I was asked this question a few days ago, and thought it would be best to share as a post of its own because of the importance and relevance it has to the Muslim community, and people overall in today’s world. I also receive questions regularly on my Tumblr blog, and so I will try to post the longer responses here as well, insha Allah.
Assalamu ‘Alaikum Akhi! i was wondering if you have any advice on how to cope with depression and anxiety from a religious stand point. As i have found it quite difficult to discuss it with family due to the stigma in my culture. may Allah reward you for everything you have accomplished and may He make your future goals possible with his grace ameen.
Wa alaikum assalaam,
My apologies for the delay in responding to your question. I wanted to take some time to think about it and determine how to answer it in the best way I could.
Depression is a touchy topic, not because of the fact that it’s considered taboo to discuss, but because of its fragile nature. As a person who was once diagnosed with clinical depression, and was able to overcome it by the Mercy of Allah, with faith and determination, and without the use of medication, I feel I hold a unique view on the subject. Still, I am not a scholar or a doctor, so I can’t say much based on evidences other than what I’ve used in my own experiences. I would suggest that in addition to my response, you also seek the counsel of a Muslim whose Islamic knowledge and wisdom you trust, as well as the advice of a doctor specialized in the specific types of struggles you are facing that are causing your current state.
First thing to address is the difference between depression and sadness. Both, at their varying degrees, can be mistaken for one another. Both are also serious things that should be addressed as soon as possible. Regardless of which it is, recognize that both can be addressed, and will only determine your future if you allow them to.
Personally, when I went through this, I first looked at my faith. I gave myself an in-depth self-check, and asked myself whether or not I was truly doing my best with my faith. As a Muslim, I know that my solution in any and everything ultimately relies on Allah, and so, I chose to first put my focus on that. That said, I would suggest you take a look at the basic elements of practicing and believing in the faith, and ask yourself where you stand with them. For example, how is your Tawakkul? Do you recognize that Allah is the One who is able to do all things and is the facilitator of your affairs? Do you know and sincerely believe in the following verse?
“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned.” – Quran (2:286)
Do you know with full confidence and certainty that Allah is the Most Merciful, and won’t put you through anything you can’t handle – which ultimately tells you that you are capable of overcoming any and everything you face? These were the first things that I had to learn to accept and truly believe in. It took some time and convincing (within myself), but I was able to do it, because I knew it was the truth. I knew that the truth was something that just needed to be engrained into my soul. In order to make these aspects of the faith a part of my very essence, I knew that I needed to take action to build my relationship with Allah. So, I began to focus on seeking the Help of Allah, by making a lot of dua, but in moderation. Even dua is something that must be done in moderation, because it is very easy for us to fall into this condition of begging Allah for help, expecting Him to fix everything with some miracle, without actually making the effort to do something positive and productive towards building myself back up. And so, I began to focus on perfecting my Salah. That didn’t mean that I just jumped in and started increasing the quantity of my prayers and worship. The key isn’t quantity – it’s quality. So, I began with focusing on the Fard (obligatory) prayers, and ensuring that I perfected every moment of that prayer. I didn’t worry about how long each prayer took. Sometimes, praying Asr would take me 20-25 minutes, Alhamdulillah. My focus was on finding that connection with Allah in every prayer. After this became a comfortable part of my lifestyle, I began to give back more by volunteer with programs (run by Muslims and non-Muslims) that were focused on helping those that were struggling in life (I don’t like using the term “less-fortunate people” because I feel it leads to negative judgments of others). When you work with people who are struggling more than you are, you begin to truly appreciate the good in your life, and it helps bring things into perspective. So, my faith comprised of three things: Dua, Salah, and Sadaqah. Since then, I have constantly worked towards building my Imaan through other actions, which I may discuss another day, insha Allah.
Consider solidifying your spiritual health as being your warm-up before taking on the workout that is life.
After this, I began to focus on taking care of myself more. After spiritual health, how much emphasis do you put on your physical and mental health? Work towards increasing your physical activity in life. Push yourself when you train, and let out your emotions, feelings, and stress, while also maintaining balance and ensuring you don’t overstep and hurt yourself. This is a great way to learn how to gain control of your emotions and thoughts. Building on controlling your mind helps immensely in your growth and in fighting falling back into depression or sadness. I have experienced things that are FAR worse than what I faced when I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and since then, I’ve found myself to be in more control of my mind and the struggles I face.
When it comes to your mental health, it’s important to recognize that we are created balanced, and that as we go through life, we lose balance, and it’s on us to maintain equilibrium. Take a break sometimes. Work hard at other times. Listen to your body. Know that life is balanced, meaning that things won’t always work out your way, but rather will be balanced with going your way and going another way. There is yin and yang in everything. Two ways for anything to go, and you must understand that life will always go as it is meant to, not as you want it to.
Finally, I want you to ask yourself about your condition. I understand the taboo quality the concept of depression holds in almost every culture around the world, but you must understand that the way things are thought to be is irrelevant to you and what you face now. If I followed the path that was “expected” of me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Don’t discredit the weight depression and/or sadness can place on a person’s shoulders, but always remember that you are never faced with anything that you can’t handle, that everything you face is a challenge to make you a greater and better person, and that what you face is only as heavy and overwhelming as you let it be. Face life with confidence in Allah, and in yourself. Allah wouldn’t have you face anything you can’t handle, which means that He, the All-Knowing, Most Wise, has confidence in you being able to fight through it. And the last thought I’ll leave you with is one that gives me peace whenever I begin to struggle and feel overwhelmed with something in my life:
“There is no calamity that strikes a believer, even if it as small as the prick of a thorn, except that it expiates the sins of that believer.” – Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
I pray that Allah gives you strength and guidance as you work towards overcoming your sadness or depression, and that you find peace and control within your heart and mind as you move forward with your life. May Allah give you the best in this life and the Hereafter. Ameen.