Every family goes through stressful phases in life; We too, have been through our fair share. Recently, Rammal Mehmud and Sajida Waheed asked me on Facebook to conduct a workshop on my stress management techniques. Since, the workshop cannot be done right now, so I’m doing my next best thing – a blog post.
My stress back ground:
Setbacks faced in last eight months:
- Financial: Starting with wedding of my batman and cook in Dec. ’18, and Jan. ’19 there was a financial strain on me already. In February, while my one tenant had to leave, repairs had to be done, and loss of rent of the month was faced too. All this cost me double, as the new tenants had to be removed three months later. (Don’t ask me why!) More loss, more repairs.
- Deaths in my home: End of February, I lost my father and my strength. So naturally, I had to manage his burial arrangements, and guests. Hardly a month later, my cook Abdul Rahim died. (He had been with me for twenty years, and literally a family member for us).
- More Emotional setbacks: Dissolution of my youngest daughter’s engagement in Jan.
- Intellectual challenges: The horror stories of going through the paper work that goes with a death. (Still buried under the last part of it!)
- Attending to all condolences and guests: While they are a source of great comfort, it can become quite tiring when you have to attend to each person.
- Settling my mother into a life without her husband for the first time.
- Helping my daughter and mother in coping, being there for them.
- My own grief. – Last, but not the least:
My stress coping strategies:
- Complete faith. The moment something happens, I say two naffals. I speak with my Allah Mian. Just to let Him know, that as it has come from Him, I’ll take it. He will take care of me through the process. Know that He knows you can cope or Allah wouldn’t have dished it out to you. By now, I know He always does everything for a reason.
- Gratitude: In case of death, it just means that a life just got completed. I was deeply grateful for the opportunities to serve my father during his old age. Same with Abdul Rahim, my cook. He came happily to cook at my home, singing as he cooked. He came till the last day before he died. I say, a big Alhamdolillah. I accept that Allah took my father away, before life got more difficult for him.
- Be prepared and well organized: I knew that when the time comes, I’ll have to cope with death of my parent. So, I had already found out what burial arrangements are available for residents of our colony. They have a good graveyard and a smooth system. So, I knew whom I’d have to call for arrangements, and what it would entail. MPCHS has a highly motivated team affiliated with their office and mosque. As far as condolences and guests were concerned, after first week, I kept visiting hours, so when a person asked, I’d ask them to come between these time slots. (Usually, between 5.30 pm and 7.30 pm in evenings, 10.30 am and 11.30 am in mornings.) This was kind on my staff, without spoiling my mother’s routine either.
- Take help from sincere people: When the time came, I was helped by army officials and specially Gen. Ghulam Qamar and my cousin Hasan, and Col. Zahid and many others. Everyone got together to share my tasks, and took over most of them. You have to be in Pakistan to know, how our people help each other. I’ve written about that loss here.
- Problem solving: A good meeting with myself first. Sit alone and do it. A writing exercise of all issues with solutions. A page divided in half; headed with Problems on one side, and Solution on other half. So, one by one I write it down, with each solution. Short and crisp.
- Shared vision: Once decided, I’ll share it with my family and staff separately, in a crisp meeting. (Remember, they are stressed out also.) Clarify all aspects with each family and staff member. For instance, security is a big issue. Our colony personnel provide a guard at our gate. I gave cash to each staff member to be able to handle any ‘emergency’ food or other requirements. I made sure there was clean drinking water and basic provisions for all. I accepted help of having waiters offered by friends.
- Calm and in command: Know that your temperament will set the trend; My enemies had sent me a message that they would like to come over, I said, fine, as long as they do not come to hug me. (Why pretend feelings you don’t have? In private you mean harm, and publicly you behave very loving. So, no hypocrisy please.) However, they were welcome. One came, and stayed away from me. Others sent me appropriate messages, I replied nicely too. I spoke to their spouses when they called. (I have nothing against them.) I want to improve relations too, yet it has to be candidly done.
- Screen out the crooks: I’ve known folks to misappropriate realities and say untrue things on such occasions. Let them know, that my being under stress doesn’t give them allowance to make untrue statements. Thanks to this behavior of mine – I never suffer fools gladly- people are more careful now. It was the same with my Dad, he never let a person get away with hypocritical behavior.
- Diligently reply to well-wishers’ messages: No one has free time. If a person is taking the trouble to give your time, writing a message for you in your time of grief, the least you can do is to answer their message. So, you can make a simple reply which you can ‘paste’ on to most messages. This is basic courtesy. Keep a time aside every night or morning to do this, half an hour or twenty minutes can be enough. Also return unanswered calls in the mornings. Write thank you notes to those who went out of their ways for you.
- Cut off time and getting help from professionals: Have a cut-off time. Judging by the fact that the iddat period for a widow defines the maximum time for grief which is medically proven. So, around four months is enough. It is vital to get back to normal life. If you still need help, then going to a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor isn’t a bad idea at all. Go ahead and make an appointment and take help. After all, how long have we got? So better get on with life!
Having said all that, I’d like to add: Don’t forget two factors that can help you recover:
- Morale boosting friends.
- Activities which help you recover.
1. Morale boosting friends:
- Friends and well-wishers: Make time for them. (Don’t expect those ones to be with you, whom you had helped during their times.) If they are, wonderful. If they aren’t, it is okay.
- Notice how much grief they have suffered. Everyone who came for condolences had suffered in their own ways; No one was unscathed. Some came in spite of being cancer patients. I realized, you can just sit and listen to them.
- Pray for your well-wishers and yourself. As you pray, say special words for those who gave their time for you. Pray to Allah for their unique problems.
- Accept all kind gestures: You would do the same for them if you could. Be a taker at such times, it is all right. Accept offers of help, food, and support. Learn from kind gestures.
2. Activities which help you recover.
Activities which make you feel better must be continued. Try to get back to normal routine as soon as possible. Especially not to let happy activities (you can reduce them but not exclude them).
- Art classes: I continued with art classes my students Shabnam, Shagufta and Daniyal, kept coming 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm twice a week.
- Learning something new: I’ve found Marie Kondo videos on YouTube to help me re-organize my home. It is thrilling.
- Watch videos of dramas you love: MAKE SURE YOU WATCH COMEDIES AND NOT TRAGEDIES.
- Get new stuff: I got ‘joy box’ so we all could watch YouTube together.
- Get a new pet: My mother and I got a cute puppy which we thought was a cocker spanial. But now we love this little mongrel who is very well behaved. (So far.)
- Social work: the twelve marriages, the clothes for CSS school underprivileged children, Old people’s home, and rations for poor people. All these gave me greatest happiness. The process diverted me, gave me something to do. (It was good to know, my brain still works!) It was the best way to use my time. I’d even go late nights for the stuff for the brides. Now, the shop gives me home delivery. So, this is my happiness formula written about in my blog post here.
- Home changes: It thrills me to do up my home, so I indulged.
- Upholstery work: You can see how I transformed my Mum’s room here, and how I did more of the work here. Ayesha Chaudhry insists it changes the spirits in your home by removing old vibes and stains.
- Plants and flowers: These can transform the vibes instantly!
I’m still healing, you know. Why do I cry that He took him away, why don’t I thank Allah for all the years He blessed me with a father like him? So, I thank Him more. Alhamdolillah!
So here is my answer, Rammal and Sajida.
What do you do? What works for you?
Stay blessed. 🙂