Reducing the Ramadan burnout among community leaders


As-salamu `Alaykuim Wa Rahmatu Allah,

Dear Community Leaders,

As we approach the midpoint of Ramadan, some of us may beginning to feel that working throughout the day while fasting, fulfilling our roles and responsibilities in our families, praying tarawih each night, and working toward goals we set for Ramadan is taking its toll. We are beginning to burn out. These are some common symptoms of Ramadan burnout:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Being unable to wake up for suhoor
  • Feeling low/irritable all the time
  • Rushing your prayers
  • Sleeping excessively throughout the day
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Having difficulty prioritizing religious duties
  • Loss of passion or interest in things

In addition, Ramadan being a source of burnout, being community leaders can be a source of burnout. Recent survey data from Gallup show that burnout among community leaders, other business leaders, and managers is getting worse. They attribute the increase in burnout to challenges from the pandemic, like managing and performing in a remote work environment coupled with bearing the burdens of serving, leading, and providing positive support to coworkers and the community.

So, as community leaders who are observing Ramadan, we face the perfect storm for experiencing burnout. What can we do about it?  Here are ten tips to help Muslim community leaders avoid Ramadan burnout:

1. Stay hydrated: Prepare for your day of fasting by drinking enough water throughout the night. Drink plenty of water after the iftar and throughout the night. Keep a bottle of water close by during the evening, and try to drink a cup or two at least every hour.

2. Have healthy meals: Since many of us are accustomed to eating throughout the day, adjusting to only eating suhoor and iftar can be challenging. To reduce fatigue, irritability, and loss of concentration that might emerge from only eating suhoor and iftar, be sure to eat healthy and light meals during suhoor and iftar. Doing so can give you the energy to get through the day and increase your focus during salah and personal reflection.  Healthy meals include increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and proteins while reducing your intake of foods high in fats, sugar, and sodium.

3. Avoid cooking extravagant meals: Making extravagant meals for suhoor or iftar can be exhausting. Doing so for 30 days will burn you out.  Rather than making extravagant meals, plan your suhoor and iftar in advance and keep them simple and light, so you are not tired during Fajr, Isha, and Tarawih. This will not only be less stressful but also less wasteful of your food and time, and most importantly, it gives you more time to invest in your spiritual goals.

4. Avoid overindulging in iftar parties: Limit the number of iftar parties you host or attend and try to avoid them during the last ten days so you can focus on catching Laylat al-Qadr. If you host an iftar party, prepare simple dishes that do not require a lot of preparation and cleanup.  Remember, you not only want to preserve your energy but also want to keep your spiritual goals as your priority. Attending or hosting several iftar parties adversely affects our time to focus on ibadah.

5. Avoid drinking caffeine: Although caffeine has some health benefits, like boosting energy levels and improving brain function, it also has some drawbacks.  For example, too much caffeine can increase blood pressure, anxiety, cause headaches, and adversely affect digestion. Also, suddenly reducing your caffeine intake can cause headaches and fatigue, which you do not want to happen while fasting.  Therefore, it is good to gradually reduce your caffeine intake as Ramadan approaches, so you can avoid it during Ramadan.  If you have not yet eliminated your caffeine intake, gradually reducing it now until you eliminate it will help prevent fatigue and burnout.  You can substitute caffeinated drinks with herbal tea, like mint or chamomile.

6. Take power naps throughout the day: Having suhoor before Fajr and iftar at Maghrib, followed by Isha and Tarawih, can make it challenging to stay alert and focused throughout the day. So, taking power naps that last 20 to 30 minutes helps you adjust your sleeping schedule. Power naps are just long enough to help you boost your energy levels.  If your job makes it difficult to take power naps, sitting back, closing your eyes, and relaxing for 10 to 15 minutes can help reduce fatigue so you can focus on your salat.

7. Do some light exercises: Light exercises, like power naps, help reduce fatigue.  These exercises include things like light stretches at your desk or workstation or taking a walk outside or down the corridor. In addition to helping reduce fatigue, these exercises improve your circulation and concentration, so, in shaa Allah, you can be more focused in salat and other acts of ibadah.

8. Get help from others (coworkers, family, friends): If we do not balance our work duties, home and family chores, personal time, and fasting and worship during Ramadan, we can feel burned out.  To help achieve a good balance and avoid burnout do not be shy about asking for help.  Ask coworkers to assist you in completing work tasks.  Ask family to help with chores around the house. Ask friends to help with things you are doing in the community or at the masjid.  Doing so not only helps you avoid burnout, it gives others the opportunity to earn good deeds.

9. Integrate Ramadan into your work schedule and socializing with family and friends: Including Ramadan in the time you spend in various facets of your life, like work, hanging out with friends, and socializing with your spouse and children, will help reduce the stress you feel from being pulled in many directions, which contributes to burnout. Your spouse, children, and social relationships are important.  Rather than see these relationships as being something to be maintained in addition to Ramadan, you can integrate them into Ramadan.  While hanging out with friends or socializing with your spouse, children, and other family, include reminders about Ramadan or from the Qur’an or Sunnah.  As for work, let your supervisor know about Ramadan and request accommodations regarding tasks that might be handled differently to allow you time for the additional ibadah and fasting during Ramadan.

10. Take time off: If you cannot take time off for this Ramadan, then plan to do so, in shaa Allah, next Ramadan. Use your vacation time to take some time off during Ramadan, especially during the days that correspond to the last ten nights.  This will give you more time to focus on ibadah during the last ten nights when you might feel most exhausted and when it is most important because one of those nights is Laylat al-Qadr.

May Allah accept what has already passed and grant us the strength to make the best of what remains of this blessed month.

Glenn Silver
Senior Grant & Development Specialist
Boston Islamic Seminary

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