During the Holy month of Ramadan, those who are fasting will undergo changes in their eating habits, sleeping patterns and daily routine. These changes can affect your physical and mental health; therefore, it’s important to look after yourself well during this period.
In this blog, we have answered some of the common questions about fasting and ways to look after your mental health and wellbeing during Ramadan.
How can I look after my mental health and wellbeing while I’m fasting?
Eat sensibly at dusk and dawn
During Ramadan, the fasting period is broken twice a day by a meal at dusk (Iftar) and another at dawn (Suhoor). To ensure you replenish your body, it’s important that you eat sensibly, at the appropriate times of day. It is advisable to eat food that releases energy slowly, such as carbohydrates, fruit, wholegrain, nuts and oats.
Make sure you also rehydrate by drinking plenty of water during these times. Drinking small amounts often is much better than drinking larger amounts at once. Be cautious not to drink too much caffeine, as this can produce a surge of energy that will be short-lived, leaving you feeling tired.
Be mindful of the food that you eat during Iftar as anything too spicy, sugary or difficult to digest may cause you difficulty sleeping. Avoid caffeine at this meal too, to ensure you are able to get a good amount of sleep.
Rest and recharge when appropriate
It’s important to establish a new sleep routine during Holy month, to ensure you get an appropriate amount of rest to recharge your body and renew your mind.
Although you will need to change your sleeping routine to fit around your meals, getting at least four hours sleep a night, after Iftar, will help your body recharge. You may also be able to get a few hours extra after Suhoor, before it’s time to start your day.
Exercise moderately to boost energy
You may not consider exercising during Ramadan, but it’s definitely advisable to continue during this period. One of the biggest misconceptions is that by stopping all exercise, you will reserve more energy.
Contrary to this belief, exercising whilst fasting will help you to maintain your mental wellbeing. During exercise, the feelings of fatigue and low mood will actually disappear. This is because exercise produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that help to maintain positive mood and energy levels. The important thing is to avoid overworking your body, by choosing the right intensity and type of exercise.
Light-intensity exercise is an ideal way to stay healthy during Ramadan. This should last for no longer than 40 minutes. It is less tiring and less dehydrating than high-intensity exercise, such as running or cycling.
You could try one of these light-intensity exercises:
- Taking a walk
- Going for a swim
- Following a home aerobic exercise programme
Above all, it is particularly beneficial for your health and mental wellbeing to take a fast-paced walk, for at least 30 minutes, every other day.
Focus on positive thinking
Withdrawing from food and drink can cause a change in your mental state, so it is especially important to try to focus your mind on positive thoughts.
Positive thoughts boost your mood and have the power to generate increased optimism and happiness. It can take some practice to switch negative thoughts to more constructive ones, but the more you practice this, the easier it will become.
Try writing down the things you are grateful for in your life and reflect on them daily. This will help to refocus your mind and can truly improve your outlook on life.
Are there any mental health conditions fasting may not be good for?
Depression and mood disorders:
Adjustments to sleeping patterns and the withdrawal of food may pose some difficulties if you have a mental health condition. These changes in routine could exacerbate symptoms of conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or a mood disorder.
If you suffer with depression, you may often lose your appetite or overeat. For this reason, it’s important that you take particular care of yourself during Ramadan by attempting to eat and rest at the appropriate times, as well as drinking plenty of water.
A change of appetite is the main feature of different eating disorders, as well as depression. If you have an eating disorder, Ramadan can be a trigger and a difficult time for you.
It is possible for somebody with an eating disorder to observe Ramadan; however, it is advisable that you seek the appropriate advice from your doctor in advance.
Do I need to seek advice from my doctor before fasting?
Before fasting, you may want to consider your current state of health and address any concerns you have.
If you have any ongoing medical conditions, it would be beneficial to speak to your doctor ahead of Holy month. They can advise whether they think you are physically and mentally able to fast. You may also want to speak to your doctor if you are taking any medication, before you adjust or stop taking them during Ramadan.
Professional help and support for your mental health
Using the advice mentioned within this blog can be helpful, but if you find that you are struggling with your mental health, it may be that you need to seek professional support.
Our experienced psychiatrists and psychologist are committed to providing everyone they see with expert treatment, so that they can start to feel better and enjoy life once again.