Imam Yahya Hendi, His articles

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Sometimes I take the metro downtown to Washington, DC. As I travel, I sometimes notice the lack of smiling faces amongst the travelers. Recently, on one of these trips, I was using the elevator when I noticed a man who looked troubled. I asked if I could be of any assistance but received no response, not even a smile. I was sure that it had nothing to do with the Y2k crisis since we had not yet reached the year 2000. “What was it?!,” I asked myself. Later, while talking to a friend, I mentioned the earlier event. He told me of one of the most deadly diseases people struggle with today and said that this may have been the cause. The disease he was talking about is STRESS.

I have heard many definitions for stress. It can be a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension or a state of arousal, which the body uses to respond to everyday demands. Our life, therefore, cannot and should not always be stress-free. Whether we like it or not, stress is inescapable, particularly in this unpredictable, chaotic and rapidly changing world.

Much research has been conducted linking stress disorders to diseases such as peptic ulcer, insomnia, chest pains, hypertension, headache, nervousness and immunosupression. Severe and/or prolonged stress can cause one not to function as effectively and efficiently as expected. Recent research has indicated that over 20 million Americans suffer from stress disorder each year and consequently US businesses lose over $75 billion every year. Stress can also result from emotions such as aggression, anger, fear and anxiety, etc. One should also consider personality traits as important influencing factors in our day-to-day life patterns. As unique individuals, our values, attitudes and behavior make us more or less vulnerable to stress problems. It is an admitted fact that virtually everything in life is potentially stressful to someone; but an individual’s appraisal and ability to control a situation can have an effect on stress levels. Low self-esteem can also lead to stress-inducing problems such as lack of assertiveness and a willingness to place excessively high demands on ones self. This may also engender negative emotions such as aggressiveness, fear, anger and anxiety. Therefore, whether we allow a situation to affect us adversely depends largely on our appraisal and ability to control it. Our aim should not be to seek total eradication of stress from our lives, but to learn how to effectively manage it, for stress only becomes harmful when we cannot control our responses to it. It is said that someone asked Prophet Muhammad for advice. His reply was: “Control your anger.” As suppose to “Do not become angry.” There are all kinds of reasons for being angry. The challenge is how to be in control of anger rather than being controlled by it.

A Muslim theologian once said: “Days are of three types: those which passed and over which you have no control; today, which is departing with its adversities so do not be sad for it; and tomorrow, which you don’t know whether you will get it or not. So do not be angry about that which you have no possession over.”

So does this mean that one is not allowed to have emotions or feelings? Or does it mean that one must submit to something called reality and not do anything about it? Prophet Muhammad told his companions as they indicated that prayers and dependence on the deity is enough: “Plan and do your best and then offer prayers.” So despite all that one might go through, only a positive attitude will make a difference. So, a smile can be the start to an uplifting and encouraging experience for all those affected.


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