Ramadan is traditionally considered a time of the year to focus on family. Reduced working hours allows families to spend more time together. However, there are distractions and challenges faced by fasting people, more particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gulf Times recently reached out to Joelle El Khoury, a psychologist by qualification and currently working with Zulal Wellness Resort as Child & Family Specialist.
She spoke about how to find a balance between the family and work during Ramadan even as the pandemic and related restrictions continue.
l How do you make sure the time spent with family is meaningful and not overrun by distractions such as television, social commitments, stress at work, and social media?
Ramadan is an ideal time for the family to get together, especially for children as their experiences of the holy month forms the feelings and memories they will associate with the special occasion for the rest of their lives.
To get children excited and engaged, it is important to create special family traditions, in order to help them understand the blessings of the holy month that are cherished by adults.
Getting together for Suhoor and Iftar – the perfect time to catch up on the day and remind each others of Ramadan’s blessings – is a ritual to be encouraged and respected by every family member.
Ramadan offers families more time to spend together, especially during Suhoor and Iftar. This gives them an opportunity to strengthen their bonds and to re-connect with one another.
Agreeing to remove distractions for every meal can be a solution to organise quality mealtime. Families can dedicate a basket for everyone to put aside their gadgets. Such a habit will help ensure everyone is focusing on each other and on building their connection, while genuinely being there for each other.
l Ramadan observers go through drastic changes in their eating and sleeping patterns, affecting their work productivity. How can people remain efficient to get their work done?
Certainly, the lack of good sleep, could cause exhaustion, affect concentration and impact one’s emotional wellbeing. Instead of taking multiple short naps, it is advised to get a consolidated sleep; try to sleep at least four or five hours after Iftar, while having only a 20-minutes power nap during the day.
Avoiding artificial blue light before bedtime is essential, as it disturbs one’s sleep rhythm, and a quiet and dark space is a must to fall and stay asleep without disturbance. Giving preference to balanced and moderate meals and decaffeinated beverages also favour good night sleep.
To remain efficient at work, set and prioritise daily urgent tasks when your energy level is still high, and postponing the ones that can wait. Let your team know if you’re struggling to complete a certain task and get support if required. Adopting an open communication will help you get through the day and will improve teamwork. During Suhoor, opt for getting the right proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables to maintain your energy level during working hours.
l How can one avoid irritability and anxiety triggered by dehydration and general fatigue, and its repercussions on professional and personal relations?
Changes in mood and cognition have indeed been reported among Ramadan observers. Stagger your hydration. However, rehydration should be approached as a cumulative process. The best way to rehydrate fasting bodies and maintain this hydration for longer is to pace your liquid intake by consuming at least two litres of water – one or two glasses at a time - between Iftar and Imsak. For some people, fasting might exaggerate their stress, as fasting makes the blood sugar levels drop, leading to mood swings. Following the above-mentioned tips will help you regulate the body functions thus supporting your emotional wellbeing.
The best way to deal with these consequences is to re-connect with ourselves, focusing on our basic needs. Social connections, building and being surrounded by family members and friends are also fundamental. Avoid working when you are tired, take short breaks whenever you feel irritated. You can also try using some breathing techniques to lower the anxiety and irritability levels.
l Late night gatherings and meals are a norm during Ramadan – how can one make sure that it does not negatively affect children, leading to hyperactivity issues as sleep hours are reduced?
Ramadan is a great opportunity for families to spend quality time together. So, keep your children busy. Organise activities, keep them away from screens to focus on enjoying the holy month’s special moments. Special things you can do together as a family could be reading together, involving them in Iftar preparation and table decoration; engaging them in charity activities, while encouraging them to have light exercise to induce better sleep. Children with poor sleep hygiene may feel grumpy, irritable, restless and have trouble paying attention at school.
For children, it is recommended to maintain a consistent bedtime routine and healthy sleep hygiene practices that can help reinforce the connection between bed and sleep. Cut out sugar, caffeine a few hours before bedtime. Avoid stimulating activities and projects that require a lot of focusing in the evening. Make the bed a stress-free zone reserved for sleep. Develop an enjoyable bedtime routine, such as reading a favourite book, spending time with pets, or taking a warm bath after Iftar. Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, choosing a time that is realistic.
l Given the pandemic related restrictions during Ramadan, how can one make sure family bonds are preserved?
Restrictions and lockdowns have unfortunately prevented extended family members from gathering on special occasions. While we may not be able to physically spend time with each other this Ramadan, we can always stay connected and strengthen our relationships using technology for this purpose.
Hearing a friendly, familiar voice, or reading a message from those we care about improves our mental health and is crucial for those who may be feeling lonely, and isolated. We can hold virtual iftar gatherings. It may seem a little unusual at first, but it can help to create a sense of familiarity and keep your spirit high to get through these challenging times.
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