Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Four Tips for a Healthy and Well Muslimah

Physical, emotional and spiritual health are all important. Do little things for yourself, writes Shireen Ahmed.

I have been physically active my whole life and get a lot of questions around fitness and wellness, such as ‘How do you maintain your fitness with such a busy schedule?’ I believe that our bodies are an amanah (trust from God) and so we should look after them. Good health is a blessing and we must be cognizant of its importance. The Prophet (peace be upon him) reportedly said: ‘Two blessings which many people squander: Good health and free time.’[i]
Within the wellness paradigm there are many facets. Food, exercise, and emotional and spiritual self-care play important roles in how our bodies are managed. To me, the most important aspect of being healthy and well is to have a space where I can have access to clarity. While for me this space is exercise, for you it may be in worship, or even in rest.

1. Find balance

The most important way to ensure that we are well rounded and steady is to try to maintain balance. There is not enough time in the day for full and spiritually fulfilling worship, exercise, home and office work on top of self-care. How to set a balance is up to us; it cannot be defined by others. As Muslimahs, we have responsibilities and obligations to fulfil in our family, career and personal goals. To expect us to be able to fit everything into our schedules is unrealistic.
One key way to achieve balance is to accept that not everything is possible. Accept that on some days we will not make it to the gym. Accept that there will be laundry left undone. Accept that there will always be phone calls and emails that will need our responses. There will be moments of frustration, tension and ‘not enough time’. And that is certainly okay. To embrace the fact that we have limits to our time, energy and mental bandwidth is a recognition of ourselves.

2. Get moving
Exercise helps with increasing energy levels, better sleep and overall general health. A healthy lifestyle not only contributes to the physical aspects of a Muslim’s life, but also assists in mental acuity. Physical activity is important to keep fit, as well as to have the ability to be centred, focused and confident.
Many women rank physical activity low on their priority list because so much else is happening simultaneously – even though nourishing our body and soul to maintain balance and happiness then becomes even more crucial.

3. Rest up
Getting sufficient rest is another way to stay balanced. Even though being online and connecting with people sometimes fills our social needs, it becomes problematic if we are exhausted and irritable the next day as a result. Getting at least seven and up to nine hours of sleep each night helps our muscles and brain restore at night and also makes it easier to rise for fajr prayer the next day. (Although, speaking from experience, this is not always possible for those of us with small children!)
When we make an effort to sleep well, eat properly and get some exercise as a priority, we honour our bodies and ourselves. Moreover, when we take a few minutes for ourselves and incorporate these habits into our daily lives, it demonstrates the importance of self-care to others.

4. Cultivate consistency
Finally, be patient. It takes time to get through any rough patches. It also takes time to get to a place where we are able to take care of ourselves and able to consider this a priority even when the schedule is right.
Try to take a few moments for ourselves each day: recite an extra page of Qu’ran after prayer, a few deep breaths in a quiet room, a nice hot cup of tea, a quick run or brisk walk around the block, or a glass of freshly squeezed juice. Even 15 minutes of stretching can make a lot of difference in one’s day and attitude.
Consistency is key. Whatever we do doesn’t always have to be intense and lengthy. Sometimes light and easy is best and most convenient.

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