Two weeks into January and I bet that many of you are already bemoaning the state of your new month; some of you may be feeling financially drained from paying school fees, house bills and meeting other obligations.
Some of you may be feeling overwhelmed by deaths in your circle of family or friends, or perhaps you endured a break up. Whatever the case, let’s talk about surviving January -- or as Kenyans have lovingly nicknamed it, Njaanuary.
Remember that nothing lasts forever
I know it’s easy to say and even easy to hear but harder to do. However, it’s the absolute truth! Don’t believe me? Think about a time when things were really and truly difficult beyond what you thought you could handle.
If you’re struggling to remember, then that right there is the proof that things to do change. If you can remember easily, now use that same energy to remember all the ways in which things improved.
Over time, your finances will stabilise, your devastated heart will find a way to balance the loss of death with the miracle of life, and you will even find love again.
The truth is, life is dynamic and ever changing so there is no reason — or proof enough — to believe that your current circumstances will last forever. Trust me; they won’t. If you feel too overwhelmed to believe that, allow me to believe it for you until you feel better and strong enough to believe it.
First things first
Whenever people tell me that they are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or frustrated by the enormity of what lies ahead, I make one simple suggestion: “do what is in front of you.”
It’s something that I heard years ago and unfortunately no longer remember the original source. Whatever the case, I am here to tell you that it works! What I have found is that this one sentence makes it easier to prioritise what can be done in that moment, keeping your mind and actions in the present instead of worrying about the past or future.
Sometimes, what is in front of you is brushing your teeth and taking a shower. Some other times, what is in front of you is working on one report instead of worrying about the other ten things that are pending.
I encourage you to get into the habit of asking yourself, “What do I need to do right now? What is in front of me, right now?” and then starting with that. What you will experience is that as you are attending to the most immediate task, your next task will reveal itself to you and once you address that next task, the pattern will repeat.
So…what is in front of you this January?
Start where you are, with what you have
One of the things that I have noticed in my work is that when people are feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities, grief, anger or any of the other experiences of our humanity, they tend to shut down until things get better.
First of all, that hardly works. Even worse, by shutting down, they create room for other unnecessary and avoidable problems to bloom and grow.
One example: Couple X is feeling financially strained by the demands of sending their children back to school. As a result, they are hardly speaking to one another because they are tired and stressed, and are barely remembering to eat – let alone spend time together.
As a result of that, their sex life is suffering; their sex drive is lower (because stress is a sex killer) and their actual sexual activity is different, and not in a good way. As a result of that, they start to entertain flirting and giving or receiving of attention from other sources at school, at work, in the neighborhood, etc.
This couple, just by leaning so heavily into their stress and disengaging from each other, have now created a space for potential affairs, for distance between them and for a continued sex life of diminished satisfaction.
One way to turn this around is to understand that ‘back to school’ stress cannot last forever, by design. Within a couple of weeks, they will have settled the children in school, negotiated for staggered payments if necessary and come up with a plan for their household in general.
Next, they could prioritise their relationship by asking themselves, “what part of this relationship can I attend to, right now?” and then they could start where they are using what they have and attending to their relationship.
For example, instead of waiting to save enough money for a big vacation, they could begin by hugging and kissing hello and goodbye; it takes little time, costs no money and yet has the massive impact of keeping their connection alive, and closing any spaces between them that could be exploited during the rough patch.
Now, this connection is what couple X would lean on as time and things get more manageable to include a return to their normal sex life, or even an improvement of it.
Remember that with sex, as with life, the little things are the big things so what may look like very little effort often pays off in big ways. Lesson? Invest in the little things, and build on them into big things.
I hope this January survival guide is useful to you this month and any other month that may have similar Njaanuary characteristics. I hope you’ll remember to share your successes with me as they come. Wishing you a wonderful month!
Maggie Gitu is a Marriage, Family and Sex Therapist. She can be reached at
[email protected] and via her Facebook page: Maggie Gitu