Though we have the best guidance and teachings in Islam, being a Muslim parent does not automatically make us immune from anger and stress.
Raising Muslim children to be righteous, confident and successful, is a tough feat on its own.
But today, with our stress levels higher than they’ve ever been, there is no wonder anger can often overcome us. Diaphragmatic breathing is an effective and easy way to combat anger and stress.
Whenever I feel the first pang of stress or even anger, I make sure I take at least one big ‘belly breath’. This is the habit of diaphragmatic breathing, and it is so incredibly effective at killing the first symptoms of stress. If you can extinguish that flame before it starts to spread, you’ll be in control of your own emotions and ultimately in control of your life.
Now that’s powerful.
What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?
Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called abdominal breathing, belly breathing or pranayama breathing (if you’re into yoga), is a way of deeply breathing through your abdomen and diaphragm. Medical professionals, fitness and health experts, therapists and wellness coaches all recommend diaphragmatic breathing as an effective tool in combatting many health complaints, including:
- Digestive problems
Why Do We Feel Angry & Stressed?
Feeling stressed and angry is our body’s natural response to dealing with the difficult scenarios we face. Often called our ‘fight or flight’ response, when we’re faced with challenging situations (threats), our body releases adrenaline and cortisol to help us deal with the testing circumstance. These hormones increase our heart rate, elevate our blood pressure and send more glucose into our blood stream. This natural alarm system also communicates with the areas of our brain which control mood, motivation and fear.
How Does Diaphragmatic Breathing Combat Anger & Stress?
Diaphragmatic breathing encourages oxygen to flood into and stretch out your abdomen and diaphragm. This reduces production of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, therefore lowering your heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels, as well as relaxing your muscles, and mellowing any heightened emotions.
The Natural Cues You Shouldn’t Ignore
I’ve been trying to combat my anger and stress levels ever since they seemingly arrived out of nowhere, when I became a mum for the first time, 12 years ago.
Not the best of timing with a newborn (and my first too) but clearly linked to the increased pressure and responsibility I inevitably felt with the arrival of an entirely dependent human. My husband was a full-time student back then and we lived in the North of England with zero family or community support.
I’ve learnt that becoming more self-aware of my body and feelings, enables me to recognise important natural cues of increasing stress and anger.
What to look out for:
- Increased heart rate
- Strained facials muscles
- Tight jaw
- Clenched teeth
- Curled up fists
- Tense shoulders
- Narrowed eyebrows
- Clammy palms
- Tapping or shaking your foot
- Picking at something with your fingers
- Feeling irritated or annoyed
As you pick up on these cues, you can start combating the rising negative feelings with diaphragmatic breathing.
How to do Diaphragmatic Breathing
These days, diaphragmatic breathing has become my subconscious and natural response to any initial pangs of stress and anger I experience.
I can feel myself taking a deep, full breath, blowing out my abdomen and filling up my diaphragm, and then exhaling it, slowly but consistently, until I have no breath left.
Follow these steps to learn it for yourself – it’s probably a good idea to practise first when you are alone and can relax:
- Lie or sit down in a comfortable position, with your muscles as relaxed as possible.
- Place one hand on your stomach and start to slowly breathe in.
- Attempt to fill your stomach up as you breathe in.
This will probably be tricky at first as we often do the opposite when breathing normally or for exercise – filling our chests and holding in our stomach.
- Once you have taken as a deep a breath as possible, slowly start to exhale, deflating your stomach as you do so.
It’s best to exhale through your mouth.
- Continuing exhaling slowly until have no more breath and repeat at least twice more.
You can also watch this video to learn diaphragmatic breathing too: exactly how to do it yourself:
Personally I have enjoyed following this light yoga video too, which focuses on diaphragmatic breathing:
This one is great too:
As Muslim parents we need to focus on improving, developing and taking care of ourselves if we truly wish to build strong families. It’s not easy raising children, especially Muslim children, as in addition to hectic, exhausting lives, most things in the modern world are at odds with the wholesome teachings of Islam.
Many of us have suffered childhood trauma, either overtly or covertly, as we grew up in cultures which shun emotional expression and discipline children primarily through fear and punishment.
You may have been dealt a heavy backhand, sharp tellings-off and harsh put downs as a child or even more subtle but accumulated negative responses, which now seep into your own parenting, even if you vowed never to do, as had been done to you.
You are not bad for feeling anger. You simply have never been taught a better way or have far too much stress in your life.
Making a habit of diaphragmatic breathing, can really make the world of difference when combating anger and stress as Muslim parents. Escaping your children to another room to calm down, is not always possible, but you can take deep diaphragmatic breaths wherever you are.
But remember, diaphramatic breathing only calms anger overwhelm in the moment. To overcome the stress and burnout which leads to us quickly angering, you need to learn how to balance your daily life.
Learn how to do that in my previous articles:
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