Do you struggle to cope with the daily hurt and pain caused by the words, gestures, and actions of people you live with?
How can you take care of your mental and spiritual health in a toxic home environment that you can’t presently move out of?
I draw on my experience as:
- the eldest daughter in a Desi household (which says a lot in and of itself – if you know, you know),
- a wife and daughter-in-law who lived several years in a joint family system after marriage (homes in which a couple live with the husband’s parents and any married and/or unmarried siblings), and
- a mental health and spiritual wellness coach working with Muslim women to help them overcome the damage caused by their pasts,
To pass on these lessons and insights to you!
Disclaimer: This post is not intended for cases of abuse. Please get immediate help if you or someone you know is being abused.
So here are my most important tips for surviving (and eventually thriving, insha Allah) in circumstances that are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining for you:
- Develop self-awareness.
- Master detachment.
- Journal regularly.
- Seek professional mental health help.
- Practice regular self-care.
- Beautify yourself and your space.
- Abandon people-pleasing.
- Set healthy boundaries.
- Have a confidant.
- Nourish your soul.
- Turn to prayer.
- Assume appropriate responsibility.
How to take care of your mental health:
1. Develop self-awareness
Know yourself so you don’t take on other people’s insecurities and projections.
The trouble with living with someone who’s manipulative and hurtful is that if you listen to them long enough, you begin to internalize their opinion and criticism.
Their harsh words become your own inner voice, and that’s how they can inflict the most damage.
Yes, you’re flawed and make mistakes, but believe in your innate goodness and learn to:
- Accept yourself for all your good and bad qualities.
- Tune other people out by consistently grounding yourself in the knowledge of who you are and what Allah has made you for – Himself.
2. Master detachment
When you do have to spend time with someone critical and manipulative, avoid letting them drag you into matters that trigger you or you would rather keep private.
Remind yourself that you’re not required to participate in anything that you choose not to.
Detachment may look like:
- steering clear of subjects that evoke strong feelings,
- maintaining light and informal conversation, and
- choosing to walk away when you feel triggered.
This is one of the most essential steps to recover and move on in life – acceptance. You have to accept:
- the emotionally manipulative person for who they are,
- your past for what it was,
- and the relationship for what it is.
As long as you keep wishing and hoping for any of these to be different, you continue to feel trapped by what-if scenarios that keep you chained to how you wish things could be.
But when you start to accept the way things actually are, you can take appropriate measures to protect your own self by setting healthy boundaries.
Journal about your thoughts and feelings and get it all out on paper to begin making sense of it.
Put your jumbled up thoughts on paper and begin to see:
- the pattern of abuse that keeps repeating,
- the role you’re playing in the situation, and
- how you can start behaving in a way that will help you regain control.
5. Seek professional mental health help
When you grow up in a dysfunctional family or live in a toxic home, you’re likely to struggle with mental health and relationship challenges.
If you find that you are stuck in the past and can’t cope with the present, get help from a mental health professional who:
- understands the sociocultural and religious nuances of your situation,
- you feel comfortable with, and
- can provide holistic, faith-based guidance so you leave the process transformed for the better.
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How to take care of your physical health:
6. Practice regular self-care
Do things that make you happy. Don’t consider self-care an option – consider it VITAL to your survival and sanity.
If you’re happy, you can better serve yourself (and your kids, if you have them), while also having a strong connection with Allah ﷻ.
Shaytan loves a miserable believer because it’s much easier to influence you when you’re feeling depleted and resentful, so:
- Fulfill the rights of your body.
- Take care of your physical health.
- Prioritize your fitness and nutrition.
- Exercise regularly.
Even if you take small steps, be consistent and don’t neglect the rights of your body no matter how much else you’ve got on your plate.
7. Beautify yourself
Dress up for yourself and keep your surroundings ordered, clean, and organized.
You’ll immediately feel better.
Even if you have to fake it, turn your frowns into smiles and your mood will naturally improve. (Don’t use this as a way to suppress or numb your emotional pain – just to help you mindfully cope in the moment.)
How to take care of your emotional well-being:
8. Abandon people-pleasing
The surest way to lose yourself is by trying to make everyone happy.
The sooner you accept the fact that you could be the nicest person in the world and certain people would STILL find something to complain about, the sooner you can free yourself from the shackles of people-pleasing.
9. Set healthy boundaries
Be firm, kind, and assertive about your personal boundaries regarding your space, belongings, and time.
Boundaries that come from a place of love actually strengthen relationships in the long term, so learn to stand up for yourself where and when needed, as gently and firmly as possible.
10. Have a confidant
Speak to someone you trust. Don’t isolate yourself with your pain.
Whether it’s a close friend, your spouse, or a mentor, having a confidant provides the validation and understanding needed to survive the negativity you’re faced with day in and day out.
This relationship becomes your anchor as you learn to cope better, offering solace and perspective, and reminding you that you’re not alone in your struggle.
How to take care of your spiritual health:
11. Nourish your soul
Listen to the Quran or put on some Nasheeds to unwind and relax.
Where other people might find comfort in their favorite songs, learn to soothe yourself through the Words of Allah ﷻ instead.
Don’t you know? Our souls crave the Quran.
12. Turn to prayer
Nothing is impossible for Allah ﷻ. From creating a way out of a seemingly impossible situation to softening the hearts of people causing you hurt – nothing is impossible for Him.
So make your prayer mat your source of refuge.
Cry to Allah. It’s never backbiting when you complain to the One who already Knows everything that is, has been, and will be.
Pour your heart out and watch how Allah ﷻ turns things around for you.
Try to keep a clean heart. Don’t foster grudges or resentment against others because this only hurts you.
I know forgiveness is so much easier said than done, especially when you’re deeply hurt, but remember that you’re not forgiving the people who’ve hurt you for their sake – you’re doing this for YOU because YOU deserve mental peace.
Like I said earlier, it’s only when other people’s criticism and judgment becomes your own inner voice that it causes the most damage.
As you focus on forgiving others, you free yourself to move on from the bitterness, resentment, and pain they’ve caused.
14. Assume appropriate responsibility
The most important tip is to not stress about anything Allah ﷻ hasn’t made you Mukallaf about (i.e. what you’re not going to be held accountable for).
Don’t ever blame yourself for other people’s behavior.
You will not be held accountable for their words, gestures, or actions so stop stressing about them.
You WILL be held accountable for your own deeds and words, so work on your own self-improvement, personal development, and spirituality.
It’s not easy to survive among people who drain you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Be very proactive about taking care of yourself so you can break the patterns of abuse, neglect, and dysfunction you’ve faced yourself.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking outside help when and where needed. Mental health help in a safe, non-judgmental environment can help you heal from years of trauma, depression, and anxiety.
When you get started and feel your burden lifting, you’ll wonder what took you so long.
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