How To Maintain Your Physical And Mental Wellbeing During Ramadan and Lockdown
Each year 1.8 billion Muslims around the world observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It is a time for connecting with God, self-reflection and self-discipline.
For most Muslims this test of mental strength takes the form of abstaining from food and drink during the hours of sunrise to sunset for 30 days.
This year the usual rituals and activities that Muslims are accustomed to practising during Ramadan have been made impossible due to the worldwide lockdown following the Covid-19 outbreak.
There have been no mass gatherings at mosques for prayers, large feasts with families or late-night socialising with friends. The test of faith and will-power has been made even more challenging by social-distancing, the antithesis of Ramadan.
As we approach the last few days of the holy month and restrictions of the lockdown are slowly being lifted we speak to Sahra-Isha a university student and founder of Asra, a club that provides a safe space for Muslim women to exercise, on how she has found observing Ramadan during these unprecedented times. She shares with us the challenges of staying fit mentally and physically in lockdown whilst fasting, the tips she’s used to stay focused whilst studying and reflects on practicing her faith without the social celebrations that she is accustomed to.
HOW does Islam affect your exercise routine and vice versa?
They’re both intertwined. It’s a duty to look after yourself and your wellbeing in Islam. The physical plays a role in that it helps with your mental health and matching that with the spiritual i.e. praying, making dua etc creates that perfect balance. The Qur’an and Sunnah teaches us the importance of having a healthy lifestyle and mindset. Even praying can be seen as a form of exercise, so it has always been embedded in our religion.
How have you been maintaining your daily fitness routine during RAMADAN?
I haven’t been running as much as I would do outside of the holy month, however, every Ramadan ASRA puts on an alternative form of exercise and this year it was yoga. So, I have been doing that every week which has been amazing and has allowed me to stay fit even whilst fasting.
HOW have you found adjusting your usual ROUTINES and not being able to run with the members of your club due to Covid-19?
At first it was quite hard especially as the sessions ended so abruptly. It definitely has made me realise how important those weekly runs with ASRA were for me. We still support each other online, cheer each other on if someone runs in their own area. It is sad but hopefully once COVID is over, we can all run on the track together again.
There is an important FAMILY and community element to RAMADAN, these opportunities to spend time with loved ones and socialise contribute to our WELLBEING, how are YOU navigating this during this TIME of social-distancing and staying positive?
A lot has changed this Ramadan, we can’t go to the mosque, visit family, invite people over for iftar so that has been quite hard. However, the lockdown has allowed me to spend more time at home with my family and develop my relationship with Allah Swt. It has forced us to have more time to work on ourselves, time that we may not have had if the lockdown didn’t happen. As a community we can still perform our duties such as giving zakat / charity. There are also a lot of talks, classes and virtual events going on online so that’s been quite nice. I definitely will miss the Eid traditions that my family have been doing for years, although it just means that we will make next year’s Eid even more special.
What has helped you stay focused during Ramadan whilst being in lockdown?
Writing down goals of what I want to get out of Ramadan and also being realistic with them. I have exams and assignments this month which has made things difficult, hence, I’ve been creating timetables to ensure that I don’t fall behind. Halfway through the week I would usually have a catch up with myself, see what’s working, what needs to change to ensure that I have a fulfilling Ramadan whilst meeting deadlines and importantly, having at least 6 hours of sleep.
WHAT has been the hardest thing to navigate/cope with during this time?
The uncertainty of what will happen next. I like to plan months in advance so not knowing what is to come is a bit weird. I had and I’m sure many others had planned so many things for this year which obviously have been cancelled, so I’ve had to rearrange things and go with the flow a bit more and that is nerve-racking. I always have to remind myself that everything happens for a reason and that I should take this free time as a blessing to focus on important things that matter to me.
What have you LEARNED during this time and have you got any tips for exercising or coping in general with Ramadan during lockdown?
I’ve learned that you don’t have to be productive all of the time. I was constantly busy, over working and dealing with burnouts on a regular basis, so this lockdown has allowed me to take things slow and rest. My tips for exercising during Ramadan will be to:
1) Go at your own pace. You won’t be able to run like you do when you’re not fasting so don’t beat yourself up for that.
2) Find a time to run that works for you. Some people run before Iftar, others an hour after, do what works for you, whilst adhering to the government guidelines and making sure that it is safe to run at your preferred time.
3) Always listen to your body. If you feel weak, don’t feel pressured to run, try out other sports such as yoga or focus on strength training as they are just as beneficial.Set a timetable. Ramadan can be a busy time, we barely get enough sleep, we’re adjusting to changes in our body and whilst you may have set some goals throughout the month, they can slip if you end up taking too much on. Be realistic with them and always include time for rest.
4) If you are feeling overwhelmed, struggling to adjust to things, please speak to someone. Any emotions and feelings you may have right now are completely valid so don’t be afraid to share them with someone you trust.
Some revising tips:
5) Try out revision sessions with your friends. It can be quite lonely and isolating doing work at home, so scheduling times to go on zoom or FaceTime with your friends to revise can be helpful.
6) If you are falling behind on your uni work or finding it hard you may be eligible to apply for Ec’s: Before COVID19 the basis to apply for ec’s were quite rigid. However, due to the pandemic, universities are being a lot more lenient to the fact that student’s studies have been disrupted. Don’t hesitate to apply for them, at the end of the day it’s your degree and you deserve the best shot at doing well.