“For indeed, with [every] hardship, there is relief. Indeed, with [every] hardship, there is relief” (Qur’an, 94:5-6).
The Holy Month of Ramadan is upon us once again! In this post, we want to highlight a few mental health practices that address common issues we face during Ramadan. Last year, we offered a post on navigating Ramadan during Covid. In that post, we discussed the mental health benefits of celebrating the arrival of Ramadan, mastering the connection between food and mood, and focusing on what we can control.
In today's post, we would like to:
- Describe why it's important to monitor your mental health during Ramadan
- Offer mental health tips that address specific issues such as shame and guilt during Ramadan
But first, for those of us who are not familiar with the month of Ramadan, allow us to spend a few minutes describing this month and what it means for many Muslims around the world.
During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The fast involves abstaining from food and drink (yes, not even water!) and increasing worship, charity, and community-building. While fasting, Muslims strive to elevate their manners and character. For example, it is common to make an extra effort to refrain from swearing, gossiping, getting angry, and engaging in mindless activities.
The purpose of fasting is to overcome physical needs and desires to gain discipline and mental tranquility, as well as becoming more mindful of God. The momentum gained during Ramadan can help sustain good habits long after Ramadan is over.
Overall, Ramadan is a time of mental, physical, and spiritual rejuvenation and an opportunity to cultivate better habits for the rest of the year.
Ramadan is cherished by Muslims all around the world. It is welcomed as an esteemed guest and when it ends, many are sad to see it go. The mindful way we spend our day to uphold the validity of our fast gives us a peek into how we are capable of living for the rest of the year. The liveliness and community spirit of this month is incomparable.
Our Mental Health During This Holy Month
During Ramadan, we are seeking a stronger, intentional connection with ourselves and a higher power.
Taking care of our mental health during this time is crucial because many of us are actively engaging in a high-intensity process of self-improvement
Mental health concerns can worsen during Ramadan. According to Wellnest co-founder Zainib Abdullah, there are many factors that can affect out mental health during Ramadan:
- The change in schedule
- Medication management while fasting
- Choosing to observe the fast (or not)
- The difficulty of the fast
- Shame and stigma that exists in some of our Muslim communities around various aspects of the fast.
It is important to understand that Ramadan is not experienced in a singular way. We all have a personal relationship with religion and spirituality and it's important not to impose our own way of observing Ramadan onto others. Not everyone experiences joy when Ramadan approaches.
It is also not uncommon for people to feel guilt about their inability to fast or participate in Ramadan activities.
It's important to remember that there is space for all forms of remembrance during this holy month 💛
Combat Shame Around Menstruation With Education
Many Muslims who menstruate have grown up feeling ashamed and disheartened by their menstrual cycles during Ramadan. It's important to understand that this internalized shame and rhetoric that menstruating during Ramadan is equivalent to 'losing out on blessings' comes from a lack of proper sexual health education that is spiritually grounded and rooted in fact and non-judgement.
As a result, many of us who experience menstruation grew up hiding the fact that we were not fasting and praying.
Once we recognize that our menstrual cycles are SACRED, and not a source of shame, we can seek empowering education around menstruation during Ramadan.
We are linking two excellent resources below from Sameera Qureshi (@sexualhealthformuslims) on this topic. Also, one from @tawheedcommunitycentre about the MANY ways to participate in Ramadan if you are not able to fast or pray.
Expanding Our Understanding Of Spirituality To Include Health
Do you think of health when you think of spirituality? Many of us don't land there immediately. However, reflecting on the sacredness of our minds and bodies helps us understand that we have been gifted minds and bodies and it is our responsibility to care for them.
This goes beyond ensuring we are feeding our bodies nourishing, energizing foods during Ramadan.
Our mental health is as central a consideration during Ramadan as our physical health.
In the IG thread below, Zainib reminds us that:
- Our mental health is not a reflection of our faith
- Choosing not to fast for health reasons does not make us any less Muslim
- Living with a mental illness is a valid reason to consider not fasting
Most Muslims do not consider mental health issues as obvious exceptions for fasting. However, considering the various treatment schedules, medications, and the potential consequences for making sudden changes in these areas, this can be a dangerous oversight.
We need more education and understanding to expand our definition of spiritual safety to include mental wellness as well.
If you are interested in some further reading on Islamic spirituality and wellbeing, please see this article by the Yaqeen Institute.
Coping With Harsh Self-Criticism Of Our Efforts
During Ramadan, we have a tendency to be quite harsh with ourselves. Our efforts never seem like they are enough and there can be a lot of guilt and pressure to reach a pinnacle of achievement during this month.
New parents, those with newer jobs, parents homeschooling their kids, people involved in caregiving, and so many other groups can feel the guilt of 'not making the most' of this month.
Here, we offer affirmations that may gently nudge you towards the mercy of this month:
- I am mindful that Allah's mercy exceeds everything else
- I know that Allah sees my struggles, and knows my intentions
- There are many ways of doing good and earning blessings
- My work, caregiving, and love are forms of worship
- I am doing my best
As you read this, make the intention to be kind to yourself this Ramadan. We are all going through collective challenges and changes! This is the second Ramadan we are spending under strict lockdown restrictions- being compassionate to yourself and others will go a long way.
We would like to wish you all a heartfelt Ramadan Mubarak, from everyone here at WellNest! We humbly ask that you remember those in our community who are struggling and on the margins, along with the many workers fighting to keep us safe during this pandemic.
Until next time!
Mental Health Content Specialist