For our 4th annual Muslim Women’s Day, we kicked things off with an informative and incredibly frank conversation with four esteemed members of the American Muslim Health Professionals group. The panelists tackled a wide-ranging set of topics centered around how to manage our mental health during the current pandemic.
Led by host Dr. Rukhsana M. Chaudhry, Dr. Uzma Syed, Dr. Rania Awad, and Abeda Khanam, they shares tough truths about what it’s like for healthcare workers on the frontlines, as well as sage advice on how to find the silver lining amongst the darkness, and how to manage anxiety, whether your own or of those within your household.
The video is certainly worth the watch in its entirety, but in the meantime, here are eight of the most important lessons from this vital conversation, as well as answers to your most burning questions during this difficult time.
Remember These Spiritual Mottos.
Dr. Rania Awad laid some fire wisdom on us, inspired by the Quran. And honestly, we could all benefit from the following advice. All three of these mottos are a stark reminder that Allah has created us and that He is always in control. This bestows us a sense of surrender to His will that is one of the foundations of our faith, but a concept that is sometimes forgotten in the hustle of our lives.
Times are tough, but Allah has made us tougher.
Anything Allah has brought us, He has the power to take away.
Allah has brought us to this, and he will bring us through this.
Keep an Eye on the Most Vulnerable Members of Your Household.
Keeping it completely real, as sit should be in uncertain times, Abeda Khanam hit us with the mind-boggling fact that 9 out of 10 children are actually sexually assaulted by someone they know. We need to keep an eye out for our children, particularly as a time where our social circles have instantly reduced. Not everyone’s home is a sanctuary, and as such, we must elevate our efforts in keeping an eye on our kids.
The same goes for the elderly. Elder abuse is always a reality and at a time like this, it can be heightened. So do what you can to touch base with the elderly members of your family! Call them. Really listen to them. Tell them you love them and that you care about them. Make sure they have someone to engage with, even if it’s just through an audio or video call.
Define New Methods of Self-Care.
According to Abeda Khanam, at times like this we can be more susceptible to increased reactions to trauma and this is something we need to be aware of.
One great way to handle this new normal is to create new self-care routines. Why not dust off old board games and puzzles? Limit social media use to a specific time of day and for a specific amount of time. Make COVID-19 a time of self-improvement.
To reiterate the wise words of Khanam, we are our community so why not call the numbers on our phones that we have been collecting? Let’s come out of this healthier and kinder to one another.
Listen to Your Healthcare Providers! They’re Going Through a Lot.
It’s been an especially challenging time for community members as of late because we went from life as usual to completely halting everything and finding our new normal. Whilst our healthcare providers are trained to work under stress, as per Dr. Uzma Syed, they are currently working under a new type of uncertainty and lack of resources, which adds another tremendous layer of stress to their work.
As they work towards figuring out a proven regimen for this virus whilst facing a lack of protected equipment and support staff, our healthcare provider are also trying to figure out how to avoid exposing their own kids, parents and spouses to the virus, given that they are surrounded by it daily.
The least we can do is take this seriously. Dr. Uzma Syed recommended that we accept that we are in a challenging place, to not act like we are invincible and to practice social isolation to the best of our ability. In doing so, we would be balancing a little bit of difficultly in short run so that in long run, we are saving more lives.
How Can We Keep Members of Our Household Occupied? How Can We Help Them Cope?
Develop meaningful activities and create a routine for each week. Khanam revealed that her family’s weekend activity is to find nearby places to hike or hang out, and if the place they arrive at is busy, the game is to find another place.
Additionally, in Khanam’s household, they have a routine to play “Name Place Animal Thing” every night, just before Maghrib.
Switch things up with other activities like old board games and puzzles. Khanam stated that she has seen her 30-year-old kid sit down to play boardgames, despite the fact that she thought those days were gone. So there’s still hope!
Why not explore virtual museums? To find out how, click here!
Dr. Rania Awad emphasized the importance of unplugging since news is now updating at an alarming rate. Unplug and connect with your household instead! Perhaps the elders in your family are missing the community and socializing that came part and parcel with jummah prayers. Perhaps they are feeling more isolated. Keep video calling them, and hear what they have to say. Offer them reassurance and use these difficult times as an opportunity to reconnect.
Put a pause on technological advances and focus on human interaction. Build that routine and think of this as a positive thing. Remember that you are allowed to step outside your house, so play catch with your son or daughter. Get some fresh air! Take your family unit outside because as long as you are not interacting with other people, you’re fine. Reconnect with those in your household unit.
What Alarming Signs of Depression/Anxiety Should We Keep an Eye out For?
Dr. Awad explained that we should always remember that underlying issues can sometimes be exacerbated by the trauma of the pandemic, and some of the signs we should be on the look out are as follows:
- Not being able to get out of bed to do things around the house.
- A change in appetite.
- Having difficulty sleeping.
- People talking about life not being worth living, or being better off dead.
Additionally, a lot of health professionals have shifted to web therapy and sometimes, showing those who are struggling informational video can help them understand and identify what they are going through. The Khalil Center YouTube page is a great resource for videos of that nature.
How Can We Help Family Members Dealing With Depression and Anxiety Under These Circumstances?
Dr. Rania Awad kept it simple: talk and listen. Encourage them to reach out to crisis helplines such as the National Crisis Line, the Khalil Center’s helpline, or the Stones to Bridges helpline. The last two are actually Muslim-specific helplines.
How Can We Speak to Our Children About the People Dying of this Illness?
Dr. Syed acknowledged that a lot of times we don’t speak about death proactively, and instead only tackle it when someone we know dies, so this is a good time to acknowledge death with our children in a safe space.
She recommends a free-flowing conversation and being honest about the fact that some are getting sick, and while some will recover, others, unfortunately may not. Treat your kids as adults, and explain to them that there is a reason why everyone is staying home and they are not going to school. Offer them messages of hope, even whilst remaining realistic.
How Do We Cope With the Anxiety of Getting Sick?
Whilst acknowledging that this time isn’t easy, Dr. Syed recommended that we focus on our faith and prayer to help cope with everything. Remember that everything is in Allah’s hands, all we can do is spend each minute as our best minute with family.
We need to educate, communicate, stay cautious, and spend time with family to keep fear at bay. We have to maintain faith in our roots and deen.
Dr. Awad added on that fear is a real emotion that Allah created so it’s a normal reaction. therefore, there is no need to shame your fear, but shift the thinking. Since men can’t go into the mosque for spiritual seclusion, we women can take up the mantle by doing it at home. For a short time with your prayer each day, practice itikaaf (social seclusion) and reflect on something specific. For example, remember that Allah has stated that He will not burden a soul with more than it can bear. Remember that nothing happens that Allah hasn’t already ordained.
Khanam advised that we be mindful of the guidelines and accept that being afraid is normal, but that it won’t help us. Households mirror the emotions being put out so children will feed off anxiety. Dr. Syed added hat it would be helpful to find a productive outlet so that we aren’t fearful all the time. We need to be cognizant of how we are feeling as it will affect how those in your household are feeling.
To round off this incredible chat, Dr. Chaudhry concluded that whilst things are tough right now, this is a great opportunity to focus on our community within the guidelines. Pick up groceries for those at risk and deliver them whilst remaining contactless. If we work together, we can figure out how to transform difficult experiences into something meaningful for the community