Two of the most common challenges that we find ourselves dealing with during Ramadan are hunger and fatigue. As striving Productive Muslims, we need to ensure such feelings don’t prevent us from making the most of this blessed month and fulfilling our duties towards our Creator and those we’re responsible towards. This article will briefly suggest ways in which you can tackle hunger and fatigue in Ramadan, starting from their very root causes.
Generally the main reason for feeling lousy in the morning and throughout the day can be accounted for by lack of proper sleep. Not having enough healthy nutrients in our body can also cause us to experience hunger pangs or headaches. Apart from the physiological aspects, states such as depression and/or anxiety can definitely have a big toll on our psychic energy which is reflected on our bodies as a general state of feeling ‘unwell’.
Before directly suggesting ways to tackle hunger and fatigue, here are two hadiths illustrating the behavior of the Messenger when he faced extreme hunger:
Jabir narrated: “On the Day of the Ditch, we were digging and a hard bit of rock became exposed. We went to the Prophet and said, “‘There is a hard bit of rock exposed in the Ditch.’ He said, ‘I am coming down.’ He got up and there was a stone tied to his belly. We had been three days without eating at all. The Prophet took a pick and struck it and it became like soft sand.” [Bukhari]
Anas said: “I came to the Messenger of Allah one day and I found him sitting with his Companions and he had tied a band around his stomach. I asked some of his Companions, ‘Why has the Messenger of Allah bound up his stomach?’ They said, ‘Out of hunger.’ So I went to Abu Talha , who was the husband of Umm Sulaym bint Milhan , and said, ‘O father, I have seen the Messenger of Allah with his stomach tied with a band and I asked some of his Companions and they said, “It is from hunger.” [Muslim]
Notice how unique the Prophet was as a leader and the patience and endurance he had! Not only that, but despite not having eaten for days, he didn’t take his condition as an excuse to shun away from helping the Companions nor did they refrain from doing hard labor. These hadiths remind us to be grateful that the hunger and fatigue we have to deal with is limited to just a part of the day, and at least we are sure we will have a good meal by the end of it, In sha Allah!
To help you practically deal with hunger and fatigue in Ramadan, here are seven tips I’ve put together for you:
1. Improve Your Breathing
If there was a single most powerful advice I’d encourage you to follow, it would be to learn to breathe better. There are vast resources on the internet on the different techniques you can use but the three most important rules of thumb are:
- breathe through your nose
- breathe deeply (use the diaphragm) and
- breathe slower
You may wonder why breathing has been put on the top of the list. The quality of the oxygen we put into our system and our ability to expel CO2 is vital for the long and healthy lives of our cells. The shallower we breathe, the less oxygen reaches our cells, brains and hearts; which as a consequence have difficulty carrying out their functions at the optimal level. This, in turn, causes us to experience fatigue and a state of low energy. Synchronize your activities with deep breathing until it becomes a subconscious habit: whether you are doing dhikr, praying Taraweeh or doing your regular work.
Regular exercise is important because it is one of the fastest ways in which our bodies are prompted to breathe deeper. If exercise is done properly – even if it is just brisk walking, it gives you a boost of energy instead of wearing you down. Schedule some exercise into your Ramadan routine, like a short walk after suhoor, to boost your energy levels for the rest of the day.
3. Sleep Better
Both too little and too many hours of sleep can cause your body to experience fatigue. Try out the optimal sleeping routine for Ramadan recommended by Productive Muslim. Research points out that aside from the hours of sleep, it’s as or more important to account for the quality of sleep. Go to sleep early, for example, immediately after Taraweeh, so you get enough rest and can wake up refreshed for suhoor. Taking a short power nap after Dhuhr prayer will also help you stay energized and engage in ibadah until the end of the fast.
4. Divert Your Focus Off Hunger and Fatigue
Our mind is an amazing tool: it can concentrate on one thing and completely ignore everything else. For example, maybe if I hadn’t brought to your attention that your posture has slacked, the tension in your neck muscles or the feeling of your shoes against the floor, you wouldn’t have paid attention to it, neither would you have paid attention to all the background noises surrounding you at the moment. What does this have to do with hunger and fatigue? Well, simply put, you choose which feelings you want to accentuate and which you can simply decide to ignore.
5. Pre-Plan Your Schedule and Stay Busy
Plan how you’re going to use your time in Ramadan so you’re not focusing on its challenges. Doing something meaningful with your time, be it worship, work-related tasks or spending quality time with your family helps you get your focus off feelings of hunger and fatigue. You could also volunteer and help others in small chores or activities for the sake of Allah while fasting, as this will not only keep you busy but will also help you reap extra reward!
6. Choose Water Over Caffeine
If you have been used to artificial energy booster drinks and caffeine as a way to wake yourself up normally, you need to know that you have also chosen to tie yourself to a habit that will reveal to be counterproductive for your health in the long run and will actually strain your heart’s function. Consciously increase your water intake and practice reaching for a glass of water instead of another cup of coffee, as water hydrates your body and keeps your mind fresh. And on the conscious behavior note…
7. Eat Consciously
What have you eaten three hours ago? This morning? Yesterday? Eating is not simply a physical process; it involves your mind and emotions as well. This is why it is usually recommended not to eat when in a strong emotional state nor when you feel particularly tired. In both situations, you are likely to pay little attention to what you are ingesting, eat too fast and too much. Before eating, ask yourself if this particular food and its quantity will bring you closer to living a healthier lifestyle. Plan your suhoor and iftar meals to include foods that will help you sustain your energy levels throughout the day and perform your ibadah with concentration. Also make sure that you properly chew every bite and avoid eating immediately before you sleep: especially avoid sugar and starch loaded meals.
Moreover, eating and drinking just enough is in fact the Prophet’s recommendation for maintaining a healthy, productive lifestyle. Abu Karima al-Miqdam ibn Ma’dikarib said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah say:
“A human being fills up no vessel worse than his belly. Enough for a son of Adam are some morsels which will keep his back straight. If it cannot be avoided, then a third is for his food, a third for his drink, and a third for himself.” [Ibn Majah]
Lastly, remember the purpose of fasting: to gain reward from Allah by doing something that he has ordained upon us. Fasting wouldn’t have the same value if it had been completely void of sacrifice. Fasting also helps us sympathize with and have more mercy on our fellow human beings that endure this situation every day of their lives, and makes us grateful for the daily blessings of food, drink and comfort that we normally take for granted. Fasting despite the discomfort we feel from time to time is a sign of our steadfastness and iman (faith), In sha Allah.
Let’s keep all this in mind and strive to make this year’s Ramadan truly refreshing and rewarding: where we implement simple tips to overcome its challenges and focus more on reaping the benefits and blessings of this glorious month!
About the Author:
Jihan Anwar is an MIS student sharing her musings with the team at MuslimYouthMusings and working as a journalist at the National Yemen Newspaper.
P.S: Benefited from this article? Join our Productive Ramadan Online Course – a simple, practical and complete blueprint for leading a Productive Ramadan inshaAllah!