Disclaimer: This article is in no way meant to substitute for medical or mental health advice from a trained and educated mental health professional. Muslim Girl encourages those who need help to seek it, and encourages the use of resources such as therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and trained mental health professionals. You should never try to manage your mental health alone. You are not alone, and there is no shame in seeking professional help. Muslim Girl also does not recommend self-diagnosis; again, please seek the help of a professional. The following are the views and experiences of the author only.
Spring often brings a time for renewal and healing. It’s the season that is seen as a reset button for many of us. Spring 2022 could not have come any sooner. It’s been two tumultuous years since 2020, and this spring is a time to put all of these feelings of uncertainty and sadness behind us. But that may not be as easy as it seems. There is no doubt that this pandemic has, and continues to, affect our mental health: from losing jobs to losing family members and becoming isolated from friends. The stress of the pandemic continued to build upon us without us realizing it.
As a result, our mental health took a hit. Our mental health is crucial not only to focus on our productivity but also to achieve happiness and maintain our well-being. For Muslims who suffer from mental health challenges, this will affect how we practice our deen during Ramadan. Islam has always been a proponent of mental health, so if you’re struggling, Allah understands this more than anyone else possibly could.
Mental Health During the Month of Ramadan
While the conversation around mental health is still a taboo topic amongst the Muslim community, if there is one thing the pandemic did, it proved mental health matters. When we have days when we don’t feel like ourselves and when we are burnt out, or just tired of the weight of everyone’s expectations, this bleeds into every aspect of our lives. We don’t do our homework for school, we procrastinate on work projects, or we might spend less time with our families.
When we combine such circumstances with a global pandemic and isolation, we begin to rethink our decisions in life. We lose interest in the activities that once gave us joy and resign ourselves to living on the sidelines in our story. There are days when it is just easier to do nothing, even though we contemplate everything we should have done. When people try to pull you out of this fog, there are times when it does help, but there are other times when it doesn’t. Sometimes it is you pulling yourself out of that rut and getting something done that you had left behind. Mental health can affect all aspects of your life, including your faith.
Ramadan 2022 is now upon us. We are two years into this pandemic, and while there is still some uncertainty around COVID-19, we have made progress from where we were two years ago. Ramadan 2022 is time to re-root ourselves and start over again, both spiritually and mentally.
The purpose of Ramadan is to detach ourselves from everything materialistic and worldly to become closer to Allah. It’s a time to humble ourselves and express gratitude for everything we have. We can grow in our faith, in our practice, and as individuals. Ramadan can set the tone for the entire rest of our year, so let’s develop good habits and stay consistent with them — even after Ramadan.
This is a special month, and we often hold onto that feeling throughout so that we can continue our fast strong. We should hold onto this feeling because developing and improving your faith is special within itself. Even though all our stresses, problems, and mental health issues still exist during Ramadan, we can use the month to address these issues and change our perspective on them.
Although Ramadan and your mental health might not seem like they work out in the same space, they can. The balance between Ramadan and your mental health issues is possible, and it adds to your grace.
Balancing Mental Health & Ramadan
Now, I don’t expect you to fake your way through Ramadan acting as if you are completely fine. I don’t expect your mental health issues to be magically healed by Ramadan, either. And I don’t expect Ramadan to be a month when you just push your mental health struggles aside, or when you dedicate yourself 100% to Ramadan to avoid thinking about your mental health. In fact, these are all examples of failing to balance Ramadan with your struggling mental health; this is called spiritual bypassing.
But, balance is absolutely achievable. Follow these five steps to balance between taking care of your mental health and still not missing out on participating in Ramadan.
1. Be True to Yourself
You must acknowledge that your mental health is always something you need to attend to. Be honest with yourself and admit this has been a tough year for everyone — including you. You know what demons you have battled and continue to battle. You know where you are at with your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Although you might not have the power to change what you are going through, you do have the power to improve and change how you react and reconcile with everything that affects your mental health. You know your health best, and you can make changes to improve that.
2. Set Your Intention
This is not a linear process, but it is going to be a journey that you can and should take. You can start this journey, this Ramadan. You don’t have to resort to any extremes, instead, you can commit to Ramadan and improve your mental health by balancing the two.
3. Act Upon Your Intention
Mental health is not a linear process. Your feelings and emotions are constantly shifting, so you need to approach your life and everything you want to do this way. Create a schedule, to-do list, or set of goals for Ramadan that works best for you.
4. Acknowledge Your Human Nature
Be flexible with your new routines and allow room to shift or even change what you do and how you approach Ramadan. Some days you will pray more, other days you will read your Quran, or you will focus on building gratitude. Not every day is going to be the same. Just like how not every day is a bad day.
5. Move at Your Own Pace
|More tips on navigating Ramadan|
• How to Prepare for Our Second Ramadan in Quarantine (Read full article)
• How to Create a Space for Worship at Home This Ramadan (Read full article)
• 3 Ramadan Sleep Secrets to Have Your Best Ramadan Yet (Read full article)
On days when you feel like trying, try your best, and on days when you don’t feel like trying, allow yourself to take breaks. Take time to sit with yourself and your feelings. But don’t let the weight of trying to do everything push you away from even starting or finishing tasks.
Think of Ramadan as a larger project in your life. Your journey through each Ramadan will look different. That’s the beauty of it. The fact that no two Ramadans will ever look the same, just like no two days during your mental health journey will look the same.
Choosing the Middle Path
Yes, this is easier said than done. Even though Ramadan just started, you may already be crushed by the guilt of not “doing” enough. You may not feel like you are prepared for or even close to committing to Ramadan. You probably feel the pressure of meeting certain people’s expectations. You have to show up to Iftar or a family gathering because you don’t have a choice to be alone. And you don’t know how you are going to balance school and work with fasting.
Ultimately, you might just not be sure about anything at all. That is okay. But know that you can take back control, you have that power in you, even if it takes some time.
I believe in Allah’s power to get you to the other side. I believe you can get through Ramadan and come out a stronger, better, happier person. Take your time and cherish the small moments, I promise you won’t forget them. May Allah bless your Ramadan, and may you continue to heal.