Disclaimer: This article is in no way meant to substitute for medical or mental health advice from a trained and educated mental health professional. Muslim Girl encourages those who need help to seek it, and encourages the use of resources such as therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and trained mental health professionals. You should never try to manage your mental health alone. You are not alone, and there is no shame in seeking professional help. Muslim Girl also does not recommend self-diagnosis; again, please seek the help of a professional. The following are the views and experiences of the author only.
We, as women, have a special role in society as daughters, mothers, wives, and friends. Can anyone deny that the emotional labor expected of women is far more than what is expected of men? This is not to say that men are not expected to take care of others, but according to universally internalized societal norms, women are historically expected to be caretakers in a way that men have not been, and still are not.
For example, did you know that women do approximately 50 – 60 percent more household chores, on average, than men? Women tend to do a majority of the childcare too. And aren’t we only too familiar with the fact that when men do any childcare and housework, it’s often seen as a favor? It’s almost like they are volunteering to do work that is actually a “woman’s job!”
Women tend to do a preponderance of unpaid labor, and this contributes to the wage gap where women tend to make a lower wage than men for the same jobs, with the same qualifications. The wage gap is a reflection of the expectation that women should do work for free. We know this is not the Sunnah, and that Muslim men are supposed to compensate their wives for housework and other labor, but the reality is that this often doesn’t happen.
We know that ideally, these standards will change because we will make them change. We will stand up as women and force society to be more fair. But as of right now, it’s just not the case.
So with all this in mind, with all this energy spent on taking care of others, what are we doing to take care of ourselves? How do we sustain ourselves in the face of this expectation that we, as caregivers, ought to give and give and give? Most women I know feel joy and happiness in doing a lot of this unpaid labor, especially when we have the internal resources to be able to freely give. We love to give; it’s a joy! However, to quote an age-old adage, no one can pour from an empty cup. So what do we do to make sure we are nourishing ourselves to stay sustained and healthy?
Here’s a few quick things that we can do to increase our internal resources and fill up the metaphorical tank. These self-care tips are both Islamic tips, each based on multiple ayahs in the Quran, and also scientific research which is easily accessible online.
So, without further ado, here are four self-care tips from the Quran (and science):
1. Take Time for Your Faith.
“VERILY IN THE REMEMBRANCE OF ALLAH DO HEARTS FIND REST.”
SURAH AR-RAD 13:28
Whatever this looks like for you, we all have to build time into our days and nights for our faith to be sustained. Making salaat, doing dhikr, and reading Quran are not just our duties to Allah. They can also be a source of peace and serenity. Prayer improves health! A variety of studies and research have shown that prayer fights depression, helps coping with stress, and makes you live longer.
2. Practice Gratefulness.
“BE GRATEFUL AND I WILL GIVE YOU MORE.”
SURAH IBRAHIM 14:7
While it may not always be the easiest thing, cultivate an attitude of gratitude! Gratitude has been shown in clinical studies to reduce stress, improve sleep, alleviate depression, and generally improve our quality of life. Gratitude is a buffer against stress, and a guarantee of increased blessings. A gratitude journal is a great way to do this and there’s all kinds of tips online and apps to help.
3. Spend Some Time Contemplating Nature.
“VERILY IN THIS ARE SIGNS FOR THOSE WITH REASON.”
SURAH AR-RUM 30:21-26
Go out, take your shoes off, and scrunch your toes in grass — be it a local park or your backyard. Take time to go around trees, or to the beach, or any natural open space. Nature is one of the three books of Allah that we need to read and study, the other two being the Quran and each of our individual lives. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it’s incredibly important. Nature can benefit our physical and mental health greatly, and rapidly. Spending time in nature has been shown in studies to improve short-term memory, reduce inflammation, fatigue, stress, anxiety, protect vision, and lower blood pressure.
4. Start a Daily Mindfulness Practice.
“…SO YOU MAY BE MINDFUL.”
SURAH AN-NAHL 16:90
The word “dhikr” in the Quran is often translated as “mindfulness.” The word “taqwa” is also translated as ”mindfulness” by multiple translators. As usual, the science of the Quran predates and predicts the science of 2019. Daily meditation and mindfulness has tons of science to prove that it’s healthy and helpful. As little as 10 minutes a day of meditation or mindfulness practice can drastically improve health, reduce stress, and make life better all around! The app “Insight Timer” is a great way to do this, and many people find the “Headspace” app to be terrific as well.
In conclusion, let’s cultivate our health and our strength with these healthy practices courtesy of the Quran and science. Let’s stay strong! As the hadith says:
“The strong believer is more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, but there is goodness in both of them. Be eager for what benefits you, seek help from Allah, and do not be frustrated. If something befalls you, then do not say: If only I had done something else. Rather say: Allah has decreed what he wills. Verily, the phrase ‘if only’ opens the way for the work of Satan.”
So, let’s work hard on our health and strength without getting discouraged or losing heart (I know, I know. Tomorrow is always my favorite day to exercise, too). As another saying goes, “Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do.” (Proverbs 6:4-6).