In the holy month of Ramadan, over 1 billion Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset all over the world. Ramadan cultivates discipline and appreciation in us, teaches us the importance of support and community, as well as reminding us to be compassionate and help those in need.
Ramadan is usually a special time for the community where everyone comes together to say their prayers and break their fasts. As this pandemic continues, most countries have imposed restrictions on movement that have forced Muslims to change the way they celebrate Ramadan with others. Same as last year, even now people are unable to enjoy Ramadan and experience the traditions due to lockdowns and social distancing aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. They have been unable to pray communally in mosques or gather with family members, friends, or community for iftar/dinners. This time has been difficult for all of us, and it can be even more difficult during festivals, making people feel even more isolated than before. In these conditions, the effect of isolation during Ramadan on everyone's mental health and wellbeing is a major concern.
Social isolation can make a person feel depressed, cause them to withdraw emotionally, and for long periods which may result in the rise of overeating during iftar and sehri, smoking post-iftar, lack of exercise, excessive screen time, unregulated sleep especially during Ramadan as sleeping patterns change due to sehri, compulsive shopping, and other inappropriate coping strategies. The elderly and those who have already been diagnosed with social anxiety or a mood disorder are particularly vulnerable. The state of one's mental health may have a significant impact on the human immune system, making it highly dangerous to battle COVID-19.
To fight against it, you can be inventive in designing scenes that are close enough to your daily gatherings and keep yourselves busy and away from distraught feelings:
● Parents can spend more meaningful time with their children by discussing family issues and exchanging feelings freely
● Spend some quality family time watching TV
● Reading, painting, or any hobbies
● Hosting Zoom watch parties
● Playing sports
● Small exercises
● Socializing with friends online
● Participating in the preparation of iftar and prayer
● Organizing virtual iftars
● Praying together at home
Remember that you may be physically distancing but to help protect your mental health, and help others do the same, stay socially connected.
The writer is psychotherapist, counselor, & trainer at Praava Health