Many students are starting to revise in anticipation of exam season, which is just around the corner. Also round the corner, however, is Ramadan! Ramadan is an Islamic month in which most Muslims all over the world fast. The fast requires Muslims to forgo food and drink during daylight hours, shifting many of our daily schedules as meals take place at different times. Read more about the month and how it is celebrated here. Many students will be fasting during exams, and to tackle this potential stress we’ve gathered a list of tips to help prepare for the month:
Manage your diet
Maintaining enough concentration and energy throughout the day for revision and exams whilst fasting is a challenge for many of us. That’s why we’ve gathered some helpful pointers to preserving your energy through your diet.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and during Ramadan, this usually comes in the form of Sehri or Suhoor. Usually an early morning meal is eaten before dawn, it is a Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet, and it should not be missed. It may be tempting to sleep in, but instead try and make the effort to wake and drink plenty of water, as well as eat the right kinds of food that are fluid rich. These can include oats, high-fibre breakfast cereals, starchy foods, like rice, yoghurts and bread. These foods are fluid rich, and keeps you feeling full longer. Combining them with other food groups like fruits or protein is also a good idea to maintain a balanced diet – which is a lot harder with fewer meals to spread across. If you want a full breakdown of the benefits of these foods, read here.
When breaking your fast at Iftaar, try to avoid too many sugary, oily or fried foods. It is tempting to eat these comfort foods after a long day of nothing, but it is important to make sure your meal is varied. Try and include all the food groups in an appropriate balance, and again, ensure you drink plenty of water: hydration is key! An easy way to maintain healthy meals would be to create meal plans in advance. Try to have an outline for each week, so you aren’t stressing each day about your food.
Creating a timetable
Speaking of planning meals, planning your days will be invaluable in keeping up with exams and revision during Ramadan. Although many of us operate by timetables already, changes will need to be made to accommodate for lack of sleep, prayers and fasting. Create a timetable that gives you time to rest, and gives you flexibility should your energy be too depleted. Perhaps start easing into it a week before the month starts, so it doesn’t come as a shock.
Rest and Exercise
With Iftaar and Taraweeh fairly late at night, and Suhoor fairly early in the morning, you might find your sleep compromised. However, it is important to make sure you are rested, as lethargy can cause avoidable mistakes during the day. Create time for naps during the day to make up for lack of sleep at night. If your timetable allows it, somewhere between Fajr and Zuhr, or Zuhr and Asr is ideal, as the earlier it is during the day, the earlier you’ll feel tired at night, maximising your sleep. Enough sleep is also linked with increased energy and a lower likelihood of feeling hunger or thirst during the day.
Exercise has been linked with increased academic performance, as well as positive health benefits. However, whilst fasting it can tire you more easily and deplete your needed energy stores. Instead of intense workouts, (or no workouts) try some gentler forms to keep yourself healthy without overextending yourself. A brisk walk or light jogging or gentle aerobic workouts are fine for the body. Timing these exercises in the morning is more beneficial as you will have an energy store ready. If possible, exercising before Suhoor is also better as you will get to replenish your energy stores. Of course, this won’t be feasible for everyone, so don’t worry too much if what you’re doing isn’t enough. A five-minute walk during the day also has its benefits! More about maintaining your health during Ramadan can be found here.
Know your limits
Last but not least, know your limitations. Reach out for help if you are struggling with the stress of exams, revision and Ramadan. Check our article about reaching out for mental health services if you aren’t sure where to look. Remember, Islam is not made to be difficult. Have faith: fasting is a form of worship, and this is rewarded. However, do keep in mind illness, whether it is physical or mental, is a completely valid basis to be exempt from fasting, so make sure you make the best choice for yourself when it comes to fasting, especially with the toll academic stress can take on your mental health. Ensure you prioritise your health in your choices.
We hope these tips help prepare for the coming month and wish everyone an early Ramadan Mubarak, as well as good luck for any exams or revision ahead!