Thursday 23rd April

| BY Zeynab Mohamed

Ten Self-Care Tips During Ramadan According to Zeynab Mohamed

I’ve been counting the days lately. Trying to remember, which day of the week it is. Monday? Friday? I’m failing, it could be Tuesday then again it could very much be Sunday. The days have all merged into a continuous loop. It’s suffocating. As if it were a grasp of breath I’m reminded that Ramadan is days away. As much as the world seems to be at a halt, life proceeds to go on outside of our quarantine quarters. Ramadan is just another reminder.

Ramadan, the ninth Islamic month sees Muslims embark on 30 days of fasting. Refraining from any food or water from dawn till dusk each day. While the act of fasting often takes centre stage, Ramadan is much more than just a fast. It’s about fostering and recharging a connection to faith. The end goal is becoming the best version of yourself, reached through a set of prescribed rituals. For a very long time, I wasn’t able to recognise the rituals for what they were. Acts of self-care.

Self-care, undoubtedly an increasingly popular yet very much vague concept. What does it really mean? The modern-day definitions often trace back to poet Audre Lorde, who described acts of self-care as “self-preservation”. As broad as the term may be, the definition boils down to taking care of oneself. For me, self-care is the act of returning to yourself and taking the time to put yourself first. The commodification of self-care has brought strange and extravagant acts; from vitamin drips to crystal readings. When you’re forced to stay at home, the elaborate acts can seem quite silly and we move towards the more personal and simpler acts of self-care. Whether it be a face mask or eating healthy, the vagueness of the concept becomes what you need it to be.

Unlike losing track of the days in the week, I know exactly how many days I’ve been in isolation. 29 days and counting. My world feels slightly smaller with every day. Enclosed into our confinement it’s hard to fight the doomed outlook. It’s crushing. It’s strange how the place we once thought of as a refuge is the very one we’re trying to escape. A new bleak reality, where I’m caught daydreaming between an alternate world and nightmares of every possible catastrophic ending. Self-isolation is the perfect ground for fostering irrational anxieties and insufferable nervousness.

Self-care is a welcomed distraction. I’ve made a schedule and tried to stick to a routine but it’s proving to be hard escaping the pandemic. I feel imprisoned by my own thoughts, thoughts of an uncertain future, bleak present and over-glorified past. It’s overwhelming. I’ve tried to pretend everything is fine but that feels like a burden too heavy to carry. I’ve tried to face our new temporary reality, I find myself spiralling with anxiety.

There is no escaping my thoughts and any over-optimistic plans to live my best productive isolation self are yet to manifest. I use my daily prayers as a way to break up my day, a brief moment I’m able to escape my thoughts. Prayers during Ramadan are increased, as a form of remembrance. The purpose of prayer is to refocus the course of thoughts. I have found that I’m able to feel and let my emotions pass through me without guilt. The precise repetitive nature of recitation during prayer becomes sort of a trance that takes you away from the present moment to bring you back to yourself.

Fasts, detoxes and cleanses are nothing new to the world of self-care. Whilst the cleanses and detoxes promoted in the self-care world focus on the physical body, the fast of Ramadan concerns the mind. To take food away and not have to think about it, can be very clarifying. It forces a new motivation and stillness. My days may be filled with mundane nothingness, however, I find my mind spilling out onto itself. Unable to calm my mind – my thoughts are always scattered and I find it exhausting to concentrate. In the lead up to Ramadan, I have fasted a couple of days as prep. A fasting day equates to full escapism mode and I’m able to centre myself. I found a new sense of calmness, where my thoughts were collected because I’m not concerned with trying to busy myself. I was able to be still and focus on myself.

Self-care acts don’t necessarily have to be self-oriented, it can aid those around us. Charity is paramount to Ramadan, it’s the time for giving and showing gratitude. Which couldn’t be any more apt for the current situation we’re in. Donating to the key workers, helping my elderly neighbour with her shopping and posting out a care package for a friend, these are the things that remind me that pandemic is bigger than just me. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of believing you’re at the centre and sentenced to carrying the burden of the pandemic.

The combination of the absence of food, ritualised prayer and charitable acts create a mindful experience. In these moments, I’m able to take myself out of a new lifestyle that’s been forced on us and be stable, connected and grateful. Even if only for a brief moment.

Top image: @thequescarf