hijabi woman holding onto wire fence

Dealing with difficult emotions

Life can feel like unbearable agony at times – and most of us experience difficult feelings which seem almost impossible to cope with at some point in our lives. But if you’re feeling this way, you can get through it, and there are some practical things you can do to feel better. 

Life is unpredictable. We can feel immense joy one day and hit rock bottom the next. In moments of extreme distress, we can feel ready to give up, and then suddenly, something comes along and forces our attention elsewhere. But things can start to go ‘downhill’ with our mental health when we feel stuck with uncomfortable feelings that won’t seem to go away, or when we feel completely numb as though we stopped feeling anything at all – just emptiness.

However you’re feeling is valid.

All your emotions are a natural response to the things you are experiencing – and there’s no shame in having feelings. Whatever you are going through, you can get through it. 

It’s normal to struggle with your mental health sometimes, and you are not alone – so please don’t let shame keep you suffering in silence. 

Things that help with emotional suffering: 

“God intends for you ease, not hardship.” – Qur’an 2:185 

Immediate action – for when you’re in emotional distress: 

Long-term strategies are important, but when emotions are taking over here are things that can really help you calm down in the moment:

  • Tell someone. Talk about your feelings. Let the people around you know you’re struggling – you are not alone, don’t suffer in silence. (Get tips on starting a conversation about your mental health)
  • Text or call a friend when you feel emotions start to build to disrupt a negative spiral
  • Text or call a mental health services for immediate crisis support (see list at end of page)
  • Ping an elastic band on your wrist every time you notice negative thoughts creeping into your mind to bring your attention back into the present moment. 
  • Try breathing exercises – this can have an instant impact on your body and relieve tension, reduce stress and feelings of anxiety or panic. 
  • If you’re about to self-harm find a suitable distraction – text a friend, go for a walk, play loud music, text/call a support line
  • Notice your senses and surroundings: name five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. 

Feeling mentally prepared for bumps in the road: 

When we struggle with our mental health, life can be a struggle generally. But as we seem to get our head about the water another wave crashes down. Mental illness and recovery is a bumpy process, so something that can help is making sure we are prepared for our lowest moments so they don’t catch us out completely when they appear: 

  • Let people around you know what helps you, and what makes you feel worse, so they know how to react when you’re in distress or feeling low. Don’t assume it’s obvious, because if you don’t tell them they might never know
  • It’s ok if you don’t know what kind of support helps you. You can try different things and figure it out with the people who are supporting you.
  • Get an appointment and speak to your doctor for advice about feeling better:
    • You can ask about mental health services available in your location
    • Verify information you’ve read online and get their opinion 
    • Ask questions about medication and the alternatives 
  • Find out if your school or workplace offer any form of mental health support
  • Take some time out of work or school if you are able to, the same as you would if you were struggling with your physical health
  • Take a spiritual health-check – this can help you set meaningful goals for getting through this time of difficulty 
  • Write a letter to yourself which you can read when you get overwhelmed reminding yourself how far you’ve come, that you are worth it, and you can get through it 
  • Create a box of mementos and trinkets that remind you of good feelings and memories. You can open this box when you need it. The box could include:
    • Objects that feel good to the touch – a stress ball, a teddy, blu-tack, a fidget-toy
    • Photos of happy memories, or people/things that comfort you
    • A letter to yourself  
    • Inspiring quotes 
    • A calming fragrance or room spray 
  • Put up post-it notes in your living space with messages that help and inspire you  

Healthy habits:

Habits can take a while to form but if we make the effort to create new habits that support our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, it can really boost our mental health overall. Remember even small changes to our daily habits can have a big impact. Why not try some of these:

Reach out for support

Finding safe, healthy distraction techniques when things feel too overwhelming is really important. But these only deal with the symptoms and not the root cause of your problems. If distressing feelings are affecting your life, it’s vital that you get help to deal with whatever is causing you to feel this way. You deserve support, and you don’t have to go through this alone.  

“It comforts me reading stories of the prophets and how they felt sadness, grief, worry, loneliness and everything else. If they suffered and they were the most grateful, faithful people ever, then what about me? I’m a regular human and I’m allowed not to feel ok.”

Dealing with self-harm

Sometimes in difficult times, people turn to self-harm as a way to release or express difficult emotions, or to get some kind of relief from what’s going on in the mind. Sometimes it can feel easier to make sense of the emotional pain within, by experiencing physical pain on the outside. 

If you can relate to this, because you have harmed yourself before, thought about it, or you’re stuck in a pattern of self-harming, it might help you to know that it’s far more common than you might think.

You are not strange, or weak, or crazy. And you do not have to go through this alone.

A lot of people go through periods of self-harm, but with the right support, it is something that you can stop doing. Life won’t always feel this way – you can get through this.  

If you have harmed yourself and you’re worried your life and health are at risk, call the emergency services immediately. Your safety is the most important thing. 

Get to know yourself better

There’s no one road to travel down when it comes to mental health healing and recovery. But very often, something that can help in the long-run is understanding better all the parts that make up you. It sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. You can do this with the help of a culturally informed therapist. Or if you can’t access therapy, (and even if you can) check out these helpful resources as starting place to empower yourself with the tools you need for better self-awareness and positive mental health.   

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It all starts by accepting your feelings, without judgement. 

“I started following a few psychologists and every so often I’d learn something that applied to me and my situation. It prompted me to read a couple of books that really helped. I’m no expert and I actually want to see a therapist someday but at least I know a bit more about how my mind works and why I think and do certain things. I’ve learnt some strategies that help me feel able to cope.  

Read more about self-help and owning your healing journey.

Recognise and acknowledge all your feelings  

Sometimes we experience many different feelings at the same time, and that’s normal. For example, you might think ‘I’m angry’, but beneath that anger there could be so many other feelings going on. For example, loneliness, betrayal, sadness, hurt, disgust and fear. Being able to identify different feelings can be empowering and help us begin to untangle the different things that might be triggering us. Take a look at this ‘feelings wheel’, and take a moment to reflect on how you are feeling.

image credit feelingswheel.com

However you’re feeling is valid.  

Things that can help you untangle your emotions and understand their root causes can include: 

Urgent help

If you’re in the UK or US and you need to talk to someone right now, here are some places where you can get free 24/7 support by text or call: 

If you’re not in the UK or US you can search your location here or here.

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