Sunday, April 1, 2007

Coping with Fatigue

After the birth of my second daughter, I struggled with intense fatigue due to both excessive blood loss during labor, anemia, and the exhaustion of being a new mom. The daily challenges of caring for a newborn and an attention-hungry, demanding toddler seemed just too much. Every night, knowing I would only have 4 or 5 hours of sleep, I panicked and wondered how I would ever make it through the next day.

Somehow, as my mother reassured me, you always make it through the next day. Four things in particular helped me handle the fatigue I was feeling, and still feel from time to time. Actually, five things, if you count Starbucks.

The first was convincing myself that Allah (swt) would never give me this task and responsibility if I wasn't physically capable of handling it. If He gave the responsibility, He would also give me all of the tools-physical, mental, emotional-I need to successfully handle it. The verse in the Quran, "Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear," is not just in tragedy or trials, but also in the daily responsibilities we face. When we feel overwhelmed by a trust or responsibility, it is probably because we don't have the right mindset, or are underestimating our capabilities, not that we are incompetent. So stepping up to the plate was not a physical impossibility, but a matter of working on myself--on my patience, endurance, and willingness to put my personal comfort aside sometimes.

Reliance on Allah, or tawakkul, was the second factor that helped me get through the fatigue, although I wish I had nurtured this characteristic more in myself. My husband and I are not the only caretakers of our children--Allah (swt) watches over them, takes care of their well-being, and envelopes them in His mercy and love.

The third was my sisters in my usra--as usual, they "got my back". They cooked for me, watched my older daughter while I caught a few much-needed hours of sleep, and inquired frequently about me. I will never forget how they helped me get through a really tough time.

Finally, I was reminded about the story of Fatimah, may Allah be pleased with her, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (saw). Overwhelmed by housework, and probably struggling with young children too, she went to her father to ask for a servant to help her. The Prophet responded with a very different sort of help: recite every night Subhanallah 33 times, Alhamdulillah 33 times, and Allahu Akbar 34 times.

I always interpreted the moral of this story as "increase in remembrance of Allah" and "it is better to increase in worship than seek benefit in this world." Those may be lessons to be learned from the story, but it can also be taken literally. Saying these words every night--will really help lessen the fatigue! It gives you energy to accomplish your tasks, a spring in your step, and relieves stress.

And then, OK, a tall cappuccino every once in a while also helps.

1 comment:

soulafa said...

muslim mommy worker - I can so relate. It's good to have sisters that have young children too, and can sympathize with you. Sometimes we underestimate how much we can help out a fellow sister... taking care of an older sibling for an hour or two really does help.
Going outside (in your hummer:), even for 20 minutes, and getting fresh air and sunlight helps - I am amazed at how much more energy I have when I do this.