Ramadan Reflections: On Self-Care
My initial (internal) plan was to publish a reflection every day of Ramadan and as a form of self-care to avoid triggering stress and pressure, I just never announced that. I got very ill this Ramadan which disrupted my Ramadan experience but also forced me to perform what people define as self-care. I took a break, and I was so happy I hadn’t committed to publishing daily.
Let’s clarify from the beginning: Self-Care is not self-indulgence and being egocentric. Self-care, at its core, means you are taking care of yourself, so you can be healthy, be mentally well, do your job, and ultimately care for others or accomplish what you may need in a day.
You are right if you think you have heard the term self-care very frequently on social media. One significant indicator is that, according to Google Trends, the number of searches for self-care has more than tripled since 2020. For obvious reasons, considering the pandemic and the overall state of the world.
Paula Gill Lopez, Ph.D., an associate professor and chair of the psychological and educational consultation department at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, says the need for self-care is obvious.
“We have an epidemic of anxiety and depression, and everybody feels it.”
Self-care is part of the answer to how we can better cope with daily stressors such as work. It’s the stress of trying to keep up with the pace of everyday life, which technology has hastened more than ever (think how many emails come flooding into your inbox each day). People feel lonelier and less able to unwind and slow down, which makes them feel more anxious and overwhelmed by even the simplest tasks.
There is the dangerous trend of using keywords such as self-care for a wider marketing strategy that helps companies shape their image of being a better brand or product.
Self-care does not need to cost money; only in rare cases does it. I want to share a few ideas that you can incorporate into your daily life step by step, and I promise the effects will show in no time.
Sleep: getting enough sleep is crucial for physiological regeneration and recharging energy. But what is equally important is that we process our thoughts and emotions as we sleep. The saying “Let me sleep on it” is used for precisely that reason. Sleeping helps sort out ideas and make sense of the reality we are living.
Spend time in nature: I can’t highlight this enough. One of the first tasks a patient with depression will get to master is going out daily. The best practice is to go out for a few minutes as soon as the day starts. This simple tool can be incredibly hard when we go through a lot of emotional stress and anxiety, but it helps set the day, it helps with building a routine, and more importantly, it makes you leave the bed. And that is often the most important thing.
Take dedicated breaks from electronics: Stimuli are impressions and images we get from our outside world; many of them reach us on a subtle, unconscious level. Electronics and especially social media are stimuli on steroids. Cutting down on those will help you feel calmer and less attached to your devices. It gives back a sense of purpose outside of the alternate reality that everyone wants to sell as THE reality to be in.
Start a gratitude journal: Gratitude is at the core of a successful, content, and often happy life. Only when we see what we already have will we be able to appreciate everything new that enters our lives. No matter how small. You will always find something to be grateful for. Start your day with a list of things you are thankful for. It conditions your mind to focus on the good. Enough studies have proven this to be effective. It’s also why therapy concentrates so much on gratitude at first to pull us out of a funk. It’s crucial to find ways to improve the things we don’t like about ourselves or our lives.
Talk to trusted people around you: Opening up can de-dramatize our deepest fears and break down negativity that pulls us down. Talking makes us feel more connected and secure. It does not need to be therapy, but talking to loved ones is sometimes not enough. Self-care does not need to cost money, but if you had to spend your money on something to make you feel better, please consider spending it on therapy.