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Staying healthy in Ramadan

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This year, Ramadan is expected to fall on 5th of May 2019. While this may vary depending on the moon sighting (as the Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle) the month with inevitably run through the exam season. My exams have run through Ramadan for the past 2 years. However, fasts in Singapore are much shorter than in the U.K.! You might be fasting for the first time away from home and the experience will definitely be different to your previous ones. This time period will already be mentally and physically taxing, therefore it’s crucial that if you plan to fast during the exam season that you protect both your physical and mental health.

(As a side note, I’m aware different languages and cultures may refer to certain aspects of Ramadan with different words, so I’ll provide the alternative if this is the case.)

Staying physically healthy

Fasts in the U.K. average 18-19 hours which is a substantial length of time to be without food or water. Therefore, making sure that you eat the right foods at Sehri (also known as Suhoor) and at Iftar is extremely important.

When it comes to keeping hydrated, water is really your best bet. It’s best to avoid drinks that contain caffeine in the morning, such as tea and coffee, because they will only make you thirstier throughout the day. During Sehri, try and avoid refined carbohydrates and fatty food because they will be digested quicker so you’ll feel hungry much earlier. Stick to complex carbohydrates such as lentils or oats, high fiber, protein rich and fruits. All these will give you enough nutrients the last the day and keep you feeling full at the same time.

It’s also getting warmer meaning you’re more likely to get dehydrated quickly, so be conscious of the sun.

At Iftar, it’s very tempting to stuff yourself – only to feel full after a few bites. Eat slowly and don’t forget to rehydrate yourself. Dates are commonly used to open a fast because they raise low blood sugar.

Staying mentally healthy

Ramadan is much more than just fasting! It’s also a time for self-reflection and self-improvement and that often gets forgotten in the excitement of fasting. Practising mindfulness keeps you centred and can help you focus on improving your sense of self. My fellow Content Ambassador Lauren has a guide on the Six Ways to Wellbeing. These will also help when managing exam stress.

Plan your time, try and identify where in the day you’ll be most productive. This might be after Sehri when you’re still feeling full or after Iftar. Don’t force yourself to study when you’re not up to it, you’ll find the quality of your revision will dramatically decrease. Personally, I can’t study after Iftar so I try to finish any revision before then or have an early night’s sleep.

Most exams will be during the morning or afternoon when you’ll feel less tired or hungry which is a plus point. Don’t compromise on your sleep though, take naps if you need to. A lack of sleep will make all aspects of Ramadan and exams more taxing.

Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, if at any point during your fast you being to feel sick or very dehydrated there is nothing wrong in breaking your fast. Fasting is only compulsory for the fit and healthy and if you feel a significant decline in your mental and physical health you shouldn’t be fasting. Stay healthy and sleep well, it’s a spiritual month and should be something to look forward to!

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