Fasting and Mental Health: 8 Secrets to Making the Most of Ramadan

It’s important to discuss fasting and mental health, and what you can do to make the most of this Ramadan. Managing how you feel while fasting can help you achieve your goals for Ramadan. With a mind at rest and a heart at peace, it can be easier to attain and maintain the serenity and khushu’ that we all seek during this blessed month. 

So how can you take full advantage of this year’s Ramadan blessings, without looking back a few days after Eid wishing you had done more? This blog post will cover 8 ways you can mentally prepare for that spiritual high. 

Due to COVID-19, Muslims around the world have a unique opportunity to make this year’s Ramadan the best one yet. Let’s do our best to avail it. In addition to getting some extra rest, we also have some room to add in extra time for dhikr, nafl salah and reading the Quran – because when are we going to have this chance again?

Below, I’ve written out a few tips that can help you make the most out of this Ramadan, while also maintaining your fasting and mental health during a precarious global pandemic. I have also included a daily schedule breakdown so that you can plan out your days, as needed.

Take advantage of the unique opportunity this Ramadan 

Optimize Fasting and Mental Health Before Ramadan

1. Make a list of things that you need to do in the next month. Determine whether you can do them before Ramadan starts or after it ends. If it can’t wait, then make time to do it during Ramadan.

2. Set reasonable goals for Ramadan. Do you want to finish the whole Quran during this month? Whatever your goals are, make sure they’re SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based). It’s important to also think of your holistic needs, i.e. if you have children or if you are a caregiver for your parents/grandparents.

3. Try to create a weekly meal plan for your suhoor and iftar. This will help you prepare a list of items to purchase, and limit your grocery store visits. I understand how daunting meal planning can be, so it’s a good idea to look for printable meal lists to make this task easy for you.

Optimize Fasting and Mental Health During Ramadan

4. Spend more time with family and friends. Spending time with your loved ones can help improve your spiritual and mental health, making fasting a lot easier. Of course, we have to consider rules surrounding self-isolation. But remember, physical distancing doesn’t have to mean emotional distancing. Schedule some time to connect virtually with your loved ones 2-3 times per week, and send e-gift cards or something in the mail to loved ones.

Pro Tip: for your local friends, support a small business by giving them an e-gift card from that business.

5.. Online Classes: Several of our mosques and wonderful scholars are offering daily online reflections, so it’s a good time to join a class with your loved ones!

6. Give charity. Typically this would have looked like volunteering at your local masjid or charity, and doing acts of kindness around you. With physical distancing in effect, I suggest giving to your charities even more if you can so they can help the most vulnerable. 

Pro Tip: you can pay your Zakat for this year and next year in advance, if this is comfortable for you. This will help your local charitable organizations manage any financial strains caused by COVID-19.

7. Being mindful of your actions. For many of us, abstaining from food and drink can lead to feeling irritable more quickly. If you’re self-isolating with your family or spouse, Ramadan may be an especially trying time for your patience. It’s important to keep in mind that these are challenging times for everyone, but the fact that we’re able to fast with our loved ones around us is a blessing and one that we should take full advantage of. Be kind to your family and try to be a bit more forgiving and gracious.

8. Make the most out of your day. Plan out your daily schedule, factoring in time for sleep, suhoor, work, iftar, and prayers. This will help you feel more in control, and less overwhelmed.

A Typical Daily Schedule to Balance Mental Health and Fasting

It’s important to remember that Ramadan is both a physical and spiritual test. As much as we would love to, life doesn’t stop during this month. While in a state of fasting for long hours, we are still expected to maintain our daily routines on limited sleep, food and drink. 

So here’s a sample breakdown of a weekday Ramadan schedule that will help you make the most of your day. This will help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed. 

3:45 – 4:30 Suhoor and Dhikr/Quran

Give yourself enough time to eat so you’re not rushing until the last minute. Before Fajr, pray Tahajjud, do Dhikr or read the Quran.

4:30 – 4:45 Fajr

5:00 – 8:30 Sleep

8:30 – 9:00 Wake up and Get Ready for Work

Wake up and get ready for your day at work as you normally would, minus breakfast and the commute. Since you have some extra time, this is a nice window to memorize a dua/do some dhikr, before you begin work. Great way to start the day!

9:00 – 11:00: Work

Work as you normally would, but remember it may be a little difficult to maintain your regular levels of productivity. Be patient with yourself as you adjust in the early days of Ramadan

11:00 – 11:15 Break

If you’re able to, take a quick break. Step out of your “office” and go for a quick walk, or a 15 minute stretch. You can also check in on your family/spouse if they’re also working from home, and take a break with them.

11:15 – 12:30 Work and Wrap up Tasks

12:30 – 2:00pm Zuhr / Rest Break, Modify as Needed

Take your lunch break to pray Zuhr. You may not be able to pray in a congregation at a masjid, but if you’re with your family/spouse try to have a congregation right at home. You’ll still reap the rewards and feel more connected with your family with an opportunity you may not usually have.

2:00 – 3:30 Work

3:30 – 3:45 Break

Sit by the window or on the balcony/backyard and enjoy some sunshine. You can also use this time to do some dhikr or read a book to get a break from screen time.

3:45 – 5:00 Work

5:00 – 5:30 After-Work Wind Down

Take this time to wind down and relax. Whether it’s through creating art, reading a good book, diffusing oils, or doing restorative yoga, think of ways that help you relax. You may be tempted to go straight into a nap, but give your brain some time to slow down as you’ve just ended a long work day on little sleep and no food. Take a few minutes to wind down before you head for a nap.

5:30 – 6:15 Nap

Take a quick nap. Try not to sleep too long, as this can make it more difficult for you to wake up in time for Asr and prepare iftar.

6:15 – 7:00 Asr and Quran

After praying Asr, spend some time reading the Quran. This is a good time to work towards your goal of finishing the whole Quran, if you’ve set that goal.

7:00 – 8:00 Iftar Preparation

You may feel a little stressed and impatient as your hunger reaches its peak and it’s almost time to break your fast. Bring to mind your gratitude to Allah (swt) as you wrap up one more day of fasting.

8:00 – 8:30 Dhikr / Quran

Try to finish Iftar prep early so that you can relax and continue reading the Quran before you break your fast.

8:30 – 9:30 Maghrib and Iftar

9:30 – 10:30 Rest and Wind-Down

Take this time to rest. Drink water, engage in some self-care activities to wind down, like reading a book, putting on a face mask, or spending time with your family. Try not to nap right after you’ve eaten. This might be a good time to go for a walk or a drive.

10:30 – 11:30 Isha and Taraweeh

11:30 – 3:45 Sleep

Weekday Ramadan routine schedule

Remember to be patient and kind to yourself during Ramadan, especially this year. The days will be challenging, and maintaining a schedule will help you feel less overwhelmed. Use the above sample as inspiration to make one that works for you! It will significantly improve your ability to accomplish your responsibilities and make the most of what Ramadan has to offer. If you want even more structure, you can also download this Ramadan Daily Schedule Sheet.

Wishing you all a blessed and balanced month of Ramadan.

“Verily, with hardship comes ease.” 

– Quran 94:6