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Women’s Mental Health During Ramadan

The fasting period during Ramadan can have both positive and negative effects on women’s mental well-being. On one hand, the spiritual practices of increased devotion during Ramadan can provide a sense of purpose and fulfilment, which can positively impact mental health. Additionally, the communal aspect of Ramadan, such as family gatherings and community iftars, can contribute to feelings of connectedness and support. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims won't eat or drink during the hours of daylight. Ramadan remembers the month the Qur'an (the Muslim holy book) was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The actual night that the Qur'an was revealed is a night known as Lailut ul-Qadr ('The Night of Power'). We as Muslims view this month of blessings as a time to connect with God, our soul, and our mind; some challenges pose a threat to women making the most out of Ramadan this could be due to mental health, fulfilling traditional roles in the house and navigating Ramadan in a fast-paced world. I spoke to Dr Shabina Qayyum, who specialises in mental health and works alongside women's mental health organisations to grasp a better understanding of specific factors that may make women vulnerable to mental health issues during Ramadan and how to prioritise self-care for those struggling to delegate time for themselves to reflect and heal from hardships. 


“These are the factors for those who are observing Ramadan, the first being you are meant to have good physical health before mental health, the second is having adequate sleep, without having enough sleep you can feel dysfunctional and a little bit irate and the third factor being your position and responsibilities in the household. Obviously, circumstances are different to each woman and largely based on who they live with, if they have dependency which will increase their responsibility, and if they have a job. Alongside all these roles are they also playing the traditional role of getting up early to make food for their family at Suhoor and then coming back from work to prepare iftar that can all have a physical strain on women during Ramadan and as a resolute can the impact on their mental health as they're going to be tried which lowers the threshold of patience. Ramadan is a time when we tend to think of our loved ones who have passed away so women's hormones are much more sensitive which could lead to being more emotional. This allows depression to become more apparent, stress and anxiety can play a part in those emotions too. Not to forget the physical aspects such as menstrual cycles that can affect  women and cause them to make emotional thread decisions.”


“When we look at the month of Ramadan it is important to put things into perspective. I live a fast-paced life where I have a number of responsibilities. I am a mother and a wife so coming into Ramadan there are a couple of things I have done to help such as being grateful for Ramadan coming at the perfect time for me because it is the month where we can reap maximum rewards from God. Anything I do in this month will give me spiritual ease and connect me with my loved ones. Thirdly I have cut down on my social media usage because there are effective ways to use social media but how they add to my burden in terms of asking me to do things or people asking me for medical advice so for my own mental well-being and sanity it important to keep some things to the side that are not as important. Use this month for spiritual healing and blessings.”


I had never affiliated Ramadan and mental health together up until this Ramadan. The reason for this is not being educated enough on mental health or even identifying my thoughts and feelings to fully understand why I feel a certain way. However, I have taken it upon myself this year to begin my own mental health journey and really educate myself on the different aspects of my mental and physical health. In the Muslim community mental health is seen as an uncomfortable restricted topic to discuss. I wanted to know if Dr Shabina felt the same way as I do and what can be done to change this narrative.“Mental health is a huge taboo in our community, it is important to continue to have open and encouraging discussions about mental health especially in Ramadan. For someone who hesitates or doesn't have the courage to go out and seek mental health, advice it’s important to develop something known as insight I often use this when speaking to my patients who have mental health issues, and that insight can recognize that you're feeling not in the right place and anybody who picks up the phone and tells a GP that they're not mentally doing okay I thank them. The fact that you have picked up the phone and found the courage to speak to me and told me how you feel you should congratulate yourself because that is the first step to recovery. So always think by making this big step you have taken the first step to better yourself. “


“If you don’t feel ready to directly speak to someone there are many online resources that you can access for your mental health one of these is MoodGym which takes you through online therapy. So you can do it in the privacy and comfort of your home and nobody has to know about it. Keep Your Mind Peterborough is a wealth of local support and resources for those living in Cambridgeshire. “


I opened up about my worries and the pressure I face in Ramadan I know a lot of young women also struggle with the main one being not feeling mentally ready for Ramadan for me I feel like you have to be your best self in Ramadan and so you can't have intrusive thoughts you can't mess up because this month is so holy and blessed that I have to become my best self which puts a strain on my relationship with God which then causes me to have a negative mindset when coming into Ramadan. But along with not feeling connected with myself at times, navigating Ramadan in a fast-paced life is quite challenging because you want to gain all the rewards from this month, and you want to ask God for forgiveness but it can be hard to allocate time to achieve all the things I want to do in a day. Doctor Shabina was able to give her knowledgeable insight into my concerns and worries. “When I hear young people say they don't feel ready for Ramadan for whatever reason the first thing I see is for them to forgive themselves. The reason why you are experiencing Ramadan is so you can fulfil it to the best of your ability. It doesn't matter if you're not ready. God is always ready for you so don’t be so harsh on yourself. Think of this month being sent to you for a reason. Regarding intrusive thoughts which are common to happen, we are only human but maybe restricting your social media intake and using that time to be productive.”


It is vital for women to prioritise self-care during Ramadan. This can include getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated and engaging in activities that bring them joy and relaxation. Seeking support from loved ones, friends or mental health professionals can also be beneficial. Overall it is important to be mindful of the potential impact of Ramadan on women's mental health and to take steps to ensure self-care support during this time. I hope we all have a blessed and peaceful Ramadan where we can connect with our souls and heal.


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