I couldn't decide if it was my stomach or mind growling uncontrollably as I glared at the CNG driver who unashamedly asked for a fare that was double than usual. “It's Ramadan apu,” he explained with a grin, trying to justify his demand. Reminding myself once again of my fast and the religious gains that are involved with fulfilling it successfully, I calmed my mind and climbed on, to head home where I can satiate my tummy with a delish iftar.
Hunger and anger are interconnected and during Ramadan, they frequently collide, in fact quite violently and result in catastrophic reactions inside and outside your body.
Tamima Tanjin, an accomplished Clinical Psychologist and Senior Consultant at Prottoy Clinic and Psychologist at Rokeya Hall, University of Dhaka, stated that anger and irritation are commonly linked to deprivation of food. “You know how they say, a hungry man is an angry man,” she added humorously.
Generally we establish a mental understanding of abstinence from food and water in the Holy month and it helps us avert 'hunger pangs' or the urge to eat/drink in order to maintain our fast. We are, however, obliged to carry out our daily activities which require our mind and body to function effectively.
In this 'deprived' situation where the mind and body have to work hard while they are not properly 'fed', they work less efficiently and become very vulnerable to incidents that may trigger mood swings.
According to Tanjin, mood swings are not a direct characteristic of fasting. But for those who may already be suffering from some physical or mental condition, the contrary is true.
“Indulging in a good meal may be a 'happy' activity for someone who is suffering from depression and when s/he has to skip that during Ramadan, s/he may automatically become more depressed,” she said. Moreover, mood swings are also common among people with anxiety.
Tanjin pointed out that diabetic patients are also prone to having mood swings while fasting. On normal days, they have to eat often, considering their food intake is absorbed faster than it would have been in a healthy person's body. Refraining from these periodic meals may be a trigger.
Another group of people are 'forced' into fasting due to societal pressures despite their reluctance to do so or sometimes, even their illnesses. This leads to the build-up of repressed emotions that may emerge in the form of mood swings.
Hormones play a big role as well, especially in women. “While they spend the day taking care of office work, household work, children and all sorts of works, they may be unable to pray or engage in religious activity to their hearts' content. This may result in a form of dissatisfaction in them which can make them susceptible to having mood swings,” informed Tanjin.
Finally, coming to the most common notion – short temper! Something most of us can personally relate to.
A number of people deal with short temper and maintaining calm in an outrageous situation may be a Herculean task for them. According to Tanjin, the short-temper issue multiplies during Ramadan as the food deprived stomach fights with the weary mind and the simplest of things start to really get on your nerve.
Handle your emotions with care
Long hours of fasting require the combined effort of a strong mind, willpower and body which does not surrender to swinging moods, and have full control over themselves. A number of habits can help fight back mood swings during Ramadan.
The thought that counts
Due to fasting, the mind may become vulnerable and very volatile in some cases. “In order to avoid reacting negatively in certain situations, firstly we must always keep in mind the sacred purpose of fasting,” Tanjin explained.
Light work equals to a light mind
She advises that undertaking tasks that require little physical effort and avoiding situations which may lead to arguments or other negative emotions are always a great idea.
Fasting is for the healthy
Fasting is not obligatory on those with various illnesses. “People need to understand their bodily needs and fast only when their bodies allow them to do so,” she said.
Immersing in prayers and religious activities
“Spending time praying or reading religious books is a great way to keep away from any triggers,” she suggests. It is one of the best ways to have peace of mind as well.
Tanjin concluded that for those who have temper issues, or are suffering from other mental disorders, it is important that they make up their mind for fasting in Ramadan well before the holy month arrives.
It is important to understand the values of the fast, try to inhibit mood swings, and in unpleasant situations, take a deep breath before reacting.
By Nafisa Faruque