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Saturday, 5 October 2019

From a student to a working adult: My Methods of Handling Stress and Anxiety



Stress and anxiety relate with each other, the same goes with depression, as there is the existence of the DASS (Depression Anxiety Stress Scale) test, a psychological test that is used to measure your levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

When taking the test, make sure that you are currently not experiencing any recent events that had brought your mood to its lowest point, like, recently failing an exam, having a breakup, etc. These events could usually cause you stress, but not to the point of depression, unless the subject taking this test had endured an extremely traumatic event and having a long time to recover from it. The key is to assess whether you had been experiencing the same feelings consistently for two weeks in a row, without any trigger factors that lead to you feeling so. Ever had the feeling of ‘emptiness’ and ‘sadness’ but you couldn’t figure out what makes you sad?

I once had taken this test when I was having my PMS, and as you can expect, the results showed that I have high levels of stress, anxiety and depression, LOL.

If I had taken the same test today, the results might came out different. I might have a normal levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Because let’s face it, being a woman is difficult. You couldn’t control the levels of hormones in your body. One day you’re feeling over the moon, and another day you got irritated over silly things and felt ready to snap to everyone who seemingly conspired to ruin your day.

But don’t worry. Everyone has their own stress. It’s how you handle those stress that makes all the differences. Remember what Allah said, ‘Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear’ (Al-Baqarah 2:286). So when you experience stress, make it a mantra saying that this feeling is just temporary. With Allah’s help, you can get through this. Also, in the must-watch Japanese drama ‘Jin’, there is this main character who coined up the saying “God gives you challenges so that you could overcome it!” So, try to look at your problems as challenges, and think of ways of how you could get through those tests and challenges.

I watched Nouman Ali Khan’s video titled ‘A Life of Ease’ and he said that life in this world is supposed to be hard. But it’s your level of faith that makes it easy for you to undergo through those hardships. NOT to say that those suffering from depression have low level of faith. Just like any other diseases, the psychiatric diseases is also derived physiologically, with some people having more active receptors, lower levels of serotonins, and etc. When hardships struck them, they couldn’t respond to these hardships as normally as those with normal brain physiological functions could. So they take each problem harder than everyone else. Have pity for them. For us. I’m included in one of those people, being extremely sensitive who takes offence at the slightest remark. I’m trying to improve myself by not caring what people think. I don’t care.

So when I was a student, I was stressed at some points of my life. I got stressed mainly because of my quizzes marks. Even when I had managed to pass my quiz, I still got bummed over the average marks, comparing myself with those high achievers. Thus, there were several things I did to overcome my stress in university.

1.       Drinking coffee.
This works, in a way. Placebo effect, I guess. Whenever I got stressed, I would head to the cafeteria and bought a can of coffee, usually a Nescafe Latte. Then I would sit somewhere, taking my time to sip the coffee while gathering my thoughts. I felt better. I was inspired to do this after watching a Japanese drama ‘Hotaru no Hikari’ whereby Hotaru (played by Ayase Haruka) was severely scolded by her boss for a mistake she had made. She drank several cans of beer during lunch (how she managed not to get drunk, I never know) and gave herself a pep talk. Then, she continued doing her job as though nothing happened. Obviously I couldn’t drink beers or any alcoholic drinks so coffee is sufficient for me. LOL.

2.       Searching for motivational quranic ayats and tweeting about them.
I remember fearing that I might fail an exam paper after I did rather poorly on the essay parts. Then I went on scouring through the internet hoping that Allah will give me the strength and signs that I will not fail the paper. So I came across this Quranic verse (can’t remember the exact one) and I was really comforted after reading it, knowing that Allah will never inflict unnecessary harms to His believers. I MUST SEARCH FOR THAT QURANIC VERSE ! Then, another deep and meaningful Quranic verse from Surah-Al Baqarah’ verse 155 : “And We Will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient’. This makes me so inspired, knowing that this feeling of fear is a test! He wants to know whether I could overcome it! So, instead, of succumbing to my fear of failing, I believe that there is still hope for me to pass the subject. Thus I studied all night and did really well for my MCQ paper that when the results came out, I passed the subject, Alhamdulillah!

3.       Blogging/Writing
I used to blog regularly and frequently when I was a student. Hahaha. Those who know me, know me. I am so glad that I created this blog when I was 17 and that I had never stopped blogging since then. I just regret deleting some of the old entries (because I was embarrassed of them) rather than keeping them in drafts.

4.       Going to the mosque and attending usrahs.
My favourite part. The UIA Mosque is just several hundred metres away from my mahallah. Sometimes I walked alone to the mosque for Maghrib prayers, staying until Isyak and reciting the Quran all by myself. Sometimes I cried when reciting the Quran. Thank God nobody I know was around. Haha.

One of the beautiful things about UIA is the existence of usrahs. I miss my weekly usrah sessions whereby we would gather in the mosque or at the park, reciting Quran, reflecting on the meanings of Quranic ayats, and doing other beneficial activities that act as supplements to your soul.

5.       Jogging/running.
Again, I love the fact that I could jog comfortably several rounds around the lake in front of my mahallah as there were no guys around. Jogging makes me happy (and healthy!).

6.       Called my mother.

She would usually give me pep talks when it comes to academic matters. Because when I was a student, I had no other problems (no boyfriends thus no relationship problems, my lecturers are nice as compared to my nasty FRPs back when I was a PRP, I have friends, etc) other than academic-related problems.

7.       Go to the Library and read books.
The Leisure Section at the UIA Kuantan’s Public Library was my favourite place of retreat. I would walk under the hot scorching sun just so I could be with my books, who understand me better than anyone else, LOL.

So that was how I handled stress when I was a student.

Now when I’m a full-grown adult (LOL), I still experience stress, mind you. That stress with the higher-ups, coworkers, KPIs and many others. But whenever I felt sad and angry, I…

1.       Tried looking at myself from an outsider’s perspective aka counting your blessings.
Sometimes I compared myself with others. Social media is really bad in that sense. I look at this girl and thought to myself, I wish I’m that pretty. I look at that jet-setting person, and said, I wish I have more time and money to travel. We are always looking up, yearning for something other people have that we often forget to look down and forget that for all the things we currently have are being coveted by the less fortunate people.  I have a job with a well-paid salary! I have a car, I have a phone, I have a comfortable place I could call home, I am not suffering from any illnesses, and my parents are still alive and healthy. I have this…I have that…Alhamdulillah for everything. Thus, counting your blessings really help to bring you back up. There are many people who wish to be in my place now. They wouldn’t mind going through the stress I have as long as they have a job and money to pay through their daily expenses (eg FOOD). If you have a place to live, even a phone where you could read this and scroll through your instagram with, then you are really lucky and fortunate.

There is this patient with a tongue cancer in my hospital. Imagine being in her position. If you removed your tongue, you couldn’t taste food or speak. If you chose not to remove it, then it will metastasize and eventually causing death. Be grateful that you have a tongue of which you could taste food with, and speak with. Thus, take good care of your tongue by only saying good things.

2.       Watch motivational and inspiring videos from youtube.
I watch Nouman Ali Khan’s lectures, taking notes of the important points from each lecture, I watch videos on minimalism, zero-waste, and self-improvements. I am currently addicted towards videos showing you how to pack for a long trip, folding and fitting everything into a single backpack.

3.       Cleaning my room and decluttering.
This is very therapeutic. Whenever I feel upset, I start pulling my bed sheet tautly, arranging my pillows, then moving on to my desk, cupboard, bookshelf and dressing table, arranging and rearranging everything. Then I would vacuum my room, open the windows to air it, and spray the air freshener into my room. Sometimes I would even scrub my bathroom floor and polish the mirrors and sink. Doing these make me feel happier. Having more possession makes your mind cluttered and thus, as you started decluttering your possessions and belongings, you declutter your mind too.

4.       Journaling
Before the age of blogspot, instagram, Friendster or what nots, I chose to pour out my wreck-up emotional feelings onto my diaries. Whenever I was dissatisfied with my mom (rebel!), I obviously couldn’t argue with her (because moms are always right, kan?) So I chose to pour it out in my diary. Gosh, I was such an angsty hormonal teenager back then. I wish my future children would be very obedient. And I shall encourage them to vent their anger in their own private diaries too.

Thus, journaling, writing diaries, blogging, these same things, they had been a habit of mine since I was young. Surely I couldn’t pour out everything online, so I chose to write them out into my diaries, and talk to Allah about it.

5.       Spending at least 10 minutes every day to make prayers to Allah.
I mean, praying after your 5 obligatory prayers. I was sometimes in a hurry to make prayers after solat. So I dedicated my Subuh and my Maghrib prayers exclusively to pray extensively to Allah. I would ask for so many things, I would pray for so many things, for so many people, I tell him about my feelings, etc, and sometimes, when I least expect it, tears would roll down. Because halfway through your prayer, you feel this immense gratitude that Allah is there to listen to all your melodramas and first-world problems and yet, He never judge you for it. He is As-Sami’ the All-Hearing. So, just pour out your feelings towards Him, do it everyday. If you couldn’t do it in Subuh or Maghrib, then just do it once in Isyak, before you go to bed. Your life will change to a betterment, I can assure you!

So I make it a habit to tell and confide to Allah about my problems. Thus, whenever I am at work, feeling stressed and annoyed, I felt like I couldn’t wait to go home and sit in my room, couldn’t wait to pray to Allah and tell Him about my problems. It’s a nice feeling!

6.       Go out with your friends and housemates
Sure, you need time to be alone, but sometimes, it helps to liven up your mood when you go out to have dinner with your friends and housemates. Having great housemates is a blessing, and I thank Allah for that, Alhamdulillah.

7.       Taking care of yourself
Meaning, taking care of your health by eating well, skipping sugary drinks and fast food. Then, jogging or running, frequent face massage, making your own home spa in your bathroom, pampering yourself with sheet masks that make your face glow. All these increase the dopamine levels (dopamine: known as the happy hormone. It’s a type of neurotransmitter, actually). You will feel healthier, prettier and thus happier!

8.       Reading al-Quran everyday.
During the phase where I chose to recite al-Waqiah every morning and al-Mulk every night (on top of the daily recitation of al-Quran), I definitely felt happier. Al-Waqiah is a surah said to increase providence and sustenance from Allah. The feeling of happiness is also a form of rizq!

9.       Going for a short retreat or just come back home.
I really love Jason Mraz’s song ’93 million miles’. ‘Just know, wherever you go, you can always come back home’. Thus I make it a point to drive more than 300 km to my hometown every month as I miss my parents and my siblings, and all the familiarity of home. Money doesn’t matters when it comes to your family. The time you spent for them is simply priceless.

10.   Read books
And of course, reading books! Reading had been my first and most favourite hobby. Reading fictions is a good way to reduce your anxiety as some stories could be very inspirational, with strong characters who encourage you to never give up, to move forward, facing boldly whatever challenges life throws at you. I also love reading historical books, knowing that what I’m experiencing now is nothing like what those who had lived during war-torn eras had gone through. It makes me grateful! So, read books! J

I hope all these help you in battling your own stress and anxiety. Just know that every single human in this world had stress, is having stress and is going to experience stress. Don’t look at the social media to seek out the meaning of a perfect life because nobody’s life is perfect. The seemingly perfect people are always choosing the good parts of their lives to be displayed on social media. I mean, who would want to showcase the bad things happening to them for all to know and see, right? As the saying goes, good news are meant to be shared! Not the bad ones, of course.

I pray that you find the strength and courage to find the solutions to your problems. Aameen.

P/S Writing about ways of how to handle stress really helps to alleviate my stress and improve my mood as well!

2 comments:

Luqman Fauzi said...

I want to genuinely thank you for this post. I'm in a slump emotionally right now, and reading this makes me feel less lonely

Sarah said...

No probs. Everyone has their own days of ups and downs. The most important thing is for us to realize that nothing is everlasting, that includes our problems and whatever bad feelings derived from those probs. I wish you all the best!