No doubt you have heard that Ramadan is just around the corner–whether that corner is a day, a week, a month or more away.
And maybe you are eagerly anticipating the special blessings which come at that time of year.
Or, maybe, you’re anxious about fasting during the long summer days, managing your responsibilities with a daunting new sleep schedule, or just trying to find your place in the Muslim community.
And while the internet abounds with Ramadan-related advice, I am just going to focus on overcoming Ramadan-related anxiety. The key is to harness your anxiety, and direct it towards preparation.
Find the Source of the Anxiety
To start, take some time to think about what specifically is causing you anxiety.
If you’re not sure, or you’re feeling anxious about Ramadan generally, then what you can do is imagine yourself when Ramadan actually begins, and think through the first few days and night in great detail.
In your mind, you’ll play through those first days, plus any other big days or events that are significant for you–like a birthday, family gathering, a presentation at work, or travel–and which could be additional sources of anxiety because they fall in the month of Ramadan.
While you’re thinking through these days or events, take note (literally, write it down!) of anything that seems to trouble you. We’ll call those your pain points. Here are some things you may want to consider:
(1) When is the first day? Do you know when you will start fasting? If an announcement will be made later, do you know how you will find out? (Email, phone call, check a website, or facebook?)
(2) When will you start and break your fast? Do you have a prayer timetable or app to help you with this?
(3) What will you eat for suhoor (before fasting)?
(4) What will you do after fajr? Sleep, work, read Qur’an?
(5) What will you eat for iftar (to break the fast), and where? Home, mosque, restaurant?
(6) When will you be able to sleep? Especially if the time between isha and fajr is very short where you live, you may wish to plan for additional time to sleep during the day.
(7) What will it feel like to go about your day without eating or drinking? Do you have a caffeine addiction?
(8) Is there an activity you are used to that may be affected by Ramadan? Exercise, TV, dose of medicine?
(9) Are there any ways to make your days easier?
Planning for the Pain Points
After discovering the sources of your anxiety, you can plan ways to help you deal with them. You may have a unique situation which you have to prepare for, so you are the best person to develop a solution, though it may help to ask friends or colleagues for ideas.
Deal with each pain point individually, and determine a solution to help you prepare for it. Some things, like hunger and thirst, cannot be entirely avoided. However, their impact can be reduced with thoughtful preparation, like adjusting your schedule and careful meal planning.
One friend of mine used to go in to work extra early in the morning, soon after eating suhoor and praying fajr, so she could get her work done before getting too hungry. Someone else would break up work into chunks throughout the day–some time in the morning, and then some later after a mid-day nap, and sometimes even in the middle of the night. Not everyone has such a flexible work schedule, but find out what you can do that will help.
Planning meals to maximize nutrition while minimizing negative after-effects is also a wise way to prepare for Ramadan. With such a short time to eat during the long summer months, it’s very important to make those meals healthy. Drinking plenty of water throughout the night (keep a water bottle handy so you can keep sipping!) will also help you stay hydrated.
One friend of mine bought an extra large bottle for this purpose, to ensure she would drink enough water every night. A coffee or soda habit may have caused a caffeine addiction–what worked for me was having some caffeine with suhoor and iftar, in order to avoid headaches, though there are undoubtedly many other solutions.
Ramadan will likely affect your routine, so you may need to reschedule an activity, or take a temporary break from it. Plan ahead–if exercise is important to you, then find a time when it will work best for your fasting body (or non-fasting, if necessary–working out after iftar) and schedule it accordingly.
If you’ll miss your favorite TV shows while you’re at taraweeh prayers, plan to record or DVR them or watch online. I had one friend who loved watching certain shows, but every year without fail she would record them on video tapes, and spend each night praying, and then catch up on the shows after Ramadan.
Reviewing Your Plans
After developing a plan to deal with the sources of your anxiety, you should mentally rehearse your plans in detail. Imagine waking up to prepare suhoor–how dark it will be, how you will prepare the food, what you will eat and drink.
Imagine going through your day while fasting–adjusting the schedule as necessary, including prayers. Imagine how you will spend your iftar–try not to be alone, but imagine where you will be when you break your fast, what you will eat and drink. If there is a special situation, review it also in detail to prepare for it. Imagine your interactions with non-fasting family members and co-workers.
Imagine any additional problems that may come up–oversleeping, exhaustion, overheating. Figure out how they can be prevented (like setting an alarm clock), and add that to your plans. Also imagine how to deal with these problems if they do occur–is there a place you can go that is cool and air-conditioned?
Continue to review your plans and preparations, in as much detail as you can, first with all the problems you may encounter. And then, at last, imagine spending Ramadan immersed in its blessings, with everything going perfectly.
Lastly, remember what Allah says after the verses which prescribe fasting:
“… Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:185)
So make duaa that Allah will give you mercy, forgiveness, and success in Ramadan. You’ll be ready for the pain points, and prepared with their solutions. You’ll have made your anxiety work for you, so that when Ramadan comes you can really enjoy it In-Shaa-Allah.