Asalaamu ‘alaikum my sisters, I hope you are feeling positive and joyful as you read this. There are times when it is difficult to feel joyful, aren’t there? We may feel challenged to be positive in the face of difficulties. It is extremely difficult to remain energetic when we’re feeling ill, or are dealing with a financial or relationship challenge. It makes sense that in challenging times, our energies ebb and flow, but what happens to us when we feel down, but can’t put our finger on the reasons why. The “blues” can take over without presenting us with an apparent cause. Noor’s* story is a perfect example. Noor admits that, overall, her life is pretty good. She is single, has an interesting career and is financially stable. Recently, however, she found herself often waking with feelings of tiredness or a lack of willingness to face the day. At other times, she would feel guilty for not getting more done. Noor was feeling anxious, upset and unfulfilled when she came for coaching. Through the process, she began to notice that nothing was really wrong in her life. She just needed to make a few adjustments and focus her energies on figuring out what was missing, what she was longing for and what she really wanted to achieve. Soon, she was finding a more fulfilling direction.
Whether we know the reason or not, feeling negative or emotionally drained leaves little room for action or enjoyment. So, here are a few tips to help you regain a sense of wellbeing.
Shifting your expectations
One cause of negative thinking is when results are the opposite of our hopes or expectations. Think back to the last time you embarked on something important, but things didn’t quite go to plan. How did that leave you feeling? Did the disappointment linger or perhaps stop you from trying again? Hope is an essential part of building our dreams, but it needs to be managed with realistic expectations. Say, for example, that you’re planning a big gathering for a 100 people. You’re expecting that at least 90 will turn up. As the day approaches, you find that people have had to cancel. Instead of setting new margins for success, you begin to feel disheartened. However, this would be the ideal time to reset your expectations. By doing so, you give yourself a new plan to work towards; a new opportunity for success emerges. This is equally relevant with your daily planning. Are you setting up your day in a way that it is realistic to achieve what you planned? Or are things planned in a rather delicate back-to-back fashion? If so, then your expectations of what you can realistically get done in a day may need some adjusting. Planning our days for success leaves us feeling productive and empowered. Begin exploring your expectations, and make adjustments where you need to.
Create a structure (if you don’t have one)
Another cause of falling into disempowering patterns of thinking is a lack of stimulating or fulfilling things to focus on. Being a mum, for example, may well be fulfilling, but not having stimulating conversation or company regularly may wear you down. Also, not having a structure or routine can also be wearing on your emotional wellbeing. If you are finding that your days seem disorganised or you feel a sense of loneliness, then now is the time to create some routines that fulfil you. Enrol in a class once or twice a week that will get you engaging with other adults, or set out some structured time to exercise on a regular basis. Look for little things that you can do (preferably at the same time of day) that will fit within your current lifestyle. Choose things that will give you a sense of enjoyment and achievement as well. Soon, you will begin to notice the negative patterns being broken. Begin with one or two small steps and build from there.
Managing negative self-talk (notice what’s good)
Ever hear that little voice in your head? You may be asking “What little voice in my head?”. It’s the same voice that just said those very words. You have your internal dialogue as your constant companion, which is probably a very good thing if the quality of what you’re hearing is good. However, if your self-talk is being negative or critical, then that little voice can make life very challenging indeed. Think of this voice like a wild horse. If it remains untamed then it goes in all directions, controlling how you feel. It is really is essential to hear it and manage it so that it works for you, rather than you being controlled by it. One of the best ways of doing this is to simply change your physical position. So, if you’ve been lying down, sit up. If you’ve been sitting at home or work, just stand up and move around. This movement will, first of all, break that pattern in the moment. When you’re feeling better, and perhaps not immediately after, ask yourself “What is my internal talk really trying to tell me? What is the message here? What do I need to notice, change or improve?”. You will hear an answer emerging. The next step is to take some action on that message, so you can resolve the underlying issue that has been troubling you.
This next tip is especially important to implement if we have a habit of engaging in negative self-talk. Ever known anyone who does lots of good things, but only focuses on their mistakes? They may actually be forgetting all the good things that they’ve done. Humility is very important in Islam, and you may rightly be fearful of being arrogant. Arrogance is when you compare yourself to others while putting them down, whereas, when you just notice something good that you’ve done, it is just that – noticing! This small act provides innumerable benefits, including an increase in motivation, feelings of gratitude, as well as helping you to develop your dreams. Try this exercise every day for two weeks and see how you feel. Keep a notebook by your bed. Just before you’re about to sleep, take 5 minutes to write down three things that you did well during the day. It could be anything from cooking a nice meal, to offering prayers on time. Write down whatever comes to mind. Next, make a note of how you are feeling, as you notice what you did well. If you find that you’re getting a sense that you could have performed better during the day, then make a note of “things that I could have done better”, and write how you will do them better next time (providing yourself with a plan). The last step is to truly close the day, and let go of any negative emotions before you sleep. Insha Allah, by building this habit of taking a productive stock of how you’re doing, you will not only feel better, but have something tangible to progress towards.
Sayeda Habib is a highly qualified professional coach. She coaches Muslim women to help them feel empowered and create results in their lives. She coaches clients one to one and also runs group workshops. She holds the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential issued by the International Coach Federation. She is the author of “Discover the Best in You: Life Coaching for Muslims.” She also contributes to various online and print publications. She has been featured in the media in various countries including Pakistan, the UAE and the United Kingdom. To find out more, log on to www.makelifehappen.com or email at Sayeda@makelifehappen.com