Sheikha Majda Jaber Humoud Al Sabah, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and founder of Houna Initiative on looking after your mental health during Ramadan.
The month of Ramadan is an essential time for reflection, it brings a charge of energy through prayer, meditation, and fasting. However, during this month, we also tend to experience changes in our daily routines, mainly due to the shift in our eating habits and sleeping patterns. Such shifts can, of course, affect our overall mental and emotional wellbeing.
It is during such times, more than ever, that we as individuals should prioritise our mental health by cleansing our mind of negative toxins and thoughts and charging it with positive thoughts, gratitude, kindness, and love. Let me tell you how.
Go easy on yourself. Practising self-compassion is essential for improving our overall wellbeing during Ramadan. With the added responsibilities that accompany the Holy Month, we tend to neglect our body’s needs and end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious. We must all learn to go easy on ourselves and rest where possible. It’s true that we can all get carried away with personal and work commitments that can take a huge chunk of our time and energy, however, it’s crucial to always remember that we’re humans and might, every now and then, need a short break. It’s important for all of us to actively and consciously develop the habit of self-compassion.
Challenge negative thoughts. Negative self-talk is part of the human experience. However, negative thoughts can take a toll on our emotional well-being, hinder self-confidence, lead to self-blame and fuel anxiety and negative feelings, thus leading to a state of uncountable emotions. Overcome such situations by challenging these thoughts – take a step back, breathe, and ask yourself if these emotions are based on reality, whether there is evidence to support them, and if there are alternative explanations or solutions. Once you’ve answered those questions, your mind will suddenly calm down resulting in a state of tranquillity.
Avoid Burnout. Ramadan can be a busy time. Between balancing religious obligations, committing to the countless iftar and suhoor gatherings and keeping up with your personal as well as family needs, it’s no wonder things can get overwhelming, thus leading to stress, anxiety, and burnout. The secret to managing this? Balance. We all need to work on finding the balance between our personal, social, and professional needs. Don’t be afraid to sometimes scale back on your social activities and prioritise some time for yourself. Whilst yes, Ramadan is a time to connect with family and friends, overcommitting to social gatherings can be exhausting and that’s okay to recognise.
Reduced working hours is another thing to keep in mind. If not delegated properly, having the same amount of workload but running shorter on time can cause burnout. While work is definitely a priority, it’s important to communicate with your employer and your colleagues to set realistic expectations and delegate the workload, thus avoiding any potential mental pressure.
Get moving: We should no longer overlook the crucial impact of exercising on our own mental wellbeing. Studies show that when we exercise, the levels of chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins fluctuate, thus reducing feelings of stress and anxiety and aiding in the improvement of mood. Find the time to incorporate physical exercise within your day. Take a short walk, go for a jog, or maybe attend a yoga or a meditation class – this can have a significant impact on your mental state.
Seek support: As humans, most – if not all – of us have experienced emotional distress at some point of time in our lives. This could be when major life events or changes, or adversities are experienced in our immediate environment or everyday hassles and experiences. Although we try to deal with these distresses using different coping strategies ourselves, seeking support helps in analysing, understanding and tweaking coping strategies if not creating new ones. Voicing your worries or talking about something that’s weighing on your mind to someone else can be liberating and healing. While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes people in your immediate surroundings aren’t able to provide the support needed. Do not hesitate to seek an outside perspective from experts and certified counsellors like the ones available on the Houna Initiative platform. Professionally-trained counsellors and therapists can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life.
Practice Giving Back. Ramadan is not only about fasting, it is also about peace, prayer, and most important of all, giving back to our community as a representation of our generosity and gratefulness during the Holy month. Studies have shown that giving is beneficial for combating stress, depression and anxiety and also serves to keep us mentally stimulated, improve our self-confidence and provide us with a sense of purpose. Giving back to your community doesn’t necessarily mean contributing via monetary values, it can be by volunteering in charity events, making donations, or by the simplest act of offering a smile.
Engage in spiritual practices. Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection and growth, and incorporating spiritual practices into our daily routine can help us find inner peace and calmness. In addition, engaging in spiritual practices can also foster a sense of community and connection with others. Participating in religious gatherings can help us feel more connected to our community and provides a sense of support and belonging which is a key aspect of mental health and well-being.
A balanced diet. As simple as it may sound, staying hydrated and consuming a balanced diet is crucial for maintaining good physical and mental health during Ramadan. Dehydration and poor nutrition can lead to physical and mental fatigue. During non-fasting hours, it’s essential to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Water helps regulate body temperature, aids in digestion, and promotes overall body function. A balanced diet should include a variety of foods from different food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Eating a balanced diet can help promote physical and mental well-being, reducing the risk of illness, improving mood, and enhancing cognitive function.
Ramadan is an opportunity for spiritual growth, reflection, and self-improvement. It’s important to prioritise our mental health during this time and take steps to manage stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle. With a holistic approach and the right tools, we as individuals can navigate the blessed month of Ramadan with greater ease. But we must all remember, energy doesn’t just come from the food we eat, but also by nourishing our mind and emotions too.