Managing my Anxiety

This post is something I have been wanting to write for a while now but I haven’t had a chance. I suffer from anxiety and depression and over the years I’ve been slowly learning how to manage it better so I can live a better quality life. So I wanted to share some of the ways in which I have learnt to manage my anxiety as it may help someone else too.
This is obviously not going to magically make everything fine but it still helps. I have good days and bad days and days when nothing seems to work but I have found that I am doing better than I was a couple years ago. I don’t have as many panic attacks and my low days don’t seem to last as long.
Of course these things may not work for everyone, I had to go through trial and error to see what worked well for me.

1) Counselling – Not seeking help from professionals was probably what delayed me in being able to manage my anxiety sooner. I was completely lost and didn’t know how to help myself but I attended regular counselling sessions on the recommendation of my doctor and it was the first time I felt I had help in learning to cope. There’s several different types of counselling and I attended group therapy where the focus was teaching us to manage our anxiety and teaching us what anxiety is and how it affects us. We were given practical techniques every week and lots of information. And it really helped me.

2) Someone to talk to – this is someone who is close to you and someone you trust. For me it’s my husband, who I can go to and say I’m struggling and feeling like this. He doesn’t judge me or tell me to “get over it” he listens to me and will try to help me, whether it’s that I’ve said I feel low or that I have zero motivation to do anything.

3) Nature always helps me to feel a little better. Whether it’s flowers at home or going to the park. The smell and look of flowers and greenery helps me to feel relaxed. I don’t know what it is about flowers but having them on my table in a vase makes me smile.

4) Unplug from social media. It can be so amazing to just unplug for a while. I’m bombarded with notifications all day and just putting your phone and laptop away and doing something you enjoy is so helpful.

5) So following on from my last point, do something you enjoy. Something that is therapeutic for you. For me it’s a variety of things. I like to colour or paint and it helps me to re-focus and stop worrying and stressing about the hundred things that are running through my head. It just helps me take a step back from everything. But my favourite thing to do is to read. I love reading in the evening to help me to relax. I normally clear the area I’m sitting at so there’s no distractions. Light a candle and dive into my book.

6) The things I’ve mentioned so far have been all things I do at home, but sometimes I end up being stuck in the house for too long when my anxiety acts up and I find it hard to get out of my bed let alone leave the house. So I found that having a place that you find relaxing to go to or doing something that you truly enjoy can motivate me to get myself up and leave the house. For me those things are of course book related. I love attending book events or just going to the library or book store. I’ve even discovered a cute cafe that has a bookshop in it. There’s armchairs and sofas for you to just come and sit and you can read or study and hang out. Also going to hang out with friends is something that usually gets me out of the house too. Or planning a “date night” with my husband. These range from going to the sea life centre to parks to discovering new places in our area.

7) Praying and reading Quran. So for me this goes without saying that my faith has kept me from completely despairing of ever get through my difficult times. Especially when I was at my lowest the only thing that kept my thought of self harm at bay was my faith in God. It’s so hard at that point to think of anything positive and the only thing that kept me going was knowing that this time too will pass and He will help me through it all.

8) The last thing I want to mention is something that completely surprised me. I would never have thought that having a cat would help me with my anxiety and depression. I have never been an animal person so when I finally caved and let my husband adopt the stray that had started living in our garden I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I fell in love with him. He’s such a cutie and love having him around. It’s just so relaxing to have him chilling with you and cuddles are the best! Plus he’s so entertaining and never fails to lift my mood!

So these are the things I do to help me manage my anxiety. I hope that by sharing my experience it helps others and I would love to hear from you about what you do to help manage in your everyday life.

I also want to mention that reading, learning and understanding anxiety and depression has helped me a lot too. I would definitely recommend picking up a book and learning a bit more about it.

Written in the Stars review

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I recently read Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed for Ramadan Readathon and it was one of the most emotional books I ever read. This book is about forced marriages that unfortunately can still happen especially within the south Asian community. The family and main character in this book are Pakistani but living in America. This does contain some spoilers.

The story begins where her parents find out that she has secretly been going out with a boy called Saif and decide to take her and her brother to Pakistan to see their family in Pakistan. Naila thinks it’s just a holiday but really it’s so they can get her married.

We follow Naila through her story and how her family force her to get married and the life she is forced to live. Her story ends when she is safely back in America but in reality this may not happen to everyone and some may spend the rest of their lives suffering.

She is drugged and locked in a room, unable to see anyone and then after she is married she lives in a little village with her in laws where she is unable to study or speak to anyone outside and her mother and sister in law try to control and dictate what she can and cannot do.

This story was so heart wrenching, but it’s a much needed story as it helps to raise awareness of the situation that these young girls and boys face. The reason which was repeatedly told to Naila as to why they were doing this to her was that it’s because they know what’s best for her and that she should have thought about the family honour.

Thankfully it is not as common as it was but it still exists, there are still people who believe they have the right to force their children to marry who they choose, by whatever means necessary and that women do not need to receive an education as their purpose in life is to look after the home and children.

Growing up I had heard of girls that are forced to get married but I never knew what they went through, after reading Nailas story it is even more heart wrenching thinking about it.

This story showed how it not only tore apart Nailas life but also affected her whole family and Saif and his family too. It did not bring back Nailas “family honour” instead it permanently damaged Nailas relationship with her parents.

I would definitely recommend everyone to read this book as it has some much needed insight into what it is like for someone who has been forced to get married and raise awareness for this issue.

I do also want to point out that although this does happen it is not the norm for every Pakistani girl. The majority are not forced into marriage and are able to pursue education and build careers. To be independent, I am Pakistani and in my house education is far more important than getting married and I know this is the same for my friends too.

Rating: 4.5/5

Also I just want to clarify that arranged marriages and forced marriages are not the same thing. An arranged marriage is where the bride and groom meet on several occasions and happily consent to the marriage. A forced marriage is where often the bride is given no choice and may even be drugged or threatened with her life to keep her docile to ensure she signs the marriage papers.

The Seven Principles for making Marriage work book review

So I wanted to share some thoughts on this book, The seven principles for making marriage work by John Gottman. This book was actually recommend by Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed at her event that I attended last year about marriage.

My rating: 4/5
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This book teaches us methods that the author has tried and tested on many couples over the years to create a happy marriage. It has easy to follow exercises that you can do as a couple to help resolve conflicts, improve communication, nurture love, fondness and respect for each other.

I found the book very useful and insightful in helping to improve my own marriage. Although there are small things I disagree with the majority of the book is very relatable and easy to understand.

What can make a marriage work is surprisingly simple. Happily married couples aren’t smarter, richer, or more psychologically astute than others. But in their day to day lives, they have hit upon a dynamic that keeps their negative thoughts and feelings about each other (which all couples have) from overwhelming their positive ones. They have what I call an emotionally intelligent marriage.

He first discusses signs of a unhappy marriage and one of the first things discussed in his book, are things that are so toxic to a marriage that he’s named it the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. He discusses how these can create long term problems and eventually lead to the couple becoming emotionally distant and can even cause divorce if they aren’t dealt with.

Then each chapter discusses a principle that will help to achieve a happy marriage.

The first principle is Enhancing your love maps. He explains that couples with detailed love maps of each other are better able to cope with stressful events or conflicts. Having a detailed love map means that they are intimately familiar with each other’s worlds.

The second principle is nurturing your fondness and admiration for each other. This is where you build on the belief that your spouse is worthy of being respected and liked. Reminding yourself of your spouses positive qualities even if you struggle with a negative one.

The third principle is turning toward each other instead of away. So the little things you do on a day to day basis has a greater impact on your marriage than going away for a holiday for example. The way you respond to your spouse can have a big impact on your emotional connection.

The fourth principle is letting your partner influence you. It’s important that you and your spouse make decisions together and you honour and respect each other’s feelings and opinions.

The next principle that was discussed was the two types of conflict, one that you are able to solve and the other that is perpetual. He discussed ways in which we can solve the solvable conflicts through several techniques in how we discuss them.

The sixth principle was overcoming gridlock, where a couple is stuck on a conflict for so long they feel they can no longer move past it. They are conflicts that keep coming up again and again, issues with in laws, when to have children, how to raise your children etc. These issues may never be resolved completely but the goal was to move out of the gridlock and to be able to reach a compromise.

The last principle was creating a shared meaning, so you are not just roommates that have seperate lives but you have goals and you create a life together that has deeper purpose than just sharing chores and looking after kids.

I found this book hugely beneficial even though I read it feeling unsure as to what I would gain from it. His writing can be a bit annoying at times but it well worth reading. Everyone has issues in their marriage, especially at the beginning when we’re learning how to communicate and understand each other but this book actually has really helpful advice in making it more effective.

There was a few things I disagreed with, for example he said the husband should always side with the wife in a disagreement between his wife and his mother. I don’t think it’s just to do that. Instead the husband needs to always remain just in all situations.

I think this is beneficial for anyone who is looking to find ways to strengthen their marriage and help to build better communication and understanding and to resolve conflicts.

Also if you’re interested in books check out my Instagram account @thetsundokuchronicles

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Justice in our Relationships

Amongst many families today especially where in laws are involved there is something very important lacking. That is justice.

It is so important for each member of the family be just in their treatment. The main issue generally arises between the mother/sister in law and the daughter in law. These isues can lead to a lot of hurt and stress for those involved. It can cause stress between son and mother and between husband and wife relationship.

If everyone was just in their treatment of others there would be much more harmony in these relationships.

The daughter in law is not inferior or the maid of the family. She should be treated with respect. She is not obliged to serve her in laws and should not be forced to do so. In the same way the mother in law should be respected and treated in a kind manner.

Most importantly it is necessary for the husband to be just in his treatment especially when problems arise. He should not blindly just side with one or the other. But look at both views and ensure that no one is treated unjustly. Speak to both of them kindly but do not allow one to transgress the other.

Although it may be difficult at first to do this it will eventually become easier and in the long term allow people to live more harmoniously with one another.

Everlasting Marriage part 4

In the last post I spoke about what helps you to make a connection with your spouse. Now I will go through what destroys a relationship.

So when I discussed what makes a connection, a marriage expert John Gottman, through many studies and experience discovered that each relationship has to have a certain percentage of turning towards behaviour. In other words 80% of the time the spouses reaction needs to be to take the hand. Otherwise the relationship will fail.

He discussed in his book four things that destroy a relationship. They are so toxic in a relationship that he called them the four horseman. They are: Critisism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

1. Critisism is when you attack the person rather than the behaviour. So, for example, instead of saying you felt hurt by an action, you say that your spouse is selfish.

2. Contempt is when you talk to them with superiority, like you’re mocking the person. As if you are better than them.

3. Defensiveness is attacking the person rather then taking responsibility. If your spouse tells you they feel hurt, instead of saying sorry, you say that they did something first and that’s why you said what you said.

4. Stonewalling is when you just shut down and disengage.

Constantly doing these things will eventually cut your connection with your spouse. If we want to say something to our spouse we should focus on how we felt. So instead of saying you’re selfish, say I felt hurt when you didn’t consider me. This will be more productive in trying to resolve the issue and less likely to escalate into a fight.

Marriage is supposed to be a refuge where you both can feel safe and find tranquility.

One of the best things you can do to help strengthen your marriage is to build a strong relationship with Allah.

This is the last post in this series. I hope you will find these notes I made beneficial inshaAllah.

Everlasting Marriage part 3

So previously I discussed how Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed spoke about love and how we each love differently. She then spoke about the next part of the ayah which says that not only should there be love between spouses but also mercy.

She defined mercy as; Even when you are angry or upset with your spouse you still don’t want them to be harmed. She described how a couple sitting on a bench facing away from each other, clearly angry, yet as it was raining the husband still held the umbrella over his wife to stop her from getting wet. That, she said, was mercy.

The death of a relationship is when there is no mercy left in it.

Passion, love, intimacy, all of these things go up and down in a relationship but the mercy needs to be consistent. So even if you’re not feeling loving towards your spouse your mercy should still remain.

As a side note; she also mentioned that there are some cases where divorce is necessary and we should not stigmatise people who are getting divorced or are divorced. We should however ensure that we separate on good terms and not spend all that time attacking each other. If no one was supposed to get divorced then it would have been made haram.

In trying to build that love and mercy, your spouse will try to make a connection. They will offer you their hand by trying to make a conversation, for example. There are 3 ways in which you can respond. You can take the hand, you can hit the hand away or you can ignore the hand.

Taking the hand will be the best response, it is what will build that love and mercy. When you take the hand you need to give them your attention, you should face them and you give them respect and importance. It is important for your spouse to know that you love them. You do that by the way you react to what they say or do. Even if they start a conversation about something that doesn’t interest you, you shouldn’t dismiss what they said. It’s all about building the bond regardless of what the actual ¬†conversation is about.

The Prophet (saw) would publicly declare his love for his wife.

Another way to respond would be to hit the hand away. Your response is, who cares. You disrespect and belittle what they say. You act like you don’t have time to listen to them.

The third way to respond would be to ignore the hand. You show no interest, have no reaction to what they said. Your body language shows that what they said is not important.

Both these two ways of responding will create distance between you and your spouse and it can cause problems in your relationship.

Sister Yasmin Mogahed discussed the four things that destroy a relationship. In the next post I will go through them.

Everlasting Marriage part 2

So in the last post I mentioned the 5 love languages. We discussed each of these love languages and how because we all have different ways of feeling loved we should take the time to learn how our spouse feels loved and show our love in a language they understand. To be able to do that we need to know what the love languages are.

They are:

1. Words of affirmation
2. Quality time
3. Receiving gifts
4. Acts of service
5. Physical touch

1. One way to express love emotionally is to use words that build the person up and not tearing them down. Using verbal compliments or words of appreciation are powerful ways to communicate love. Simple statements such as, I feel like I can count on you, can have profound effects on your spouse and your marriage. Saying words of encouragement is another way to express love. Sometimes your spouse just needs words of encouragement to pursue an interest or some untapped potential. The way in which you speak can change the meaning of your words so it’s important to use kind words. When we speak to our spouse we should make requests not demands. Humble words should be used, you are equals.

2. Giving your spouse your undivided attention can be so important. Doing something together whether it’s going for a walk or sitting together on the sofa, paying attention to each other without any distractions. Give your spouse your focused attention, have a good quality conversation and do something together like going out for dinner or spending the weekend away or going for a walk. It’s important to make time for your spouse, it’s not what you do together but why you do it. The experience should make you feel like your spouse cares about you.

3. Gifts are a visual symbol of love. Receiving gifts can be very important to some people. Giving gifts comes naturally to some while others find it difficult. But it’s important to know if your spouse likes to receive gifts and it makes them feel loved that you should do your best to give regular gifts. It’s not about the price of the gift as long as it’s meaningful to them. It could even be something you make if finances are limited.

4. Acts of service are doing things your spouse would like you to do. Actions such as washing dishes, cooking, hoovering, paying bills etc. These things require though, planning, time, effort and energy. For some, when their spouse does these for them it’s an expression of love. Finding out some things your spouse would like you to do and doing these things regularly helps to show your spouse to love them eg. Hoovering every week. These things should be done out of love and not be forced or out of fear or guilt. Some of us may need to reexamine our stereotypes of the roles of husband and wife.

5. Physical touch is a powerful way of communicating marital love. From holding hands or hugging or sexual intimacy, these are all ways to express love. For someone whos love language is physical touch, not getting that can make them feel unloved. Eg. If the wife feels loved by physical touch then it is more important to hold her if she’s upset than to say comforting words.

These are the different ways or “languages” in which people feel and express love. It is important to understand the way in which you feel loved and the way in which your spouse feels loved. If you feel loved by acts of service but your husband feels loved by words of affirmation then you must express your love with words and your husband should express his love through acts of service. Otherwise you may feel you are showing your love but your spouse doesn’t speak that language and will end up feeling unloved.

Only when you are aware of your differences can you start to make compromises. As they say, knowledge is power. No relationship can work with the ‘my way or the highway’ attitude.

More details for this can be found in the book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He has a personal profile for husbands and wives in which you can discover your love language and then discuss that with your spouse.

In the next post I will discuss what Ustadha Yasmin spoke to us about mercy within marriage.

Everlasting Marriage part 1

Recently I attended a seminar run by Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed called Everlasting Marriage. I wanted to share some of the things I learnt with you all.

And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you love and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.
Quran (30:21)

Before she explained this ayah to us, one which we all probably know, she spoke to us about signs. We often confuse the signs Allah sends us with our destination. But the purpose of the sign is to direct us to our destination. A sign is only a means to the end. It is not our destination. We need to be aware of this as we live so we don’t confuse a sign with our destination. Our destination is Jannah. It is not a job, or home, or marriage.

As we discussed this ayah we not only talked about what this ayah is telling us but how we can practically implement these into our lives.

Allah created us to live in sukoon with each other. Our home is meant to be a place of serenity and tranquility. Inside the home it is supposed to be sukoon, it is meant to be a shelter, a refuge from the storm outside. Yet for many of us it the opposite. The storm is inside the home so people go outside to seek serenity. We need to make our refuge inside the home.

The ayah speaks about love (muwadda), in Arabic there are many words which mean love yet Allah chose to use this specific word for love. This is because muwadda means an expressed love. This is a love that you not only say but actively show by the things that you do. It is not a love where all you do is say I love you. It is a love that you show in the things that you do. This shows it is important for a spouse to show their love, it isn’t enough to just say I love you and not show it in any way.

However it is important to note that not everyone expresses love in the same way. The way in which we feel loved, so how we wish to receive it, is often the way in which we express love. However our spouse may not feel loved in the same way as us so it can lead to a miscommunication.

We learnt that there are 5 love languages. So there are 5 different ways in which we can feel loved and express it. It is important to know the way in which we feel loved and the way in which our spouse feels loved so that we can express our love in the way that our spouse understands.

In the next post I will discuss the love languages in more detail inshaAllah.

A Glimpse of Jannah

I love that in the Quran, Allah gives us a glimpse of what Jannah will be like. He tells us about gardens, rivers, food; things that we can see on the earth. And because we can see these things, we can imagine, to our best ability, what Jannah will be like. So because we can see the beauty on the earth, it makes us long for Jannah. We know that no matter how beautiful earth is, Jannah will be so much better. If we could not understand what was being described about Jannah we wouldn’t long for it like we do. This longing helps us to strive for Jannah.

When I’m struggling, when a hardship comes my way, when I’m hurt or afraid, Allah has put these beautiful descriptions of Jannah in the Quran to help us through. Not only describing what Jannah will be like but also telling us that we won’t experience any hardship or sadness or pain or fear in Jannah. That’s one of the most amazing things that Allah could have shared with us. We can live happy and in peace for all of eternity.

That sometimes I want something but I can’t have it but in Jannah we can have whatever we want. We just have to think it and we will get it, whether it’s food, books, clothes, anything!

Knowing these things about Jannah helps us to keep going when we feel like we can’t continue. When we feel like the pain won’t ever go away, knowing that we can live pain free for an eternity can push us to keep going.

So I know that no matter what happens in the dunya, whatever difficulties I may face, as long as I do my best to worship Allah and stay on the straight path, Jannah will be my reward, where I can live peacefully for all of eternity and that the biggest blessing of being in Jannah will be to finally meet our Lord.

Oppressive Marriages and the Shaming Culture

There are many women in our community that are stuck in marriages that they want to leave. They might have a husband who is emotionally or psychologically abusive, or he is physically abusive or he’s repeatedly cheated on her or that they’re so incompatible on so many levels that there is no way for them to have a successful marriage.
But they are forced to stay by family and friends because of the stigma attached to leaving their marriage. They are told to have patience and just stay with him. The reasons they are told is because “what will people say” or “stay for the sake of your children.” They are pressured and shamed into staying.
But this isn’t what we see when we look at the seerah of the prophet (saw). He did not tell women to stay because it will affect your child. He didn’t say that you should worry about what the community will think over your own safety and well being.
Women came to him asking for divorce and he never shamed them or pressured them into staying.
We forget that the toxic environment is detrimental to not only the wife but also to the children. They learn that abuse is okay. They learn that that marriage is not peace and tranquility, it’s a prison. And I always wonder why would you raise your children around someone who is not a good role model. They will learn that behaviour.
Now im not saying that we should get divorced at the first sign of small issues but there are legitimate reasons for women to separate themselves from an abusive and oppressive marriage.
We need to change our mindset towards these things. We need to stop shaming the women into staying. It is difficult enough for these women so don’t add humiliation and shame to make things even harder for them.
With this attitude we oppress the oppressed and empower the oppressor.