is giving the individual the feeling that he or she is in extreme proximity with Allah, the Controller of the whole world.
“Those who believe and whose hearts are set at rest by the remembrance of Allah; now surely by Allah’s remembrance are the hearts set at rest.” (Qur’an 13:28)
Prayers (Salat) and relaxation
Prayers are a very strong bonding between the man and his creator. It brings comfort and relaxation if done appropriately. When a person prays to Almighty Allah, he/she concentrates on Allah, recites his words in Quran, talks to Allah, sits, stands, bows and prostrates before him, praising him, and asking him the support and help. This kind of relationship guarantees a sense of security and peace that someone is touching the inside of you, understanding and helping you physically, mentally and spiritually.
Prayers reduce the amounts of worries and troubles carried by you, when you feel that you can put it in Allah’s hand and left over his shoulder.
Through prayers when can practice Imagination, meditation, remembrance and renovation of our Iman.
Allah says in his Holly Quran:
“O you who believe! seek assistance through patience and prayer; surely Allah is with the patient.” (Qur’an 2:153)
Many professionals feel that the immune system is reinforced and promoted by a sense of peace obtained during praying. Many doctors believe that praying before and after surgery or before administering a course of potent drugs might in fact lend a hand in the patient’s recovery (6).
Nowadays scientists have appreciated the importance and value of taking a mid-day nap for health and total body relaxation. As a matter of fact, short mid-day nap or Qailulah is a Sunnah that the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) emphasized on. It is not Necessary to sleep during this nap, but to relax. Relaxation during the mid of the day actually helps in improving the quality of sleep.
Remember, that insomnia is a major life stressor.
Lying down in bed relaxes the muscles of the body and the degree of relaxation is determined by the sleep posture adopted by the person.
In the semifoetal position the person lies on his side with arms and legs partially folded. The limbs are not kept in an exactly opposed position.
In terms of physical comfort, in this position it is possible to turn from side to side without undoing the set configuration of the body position. It is supposed to be the best position in terms of physical comfort. It has, therefore, been considered as the best position for relaxation.
According to an old proverb the kings are known to prefer to sleep on their back, the rich man on his stomach and th ewise man on his side.
These abovementioned observations bear testimony to the superiority of sleeping in semi-flexed position on one side.
The sleep position which was adopted by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) is a Sunnah and is scrupulously adopted by devout Muslims. He used to lie on his right-side with limbs slightly flexed, right hand below his cheek and facing towrds Kaba Sharif. This position is similar to the semi-foetal position described above, and, obviously in the light of the existing knowledge about sleep posture, is the position adopted by a highly balanced person psychologically. It is also the best posture for relaxation, both physical and psychological. Adherence to this sleep posture should therefore, contribute a lot to total body relaxation.
CARE OF NEIGHBOURS
In the so-called ‘most advanced places’, it is a fact that people do not know even their immediate neighbours. The scientific significance of keeping good relations with neighbours is being appreciated only recently with the observations of Hans Seley, known as the father of the science of Stress. He has concluded that the most important factor affecting mental peace is having good relations with neighbours. In most of the religions good relations with neighbours has been emphasized. But the meaning of aneighbour and the type of relations to be kept with neighbours is very comprehensive in Islam. As for the definition of a neighbour, in Islam all persons living in the 40 houses from the houses of an indiviudal, in all directions, are his neighbours. As regards the rights of the neighbours; these are extensive in Islam. Hazrat Gibrail stressed so much on the right of neighbours that once it appeared to Rasool (pbuh) that neighbours may have a share in the property of a person. Thus one can appreciate the status of a neighbour as considered in Islam.
It is the faith of all Muslims that all the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) are the best of the actions. The psychiatrist will definitely realise their significance when he will look at it in an unbiased perspective.