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By Mubarakah Ibrahim

Once again Muslim all over the west are subject of increased Islamaphobia.  Muslim women who wear hijab (Islamic headdress) is the public symbol of Islam and as such are the subject of steers, jeers and out right physical attacks.  Even if your own circle of friends and colleagues are supportive and you feel safe going to work and school, this increasing sense of paranoia pervades, like a low frequency hum beneath all the welcomes displays of unity and defense of who we truly are as Muslim.

tumblr_m4s2mpX7VA1rvvy9ko1_500We can not control what other people say, think or do but we can control how much it effects us. And is does effect us. Every time we hear of an attack on a Muslim we inaudibly say in the back of our minds “that could have been me, my husband, my sister, or my child”.  This underlying fear can be the very thing that destroys us from the inside out.  So here are 3 things we can do in response to Islamphobia besides pray.

#1- Eat well

It very common that when our stress level rises the first thing that follows is healthy eating habits. Cakes, cookies and chocolate are comfort foods that contain high levels of sugar.  High sugar foods, including juices and sodas become more detrimental to our health when we are under stress.   Stress itself causes an increase in blood glucose levels, which can in turn lead to a higher risk of developing diabetes. This inherit rise in blood glucose is compounded when we eat extra sugar on top of it.  Try to minimize high sugar containing foods.  Instead fill up on fruits, veggies and whole grains so you’ll have less room for the sugar.

#2- Keep Moving

The first month after 9/11 I gained 10 pound because I stopped running because I didn’t feel safe running outdoors and didn’t know of an equivalent alternative.  Now I know stop exercising that the worse thing I could have done.  Exercise is medicine for the mind and body, both the targets of chronic stress.  Under stress our muscles may be tense, especially in the neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhea, or frequent urination.

When under stress the body produces cortisol.  Cortisol is the hormone that prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response by flooding it with glucose, supplying an immediate energy source to large muscles. It inhibits insulin production in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored, favoring its immediate use and narrows the arteries while the epinephrine increases heart rate, both of which force blood to pump harder and faster.  When living with chronic stress our cortisol levels are likely to stay elevated creating a constant effect of all these symptoms.  But we can combat it when we choose to move. Physical activity increases our levels of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.  This combats elevated levels of cortisol and gives us a overall feeling of wellness.

May Allah protect us and help us stand firm upon our deen.

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