A group of young people walking on the street and talking.

A self-care guide for young Muslims

We’ve listened to young Muslims tell us how important it is for them to have access to resources that really take into account their faith and cultural background.

So we’ve partnered with Muslim Youth Helpline and worked with a Muslim guest author to create tips and advice on self-care from an Islamic perspective.

Struggling with self-care

It's okay to struggle with the idea of self-care.

People struggle with the idea of self-care for many different reasons, and sometimes this can be connected to our personal values.

If you’re a young Muslim, or from a Muslim background, you might feel very proud of having strong values like charity, selflessness, sacrifice, maintaining family ties and honouring your parents/guardians. Having a belief in life after death and accountability before God might also play a big role in the decisions you make and what you choose to prioritise in life. This can feel very positive and give you a clear sense of purpose and how to live your best life. But it can also make putting yourself first, or focusing on your own happiness, wants and passions, feel ‘selfish’ or ‘unimportant’.

You might tend to dismiss your own needs because there are ‘bigger’, ‘more important’ things to worry about. You might experience feelings like guilt, shame, anger or sadness if the things that make you feel good conflict with the responsibilities you feel towards yourself or what people you care about want and expect from you. If you can relate to this, you are not alone.

A person thinking, sat on the sofa.
Illustration (by @littlemisshijabee on Instagram) of a female wearing a headscarf working on a PC. There are sticky notes dotted around the page that read: Allah loves me, I will consciously create my future, I am radiant, I trust his plan, I am talented and intelligent Alhamdulillah, my voice and opinion matters.

Artwork by: @littlemisshijabee on Instagram. Picture shows a young Muslim working at a computer. Notes with positive affirmations are stuck on the wall and read: "Allah loves me", "I will consciously create my future", "I am talented and intelligent Alhamdulillah", "My voice and opinion matters", "I am radiant" and "I trust his plan".

Islamic spirituality and self-care

In Islam, it is believed that all human beings are special and uniquely important to God. For many young Muslims, this belief can be very powerful when it comes to embracing self-care – mind, body and soul.

Remember, you are capable of the most brilliant things, like: being able to love, to perform acts of goodness, to learn, to create art, to choose your own path in life and make your mark on the universe.

A shaykh once told me that God puts unique qualities, passions, talents and interests in us on purpose, and they are your ‘Divine compass’. If you follow them, you won’t get lost. But if you don’t, you’ll feel sad deep in your soul. To me, self-care is about gently removing the barriers that stop me following the direction of my personal compass.
Sakinah, 21
To me, self-care is about doing what I need to do in order to fulfil the potential God gave me and not waste it.
Shayan, 18

Practising self-love

Treating yourself with kindness can be understood as self-love. Self-love is similar to self-care, as both refer to the things we do to make ourselves feel good. But while self-care is about the things you do to look after yourself, self-love focuses on seeing and treating yourself with love and compassion. With both self-care and self-love, you need to put yourself first.

It’s important to recognise that self-love isn’t selfish. It’s an important part of taking care of yourself, which is a necessary and good thing.

  • being kind to yourself
  • forgiving yourself
  • making time for yourself and your needs
  • valuing yourself and all that makes you unique and special
  • acknowledging your feelings
  • being selfish
  • thinking you’re better than others
  • being unkind or uncaring to others
  • something to perfect or finish
  • always easy to do

There are lots of different ways to practise self-love, and it’s important to find what’s meaningful to you. Here are some examples of self-love practices you can try, from the Muslim Youth Helpline:

Affirmations are statements that you can repeat to help you change the way you think about yourself in a positive way. For example: “I love myself just as I am today”.

Some people choose to repeat these in their head or out loud.

For some people, it can be easier to express how you think and feel by writing it down. A love letter is also something you can read again whenever you feel you need it.

Self-love is about your relationship with yourself, so try to think of something that you can enjoy doing alone, like cooking your favourite meal just for you.

You can read more about self-love in Muslim Youth Helpline’s blog.

If you want to learn more about self-love in the context of your faith, check out this article on Amaliah.com - ‘Loving yourself is loving Allah, Why Self Care is an Ibadah’ - written by Noshin Bokth. Amaliah.com is a media company that amplifies the voices of Muslim women, through articles, videos, podcasts and more. 

We asked young Muslims what they've tried to practise self-love.

Here's what they said:

  • Taking time out in nature.
  • Taking the day off by not doing any uni work or my part-time job. Just relaxing at home with my family and cats.
  • Taking care of my body and skin.
  • Going out on my own or with a friend to have dessert.

Being kind to yourself

Remember, you deserve kindness from yourself and others.

Being kind to yourself is valid, beautiful, and necessary, because how you feel matters. So remember to ask yourself:

  • Are you being as kind and loving to yourself as you would be to a friend?

  • What advice would you give to someone who is struggling?

  • Listen to your inner voice – do you tell yourself unkind things?

Two people sat on a sofa laughing together.

Thinking about self-care as 'acts of kindness'

If you struggle with guilty feelings, or tend to be quite hard on yourself, it might help you to think about actions you take to look after yourself as ‘acts of kindness’ – in the same way you might view the actions you take to look after others.  

You might find it helpful to set your intention if you find yourself feeling worried or conflicted about choosing to prioritise yourself.

An intention before you begin a self-care activity could sound something like this: “I am going to complete this act of [insert activity] to make myself feel happy and stress-free.”

Small acts of kindness

When you’re feeling down or stuck, think of one small act of kindness you can do for yourself. This could be something like:

  • tidying your room
  • doing some exercise
  • journaling
  • playing video games
  • watching your favourite show
  • taking a shower
  • preparing a nice meal
  • calling a friend
  • organising a football match for you and your friends
  • getting some fresh air

Putting your wellbeing first

Sometimes we can feel overburdened with responsibilities, especially from people in our lives who need our help and support or when we exhaust ourselves for causes we care about, but it's important to prioritise your mental health and wellbeing.

Remember that helping yourself also helps others.

Self-care means doing what we need to do in order to get on track to being the best, happiest, healthiest version of ourselves. It is not a betrayal of others. In fact, the more mentally healthy and well you feel, the better you can support the needs of others around you.

  • I feel so responsible for my family, especially my little sisters. My mum is always depressed and I feel like it’s my job to keep her happy. I don’t think I realised how much I needed a break until I finally took a holiday without them. It took me years to justify spending money on myself and leaving my mum on her own. But after I let go of the guilt, I was able to recharge – I felt a huge weight lifting. It was the start of everything changing.
    Maz, 25

Practising gratitude

According to lots of studies, feelings of gratitude can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on our sense of wellbeing.

Pausing to remember the good things can be a simple but powerful act of self-care. It can help us find a more hopeful perspective and shift our focus on to more positive things.

Practising gratitude is also at the heart of Islamic faith and culture.

Take some time to try one of the exercises below to see if they make a difference to how you’re feeling.

Grab something to take notes with and spend five minutes writing everything you’re grateful for. Don’t overthink it, just list as many things as you can. You could write things like:

  • My socks keeping my feet warm.
  • My feet!
  • The kind stranger who helped me in the supermarket.
  • My eyes, my hands, my phone, my blanket, my imagination, my brain, my smile, my cat…

When your five minutes is over, read through your list. You could keep this list and read it when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Find a quiet moment. Take a few deep breaths. It might help if you close your eyes. (If you’re someone who prays, you might want to try this before or after saying a prayer.)
  2. Think of something in your life that brings you joy – even if it’s something really small, like the warm sun on your face, or a time someone made you laugh.
  3. Keep focusing on it. Let a feeling of gratitude wash over you.
  4. It’s okay if other negative thoughts start to creep in. Just notice those thoughts and bring your attention calmly back to that feeling of gratitude.
Illustration (by @littlemisshijabee on Instagram) of a female wearing a headscarf driving uphill in a bright blue car with flowers in the back of her truck. There is text that reads: If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour] - Qur'an 14:7.

Illustration by @littlemisshijabee on Instagram. Text reads: "If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour]" - Qur'an 14:7.

  • Reminding myself of how much I have helps me deal with anxiety. I believe gratitude is the highest vibration and helps you attract more goodness and abundance into your life.
    Shayan, 18
  • The way I see it, without the downs you can’t enjoy the ups. It’s part of life. Took me a long time to accept, that but practising gratitude helped me find that perspective.
    Imaan, 24

Celebrate your successes

When you achieve a goal, or do something well, give yourself permission to enjoy it and tell yourself well done!

Success could be anything from managing to do your homework, to getting up on time, to doing some exercise. Even if other people might think it’s a small or insignificant thing, if it’s a big deal to you, it is definitely worth a celebration.

This can help us remember that we’re making progress all the time and increase our feelings of self-love.

Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it.
Qur'an 99:7

Social media and self-care

Illustration of a person's hand using their phone to take a picture of food, on a purple patterned background

Artwork by @designedbynasiha on Instagram

Most of us spend a lot of time online. It’s important to think about how this might be affecting us. Sometimes social media can be overwhelming and affect how we feel about ourselves, especially if we’re comparing ourselves negatively to the things we see online.

You might find it helpful to clean up your social media by:

  • finding accounts or people that inspire and motivate you
  • unfollowing or muting accounts that make you feel bad
  • muting words and phrases that trigger you
  • setting up timer limits on your phone if you’re worried about the amount of time you spend online

You can find more information and advice for building a healthy relationship with social media in our guide.

Guide to social media and mental health

We asked young Muslims what they do to look after their mental health online.

Here's what they said:

  • Block, mute, report, unfollow. I cannot stress how much you don’t have to justify using these tools to anyone. Do what feels good. You don’t owe anyone your attention.
    Sakinah, 21
  • I struggle with loneliness and generally social media makes it worse. Now I use it more as a space to express myself, rather than to silently watch other people live out loud, and it surprised me how much that has changed my feeling towards it.
    Jamal, 19
  • When I see something Islamophobic online I don’t read the comments. I don’t need the hurt and the anger I know I will feel. I don’t want to let some ignorant strangers ruin my day.
    Amirah, 17
  • Reading about racism, genocide, war and every crisis in the world was getting too heavy – what are you supposed to do about it from your bed at 3am? Now Twitter is the only account I have that follows news/cause-based accounts and I never open it when I’m winding down for bed.
    Jenna, 18

Self-care tips

Self-care can mean letting go and self-acceptance. You are special and unique – no one on the planet is just like you. You are worthy of love. You deserve respect. You deserve the space and freedom to find your own path in life. You deserve to be your true, authentic self, without fear or judgement.

We all mess up, get things wrong, or do things we regret. It’s okay to let go of the past and realise you don’t need to punish yourself for things you cannot change.

It’s okay to decide what you want for your mental wellbeing, how you want to be treated by people, and to not accept anything less. This means, it is okay to say ‘no’ when you need to. It’s okay to cancel plans. It’s okay to let yourself rest. It’s okay to speak up for yourself, or remove yourself from a situation where you feel uncomfortable or disrespected.

Remember to show yourself as much compassion, love and forgiveness as you would show others. When we judge ourselves, or worry about other people judging us, it can affect our confidence and leave us feeling unimportant, powerless, or ashamed. If you can relate to this, remember you won’t always feel this way. There are lots of things you can do that will help.

A picture of yellow flowers is slightly blurred as the image background, and is layered with a white box containing black text that reads: reminder. don't forget to stop and recognise how amazing you are. you're doing an incredible job and you are deserving of all the goodness you can imagine.

Artwork by @spiritual.psychologist on Instagram. Text reads: "Reminder - Don't forget to stop and recognise how amazing are. You're doing an incredible job and you are deserving of all the goodness you can imagine."

Your faith and mental health

A person looking at what someone is pointing at.

Having faith, or being spiritually inclined, can have a positive impact on your mental health. In fact, for some people that we spoke to, we heard that supressing or ignoring this part of themselves can make them feel worse when they are already struggling. Many young Muslims told us that their personal connection with God was the most important aspect of their faith. If you can relate to this, then part of self-care for you might include finding new practices that tap into this powerful connection.

Some young Muslims find du’a or speaking to God in prayer to be a useful space to explore their feelings and think about their wants and needs.

  • finding books or podcasts on a topic that fascinate you
  • reading or writing poetry
  • expressing your spirituality through art or movement
  • meditating
  • having alone time to recharge
  • doing dhikr (remembrance of God)
  • listening to different style Qur’an recitations
  • journaling about your feelings
  • joining a spiritually focused group – at the mosque, at university or in the community
  • volunteering for a cause you care about and channelling your spirituality into action – even if it’s helping a neighbour with their shopping or holding a bake-sale for a charity
  • spending time in nature
  • Sometimes when I pray I feel like I have a bit of an out of body experience, but in a good way. I close my eyes and I feel like I’m so tall my head is in the stars. It sounds cheesy but I kinda feel at one with the universe, like I’m totally connected.
    Sakinah, 21
  • Pouring out my heart to God is the absolute best feeling. I have nothing to compare it to. I think it’s because no one else understands you the way God does. And no one else has the power to help you the way God does. It’s sad my non-Muslim friends can’t relate to this part of my life.
    Jenna, 18

Everyone struggles sometimes, and that's okay

Struggling with your mental health doesn’t mean that you have lost your faith, or that you are an ungrateful or ‘bad’ person. We can recognise that we have ‘so much to be grateful for’ and still struggle to feel good – it’s nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. In fact, it is usually a sign that there are deeper things going on with us that need our attention.

"With every hardship comes ease." - Qur'an 94:6

Two young Muslim women in headscarves talking.
Struggling is a part of life and there will be days when you don't feel as strong, but determination and faith are key.
Dark-coloured illustration (by @littlemisshijabee on Instagram) of a female wearing a headscarf sitting outside in the rain holding a black umbrella over herself and a small bird. There is text that reads: Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.

Artwork by @littlemisshijabee on Instagram. Text reads: "Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear."

(Re-)connecting with your rituals

A lot of young Muslims find connecting with various Islamic rituals to be a source of comfort and peace. But remember, it’s very normal for people to have ups and downs with their faith and religious practices. As your life experiences expand and you continue to learn and grow, it is likely that you will feel different at different times.

If faith is a part of your life, or you would like it to be, then it might help for you to take some time to check in with yourself about how you feel about the different elements of your religious practice. Remember, it’s ok to feel confused, conflicted or doubtful. You are on your journey, and no one else’s.

Reflection exercise

  • Think about which rituals you choose to practise. Reflect on how they make you feel and why.

  • Which of these helps you find peace and affects your wellbeing positively?

  • What might you want to try differently?

  • What feels less positive for you and why?

  • Is there a practice you might find helpful to learn more about so you can understand it better?

When I do wudu [washing before prayer] I don’t think of it as just being clean. I visualise a white light surrounding me and washing all the sins, bad thoughts, and feelings away.
Sakinah, 21

Talking about your feelings

Expressing yourself in a safe space can lift a weight off your shoulders. You are not a burden. Remember there are people who want to help and support you.

Think about who you feel comfortable with, whether it’s a friend, family member, teacher, school counsellor or your GP.

We know that it isn’t always easy to talk about your mental health, especially when you’re worried about how the person you’re talking to will react.

For tips on how to talk about your feelings with family, take a look at Muslim Youth Helpline's guide to managing family pressure and cultural stigma. You can also find help and advice on reaching out for support in our guide.

Guide to reaching out for help
Two people sat on a sofa talking seriously.

Look deeper within

Sometimes the way we feel or behave goes back to things that happened to us when we were much younger, or events that were particularly distressing. These events are sometimes known as ‘trauma’.

Trauma can include things like:

It’s incredibly hard to deal with these types of experiences on your own. Often, recovering from trauma can require self-care and professional support to help you feel better. There is no shame in asking for help. You deserve to feel good.

Remember, if you’re struggling with how you feel right now, there are people who want to help and support you. You are not alone and you can get through it. Find out more in our advice guides.

Three people sitting and laughing on the sofa.
I wish I had reached out for help sooner. I wish I’d told someone how I was feeling and the things I’d gone through. I wasted nearly ten years in misery and suffering. Talking saved my life. Therapy changed my life. Self-care made me connect to life again. I’m begging you, please don’t make my mistake and suffer in silence. Feeling better was a long process, but it was so worth it.
Maz, 25

Where to get help

For more help and advice, including cultural and faith sensitive support, take a look at some of the organisations below.

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