Self-care during Ramadan 2020

It’s the most important event in the Muslim calendar – a month of fasting to encourage spirituality and reflection – but it’s also when looking after YOU can go to the bottom of the to-do list. Writer Alia Waheed takes us through steps to help both body and soul
Illustration: Saffa Khan
1. Freeze instead of fry

Unless Gordon Ramsay’s coming around for iftar (the daily, end-of fast meal), I say there’s no need for Michelin star-style dishes! And skip heavy, fried foods such as samosas. ‘After a long day of fasting, eating spicy, fried foods may contribute to heartburn and indigestion,’ says Afsha Mughal, specialist dietician for the North East London NHS Foundation Trust. You’ll be hungry, so stock up on chopped veg, salads and fruit – and batch-freeze healthy meals to save time. Need an even quicker energy fix? Afsha suggests dates: ‘They provide natural sugars for energy, as well as fibre and minerals, such as potassium and copper.’

2. Help banish ‘Ramadan breath’

There’s another fasting downside no one mentions: ‘Ramadan breath’. During fasting, our mouth produces less saliva and, of course, not drinking means it’s not being washed away. No matter how tired you are, brush and floss twice a day, and even use a tongue scraper, which can be more effective on pongy breath than brushing.

3. Eat your H2O

Long hours without food or drink mean hydration is key. So, obviously, drink lots of water at sehri (the pre-dawn meal before the day-long fast). My clever hack? Come sundown, eat slowly and include fluid-rich foods, such as yoghurt, soup, cucumber and watermelon, to ensure you stay hydrated*.

4. Precious shut-eye

One of the hardest things to deal with is the lack of sleep after waking for pre-dawn meals and prayers. But I swear by a 30- to 40-minute power snooze at lunchtime, which, NASA experts say, is the optimum nap-time. ‘It’ll refresh you,’ adds Lindsay Browning, a neuroscientist and sleep expert from Trouble Sleeping. ‘Any longer and you’ll go into deeper sleep and wake up groggy.’

5. Soak up skincare

Washing before prayers five times a day can dry out skin, so it’s all about products that increase hydration, not oil. I like No7 HydraLuminous Water Surge Gel, a lovely, oil-free moisturiser that lasts 72 hours. Lips dry and chapped? I turn to Eucerin Acute Lip Balm, which soothes and locks in moisture. And here’s a challenge: don’t lick your lips, as it can make them even more sore.

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*If you’re unable to stand up due to dizziness, or you’re disoriented, you should urgently drink regular, moderate quantities of water – ideally with sugar and salt – or a sugary drink or rehydration solution.