Working and Staying Sane in Ramadhan*
By Saiyyidah Zaidi
We spend a lot of time outside Ramadan looking forward to the month of fasting but then when it gets closer, fear starts kicking in, creating a lot of conflict within us. On one hand, we can’t wait for Ramadan to come and on the other hand we are petrified at the thought of the long day of fasting where life carries on: working, looking after children, studies, etc.
This begs the question: how does one remain sane and focused when all around life continues while fasting? Here are 7 ways to manage your sanity while working in Ramadan:
- Planning your meals is primary
The first thing to do is to think about what you are going to eat at suhoor and iftar. What you eat has a very powerful impact on your energy levels and whilst we need the right proportion of carbs, protein, fruits and vegetables, we do need to make sure that we do not overload on carbs.When you eat too many carbs and your body has to work harder to process it, you will feel lethargic and tired. Chances are, this is a big reason why you feel lethargic at work.
And when you feel sluggish at work, you are less productive and less able to do a good job. At the end of the day even though you are fasting you still need to make sure that you put in the right amount of effort in order for you to earn your wage. If you are going to work and believe that you can just go in and do the hours and not be as productive then it’s a major mistake. The requirement for ihsan (excellence) at work does not change just because Ramadan has come in. If anything, has it not increased along with its reward?
The second major thing to focus on is your attitude towards Ramadhan. If you go into it thinking it will be hard work then it probably will be. Whereas, if you think that you will be able to not just find it easy, but you will also enjoy the fasting then chances are you will be able to do just that In sha Allah. Think positive! Think that Allah is going to make this easy for you, and He definitely will! All it takes is the faith. As our beloved Prophet said:
“Indeed, having good thoughts concerning Allah is from the perfection of the worship of Allah.” [Tirmidhi]
- Plan your annual leave in advance
Unless you are reading this in the last 10 days of Ramadhan, do your best to book these days off as annual leave. That way you can focus entirely on Ramadan rather than having to balance the struggle between work and fasting. Come the end of the month, you will be left feeling a lot better about what you were able to achieve, rather than feeling that it has just slipped by. However, if you are a school or university student with no proper holidays, then plan your last ten days in advance on making the best of non-school/class hours. Make a schedule of how you want to spend each hour of the day from traveling back from school in the vehicle till iftar and taraweeh to the end of the day.
- Maximize your time with the Qu’ran
I remember focusing on reading the Qur’an outside Ramadan once. I would read on the journey to work, in spare moments here and there and amazingly I was reading an average of three chapters a day without much difficulty. What I discovered was: when you set an intention and then act on it, it’s amazing what you can achieve.
- Make your lunch breaks productive!
Be deliberate about what you are going to do in your lunch break, but make sure you take it. You have a number of options: you can go out for a walk and get some fresh air, spend extra time on your prayer, read or memorize Qur’an, meditate or take a nap. These are just some ideas and surely there are many others. Pick one and do it for a week (or even 10 days at a time) and then change so that you don’t get bored. Often what happens is we set our minds on doing something, we don’t change it and then get bored. Have a lunch break buddy wherein you can share verses that you came across, or recite to each other perhaps.
- Face workplace challenges patiently
List down what are the probable challenges you might face while working and plan ways to combat them efficiently. Here are some possible tips and tricks of getting through the challenges productively:
Play Qur’an along your journey or if you have a CD of your favorite mentor speaking then play that. Focus on listening to it attentively, and you won’t feel the traffic or the heat! Also, what better time than this to do dhikr. Allah says,
“Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” [Qur’an: Chapter 13, Verse 28]
Bullies at work:
There are many things that give us the opportunity to learn and reflect at work. I find that working lunches are fine because you just know that you are unable to eat – focus on the reward that you are receiving and that should keep you going.
Remember that fasting is an act of worship that is between you and Allah, only He knows if you are really fasting. You will encounter the odd person that says ‘go on, have something, noone will know if you eat and drink something.’ Have a little patience in responding, it’s an opportunity for you to do dawah. If individuals are particularly challenging approach your manager or HR to ask for guidance on what to do. Most employers tend to be aware of their responsibilities to employees during Ramadan. If they don’t then please direct them to the Working Muslim Guide to Ramadan for Employers (and Employees) available at WorkingMuslim.com.
Too much work that effects the time for prayer or reading Qur’an:
Take a five-ten minute break to relax and read the Qur’an. Not only does it help you insert Ibadah into your busy schedule, it actually serves as a productive way of working by getting you freshened up for the next task. As for prayer, make it a habit to make your work revolve around prayer. Prioritize it by going for prayer no matter what work you’re doing or are in the middle of. It also adds a lot of barakah (blessings) to your time and work!
Remind yourself of the reward of having patience, Ramadan being the perfect time to learn to practice it.
- The ultimate secret: Plan what you will do when you get home from work
It doesn’t matter if you want to have a nap or if you want to just veg out for a little while and unwind, the key is to be deliberate. When you know what you are doing, it becomes a lot easier for you to maximise your time even if you are just relaxing or sleeping. Now if you get home from work and have kids and other responsibilities waiting for you, then my recommendation is to have a nap on the journey home from work (unless you are driving of course!). If you have a lot to do when you get home then I am going to suggest that because in the summer time Fajr is so early, you can spend a short time afterwards doing dhikr or reading Qur’an and then try to go to sleep again and wake up as late as you can to get ready and go to work. Plan to sleep immediately after taraweeh so as to wake up fresh and early for suhoor and tahajjud (night prayer). There is a lot of barakah in these early hours and so use them to finish your homeworks etc.
This is where planning is fundamental. You cannot do everything, its all about balance and during Ramadan the key is to burn the candle at one end only so that you can maximise your ibadah and yet not wear yourself out.
The most important way to maintain your sanity is to focus on it. You know you are going to get ratty, you know you are going to find it a little challenging ,so focus on being calm and present during each and every fast and renew the intention each day.