A Practicing Muslim's Guide To Finding Your Chill This Ramadan

For anyone fasting this season and looking for a little support: Here are some of the ways to maintain your well-being while observing.
"The more I understood why we fasted 鈥 it鈥檚 believed to enhance spiritual reflection, self-discipline, and self-improvement 鈥 the more I would long for Ramadan鈥檚 arrival."
"The more I understood why we fasted 鈥 it鈥檚 believed to enhance spiritual reflection, self-discipline, and self-improvement 鈥 the more I would long for Ramadan鈥檚 arrival."
Courtesy of Haseeb Hussain

Every year, before I know it, the holy month of Ramadan approaches. It always seems to come at the right time 鈥 just when I feel the itch to reinvigorate my relationship with God and myself. It鈥檚 the type of spiritual high that I rely on to get me through the year.

As long as I can remember, I鈥檝e fasted during the month of Ramadan. As a kid, I couldn鈥檛 wait for the month to just come and go because I didn鈥檛 really know what it meant besides skipping some meals. It wasn鈥檛 until around high school that I realized that Ramadan is more than just being hungry and thirsty.

Year after year, however, many of us find ourselves regurgitating the same script to explain to non-Muslim colleagues and acquaintances what Ramadan is all about. And inevitably, we run into the age-old question: 鈥淵ou don鈥檛 even drink water?鈥 Now, it鈥檚 not an offensive question and most of us are happy to answer and educate. But let鈥檚 be real: Explaining is emotional labor.

The more I understood why we fasted 鈥 it鈥檚 believed to enhance spiritual reflection, self-discipline and self-improvement 鈥 the more I would long for Ramadan鈥檚 arrival. But being grown comes with the stress of adult responsibilities; we have to find balance while fasting. How can we do that in a society that doesn鈥檛 collectively understand what this month means to those who practice?

For anyone fasting this season and looking for a little support, here are some of the ways I鈥檝e been able to maintain my well-being while fasting during Ramadan.

Request Flexibility At Work

If you practice, you might have to do a lot of explaining at work 鈥 especially if you weren鈥檛 taking prayer breaks before Ramadan. I once had a boss wonder why I went 鈥渁ll religious all of a sudden鈥 and thought I was just trying to scam extra downtime.

So start the dialogue early. It might help to explain Ramadan as a New Year鈥檚 resolution to better ourselves. Give your boss a heads up that hunger could get the best of you during work hours and you might take a hit on productivity. Make it known that this is important to you and your well-being, and that you鈥檇 appreciate adjustments to schedule or outcome goals this month. The work-from-home shift in culture has been a blessing for many Muslims during Ramadan, but do ask for accommodations if you need to, for the sake of transparency. And then use the flexibility afforded to you to balance work with worship.

Balance Your Social Life

Your non-Muslim friends might be wondering why you鈥檙e not as available as you normally are, and explaining why is a bit different than the conversations you鈥檒l have with work colleagues since it goes beyond fasting. You鈥檒l want to break down, clearly, why you鈥檒l be MIA at night too.

Ramadan is more than just giving up food and drink 鈥 it鈥檚 about devotion, selflessness, generosity, self-discipline and empathy throughout the month, even outside of fasting hours. Tell your friends about your relationship with the month and what it means to you.

I do this by sharing examples of what I voluntarily gave up in years past, like social media or television. I usually explain to my friends that worship goes into the night, even after I鈥檝e broken my fast, and that I鈥檒l be spending most of my nights this month praying at the mosque or in other acts of worship. If they鈥檙e your friends, they鈥檒l understand 鈥 and even perhaps see you as a more nuanced person.

Carve Out Time For Yourself

I never feel as connected to my Muslim community as I do during Ramadan. While it鈥檚 beautiful that we all go through this together, I try to make sure I am mindful of my social battery and how it affects my mood and health. Between daily iftars, tarawih at the mosque, late-night chai at Qahwah House and the occasional 3 a.m. suhoor gatherings, it鈥檚 easy to get bogged down in the interactions and burn out.

Once upon a time, the younger me wanted to be everywhere during Ramadan, and while that鈥檚 fine, fasting during the pandemic changed that. I found the iftars at home alone the most peaceful and rewarding and made it a point to ensure that I have that time to myself throughout the month to recharge my battery. Find your equilibrium between social time and solitude during Ramadan 鈥 it鈥檒l look different for every practicing person.

Tailor Your Lifestyle Around the Fast

If your body feels strong during this time, your mind will follow suit. Your physical state will have a direct impact on how happy and energetic you feel, and it鈥檚 easy to let the motivation you start Ramadan with die down quickly.

Establish a routine at the start that you know you can realistically maintain throughout the month. I remember Ramadans during summer breaks and college when I would go completely nocturnal, which pretty much defeated the purpose. That鈥檚 not something that I can get away with as an adult with a demanding career. Make sure to sleep early to get those eight hours in, and try to take a short nap midday as well. It鈥檚 Sunnah.

Also, try not to overindulge in your iftars in a manner that would make sleep difficult for you that night. Getting enough rest should be a priority.

Ironically, despite our hunger while fasting, food sometimes feels like an afterthought. Staying hydrated, meal-prepping, portion control and balancing your diet will do wonders for you this month. It鈥檚 easier to focus on worship when you have to worry less about what鈥檚 for iftar. Plan out your meals in a way that ensures you are getting enough nutrition.

And stay active, but don鈥檛 try to make this month about weight loss and fitness. Try to go to the gym or complete some sort of exercise for at least 30 to 40 minutes a few times each week, but don鈥檛 go overboard, and take rest days because your body isn鈥檛 running on as much fuel as normal. Whether you join a weekend Ramadan basketball league or do some Youtube Yoga, find what you can manage and stick to it.

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