Do you ever get excited, so excited – and plan, imagine and delight in your Ramadan schedule? However, at the same time do you also feel a deep tug down in your heart, a throb, or a pull of self-doubt? Do you ever find that the time comes and you wish that the moon was not sighted yet and you had an extra day to get your head ready for the month? Or that you are doing well for a few days and then start to feel yourself sinking into a lull?
Do you ever feel that the rain of Ramadan is pouring blessings everywhere except it seems not to be falling on you? Maybe you feel you are under a different cloud? Do you ever feel that Ramadan is actually quite depressing? You have the blues. Not the Ramadan blues where you are missing Ramadan after it has passed, but the blues because you feel it is getting you down.
If the answer is yes, then this article is for you.
Why are you feeling this way?
It could be for a combination of really complex reasons, or something actually quite straightforward. But, sometimes forming your understanding about this can require a timely process that you cannot rush. This process requires you to evaluate your environment (systemic factors), your psychological relationship to perfectionism, and the act of procrastination.
In other words, do you always believe you have to do things perfectly?
Do you get so worked up and afraid that you cannot do it perfectly that you then avoid the task?
Do your environment and your immediate relationships keep you stuck in this ‘all or nothing’ mindset?
If yes, how can we pull ourselves out of this lull and make the most of this month?
The first thing I would say is it’s Okay! Do not hide or be embarrassed or feel ashamed. You can take care of this and it can work out. Emotional self-care is crucial for productivity, and should not be understated. In some places, depression has caused a 51 billion dollar loss annually in productivity. Regardless of how economically advanced a country is, the consequences of depression are all the same; significantly reduced productivity and long-term consequences.
What can you do if you’re going through this?
1. Mindset Shifts
When you fall into the usual cycle of a ‘downer’ or you feel yourself falling, remember that a ‘downer’ is normal and everyone dips now and then. The key is whether you can bring yourself out consciously and prevent yourself from becoming stuck there.
Self-compassion is important in overcoming the guilt and self-criticism we may feel in our Ramadan ‘relapses’. Having self-respect and self-love can help you shift into the present time and appreciate it as a gift, therefore enabling you to move steadily and paced back into your previously planned action. Compassion is one of the defining features of our Creator . Before we begin anything, we invoke Allah’s Names of the Continuously Merciful, The Especially Merciful.
Time is precious and getting stuck in a ‘downer’ period sucks time out of your Ramadan, but it doesn’t need to be this way.
Imagine forgiving yourself swiftly and becoming refocused on your present planned action. That sounds good and is actually possible.
Now, here are some tips and techniques that you can use to help create your own little plan of how to manage the ‘down’ periods.
3. Remember the value of small consistent deeds
Always remember that the prophet was asked which deed is most beloved to Allah . He said:
“The most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.” [Bukhari].
When you are feeling a deep tug into a ‘downer’ it is important that you do not call upon your inner perfectionism and try to jump into an idealistic view of what you can achieve at that moment in time. It is important that you gently commit to a regular small deed and keep in mind what that will be.
Perhaps you will make a commitment that the small deed I will not give up even during my downer will be ________. let it be something that you can manage and are doing already so that it is within your reach.
This does not mean that you give in and have a sluggish Ramadan, it means during your downer period what you will expect of yourself is not to give up everything despite feeling that way you will have to commit to that one regular deed
Ramadan may feel overwhelming for you because of lack of time management. The feeling of not doing enough can further deflate you, but that small deed which you may not think is worth much, is bringing you forgiveness and rich rewards from your Creator who is Appreciative of every effort.
4. Reflection and dua as healing worship
Every day brings about new challenges and experiences, but one thing that successful people have in common is that they reflect. Often that comes in the form of reflective journaling. Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor, told the New York Times. “Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it.”
Our brains are exposed to information overload and by connecting our worries to our personal values and articulating these, we redefine the narrative of the downer that consumes us. Your reflection can start orally, through the beautiful tool of dua.
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 186]
Take all the scattered thoughts in your mind and put them in dua. Sometimes you just need to let the feeling that is trapped inside of you be heard. And The Best to hear us is the All-Hearing, The Most Knowing, Most Compassionate Himself.
Use the dua mechanism as a tool to nurture yourself and release built-up frustrations. Use dua to also help you focus on the things you really want to be manifested and to start to prepare the for how to reach them.
Dua is a highly rewarded form of worship. When you do it, you are both relieving your distress and getting rewards by doing it.
5. Set a timer
Set a timer for your downer. In that period, allow yourself to gradually warm back up into the routine you previously had. Once the time is up, start moving. Setting limits helps you consciously track time and become aware of the time you have had to rebuild your inner strength. You are less likely to spend a whole day feeling depressed in bed this way if you are consciously accounting for your ‘down’ time. When the timer is up, force yourself to get up and start small i.e. tasbih and build up to moving your posture and position, to getting up and making wudhu or getting an energy shower/ghusl.
6. Create a motivational ‘pull’ mechanism
Create something that will help inspire you and remind you of why you want to make the most of Ramadan. This could be an inspiring nasheed list, Qur’an list or Islamic lecture playlist. Try and test them to see how well they work for you. See where you find your heart and what helps uplift your mood.
What to do if you are really stuck?
1. Try just being quiet and still and listen to your inner wisdom. Talk to someone and tell them you do not want advice but just for them to listen. Sometimes you just need to let the feeling that is trapped inside of you to be heard.
2. If you do not have anyone you find nurturing to help then you can try the two color writing technique. You write with one color to represent the feeling and the other color to represent your inner wisdom. Thus allowing both parts to communicate and find a release or a resolution. When the timer is up, force yourself to get up and start small i.e. dhikr and tasbih (remembrance of Allah) and build up to moving your posture and position to get up and making wudu or getting an energy shower/ghusl (ritual washing).
3. Try the worry destroyer and gratitude plate. One of my clients used a paper plate to list all her worries on one side and all her responses to the worries on the other side. This made it easier to dump all her worries each morning and flip the plate over and reinforce all the reminders of what steps she is taking for them. It was a quicker process of about 2 mins each morning to dump and refresh and get focused each day. She just put the paper plate under her pillow. In the beginning, she used it several times a day until eventually she only needed to look at it in the morning and before bedtime.
“But as for the favor of your Lord, report [it].” [Qur’an: Chapter 93, Verse 11]
This Surah came down to ease the prophet’s sadness, and one of the antidotes given was gratitude. If you can condition your mind to always find reasons to be grateful, in that process you will find inspiration to pull you out of that ‘downer’.
4. Are there any systemic issues to address? List one thing in each ‘system’ that you come in contact with that you can modify to help you in your Ramadan goals [family system, work system, education, community etc]. Focus on the things you can change. If you find there are things you cannot change easily and they impact you such that you just cannot get over it and accept it – then you need to talk to someone you trust about it and decide if this is something you need to take more thought out action for or require some kind of formalised help for.
Often the struggle is making changes in the workplace to thrive in Ramadan, so take some time to reflect on what you do have control over such as; commute time, prayer breaks, lunch times. What can you change about your working day for the better?
5. Get some professional help. If you are scarce on your natural resources, behavioral activation for Muslim communities [BA-M] has produced a useful handout which you can download and use with a therapist. There are online therapy services that are available. Talking via technology could be better than talking to no one. Do not neglect your emotional and psychological health if you have had problems with regulating your moods and actions over a long time (years).
Moving forward: This Ramadan and beyond
So what is your relationship like with your perfectionist side? Can you be open to glitches in your plan? Can you allow yourself a dip without punishing yourself? You see the thing is, when you start to admonish yourself and scold your heart for letting down your plan – you can open the door to hopelessness. Having self-compassion, however, is like a self-hug. It is ok. You can still do well get up and carry on. And trust me you will have wasted less time and nipped the procrastination phase in the bud.
This doesn’t have to be the most perfect Ramadan ever but make it the best for your situation right now. The start of a consistent movement in growth. You may not be able to do a juz’ a day or even half a juz’ a day if you are slow at recitation right now. And that doesn’t matter because Allah The Most Merciful loves that which you do consistently, and He did not specify the size of the deeds. The wisdom is that these small deeds grow into big unshakable things.
If you aim to work on anything this Ramadan, let it be knowing how to shift out of that downer as smoothly and efficiently as you can, so make a plan for it now.
Once you have moved out of it, do not look back. You are loved and capable and special and in fact, you will be rewarded for these struggles. Smile and take the present and keep moving with it at the right pace for you.
Whatever shape your ‘downer’ may take, remember you can still have a wonderfully blessed Ramadan.
Disclaimer – this article is for general advice purposes only.