With Ramadan 2016 starting on 7 June, preparations should now be well underway. Ahmed El Hadidi, chair of the UAE branch of IOSH, shares his advice to ensure you stay safe and well during the holy month.
The holy month of Ramadan is approaching and it is quite exciting. When we were young we waited for that month because it was a lifestyle change. The whole atmosphere is different and the general mood of people is quite different and more positive.
Growing older, the same excitement is there; there is always a change of attitudes and behaviours. Sleeping patterns change, working hours change and despite the fact that some people may be having a tough fasting time there is still positivity.
This holy month is about compassion and caring for the needy and less fortunate. While this should be the case all year, people tend to be more outgoing about it during this period. Unfortunately, while we try to do good deeds, we often forget about one more soul and body that needs looking after: ourselves!
Fasting is a practice that our parents trained us in from a young age. They prepared us to fast during studying and playing – the activities we did as kids. The beauty about this holy month is that it does not occur during a fixed period each year – it keeps shifting. This helped a lot in the fasting training process, as over the years we gained experience fasting in summer and in winter, while on vacation and in school term time.
Like any process in life, the more you practice the better you get. Once you start introducing different factors you need to improvise to adjust and retrain yourself. As mentioned earlier it is a lifestyle change in every sense; for example, people eat just twice in short periods of time instead of taking three main meals plus snacks spread through the day. Sleeping patterns change, too, with Ramadan seeing people sleeping less and spending more time praying and socialising. Another factor to consider is that people have less water intake during the day while it is very hot, especially while Ramadan is in the summer period. Nicotine and caffeine are also two other substances that many of those fasting are used to consuming.
The purpose of this article is neither religious nor medical – it is health and safety oriented. Smokers, coffee drinkers and non-water drinkers tend to have more issues during Ramadan and can jeopardise not only their safety, but also the safety of others. The habit of having the nicotine and caffeine intake in the morning affects the body when fasting, as it makes people less focused and less lucid, giving a higher risk of injuries and incidents.
Cramming a day’s worth of caffeine and nicotine intake into a short time period will, predictably, result in staying alert well into the night, affecting the sleep process impairing the body’s rest. The implications of this will compound during the day, again putting the worker and those in his/her vicinity at risk.
Eating habits change during Ramadan, with some people filling up on food and juices to the extent that they can’t move. While the extra sugar intake gives extra energy, often not enough water is consumed. So, what is the end result? Despite having consumed a great deal of calories, people that eat beyond their limits find it hard to use that energy, as they are too full to move. When consuming a great deal of calories late at night it can make sleep harder to obtain. This reflects many aspects of the second day: reduced resting time, over nutrition and less water. All those factors combined put the person and his surroundings at risk. Again, this person is not in his full mental state to make the correct decisions. Safety is all about behaviour and attitude in the form of decisions made by an individual when performing an activity.
While it is not all doom and gloom, it is far from easy. As our parents trained us when we were young, it is our turn to train ourselves. For smokers and coffee drinkers, one month or two weeks before the holy month of Ramadan quit your morning cigarettes and morning coffees. Train your body to wake up, to be alert and fully functional without either of them. Over the course of the days, you will be able to delay the intake, which will help you become safer during the month of Ramadan.
The food and sugar intake after breaking the fast in Ramadan can be reduced – the intention is not to prevent you eating, the purpose is to spread the intake over a longer period of time rather than overloading the stomach all at once.
Islam gives us tools and guidance to improve our safety by scheduling prayer times and advising that we should be alert during prayers. This reflects in lesser food intake, prayer is equivalent to sports, so better digestion and less fat accumulation – for those not praying try doing some light sports.
Consequently, a fitter body and mind makes for a safer person during the day, a win–win situation for all. Another solution to eating less is to drink more water. This will serve many purposes: it will reduce the food consumption, it will hydrate the person ready for the heat of the next day and will serve as a cleanser to the toxins in the body.
The holy month of Ramadan can be tough, but it has been used as a hanger for many malpractices and issues that occur over its duration. Many of those occurrences are human errors like any other injury or incident that happen on a normal day outside Ramadan. It is just another excuse in order not to blame a person.
Prepare yourself and be ready for that month, it can help change your lifestyle in general.