Muslims around the world are celebrating the month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast during daytime hours and are encouraged to pay closer attention to their words and deeds. It's also a time where many families and communities host gatherings to see one another.
In the virtual co-working group that I'm hosting, a friend asked about how best to balance personal well-being and social obligations. Is it OK to skip family gatherings because you're not feeling sociable or you need time for self-care?
I didn't reply to the message yesterday, but thought I'd write my thoughts here and share it with her:
I believe we need to be open about our need for personal space and to admit when we're under stress and need "me time". This isn't something to be ashamed of, and the more we allow this topic to percolate from the recesses of our minds to the conversations we have with others, the less we have to come up with excuses to justify our decisions to turn down social obligations.
Self-care is a good enough reason to say no to social gatherings.
Having said all that, it's also important to acknowledge the importance of family and community to self-care. While we don't want to pack our schedules with social obligations, we don't want to isolate ourselves from other people, either. Sometimes social gatherings require a bit of activation energy at the beginning, to muster the motivation to attend, but once we're there, we can reap the benefits of connecting with loved ones.
Isolation can allow the thoughts and feelings we're struggling with to be amplified. A few years ago I was going through a phase of intense anxiety and overwhelm. I tried to spend all my waking hours working through a few projects. One of my brothers casually invited me to dinner with a cousin. I said yes, and I can't describe the relief I felt taking time out and connecting with others. It was calming and rejuvenating.
Social gatherings can also feel burdensome because we see them as obligations instead of things we want to do. If you replace the thought of "have to go" with "want to go", our perspective can change drastically.
We should respect the space we need for self-care, acknowledge the value that comes with social interactions, and recognize the role our attitude plays in determining whether social gatherings are a positive experience or not.
Ramadan mubarak to all those celebrating this month.