Uncertain times’, ‘Invisible enemy’, these are probably the most frequent used words by your favourite news channel at the moment.
Chances are, these widely accepted inferences have brought with them significant anxiety – concerns about the future.
Experts from different fields were kind enough to weigh in and help our readers through the minefield of information out there so we can regain a sense of control and stay sane while we’re at it.
How to deal with money issues
What do ‘uncertain times’ look like for my family and I financially? Is this the time to penny-pinch?
Am I cushioned enough for the tough economic times ahead? And what of my investments? Is it perhaps time to cash out?
You’re not alone if these thoughts have given you sleepless nights. Stan Getui, a Chartered Financial Analyst and Investor adviser, insists that at especially this time, our personal financial health should be treated like anything else we deem important.
One should, therefore, start (if they can) by seeking professional guidance that will tailor advice to their specific circumstances.
“Government bonds and bank deposits still remain safe havens for most of us, but all investments have some element of risk attached to them. Read the fine print when choosing where to place your hard-earned money,” he warns.
According to him, riskier investments such as real estate should be put off in favour of less risky ones like Sacco holdings.
“Also, it’s likely that there will be distressed sellers and if you have the money this might offer some favourable deals,” he says.
Reassess your portfolio
His advice for those who have found themselves on a leaner income, is to minimise any spending that one can define as a want rather than a need.
This will weigh heavily on the minds of those who are at this very moment, thinking about the loans that they can no longer honour.
Stan encourages reaching out to the financial institution or lender and finding out if they offer ‘payment holidays’ or are willing to restructure the repayment plan.
It is likely they will be sympathetic. “Whatever can be done to ensure that one has accessible cash for basic needs should be explored, as we don’t know when the situation will normalise.”
Anne Gaitha, co-founder and CEO of the Regal Africa Group echoes similar sentiments. “Reassess your portfolio. If you have cash that you do not need in the near future, consider purchasing assets that are selling below value. If you have already received good returns and are strapped for money (as many of us are), now is a good time to cash out.”
“I would advise everyone to review their finances and have a financial plan for the future. This is the best time to discuss how the family can come together and support one another to ensure financial prosperity for all in the family”, she says.
Innovation in the face of crisis
Judy Kinya, a 36-year-old mother of three, gradually built up her business providing female clients with waxing services in the Nairobi CBD.
The arrival of Covid-19, however, saw her customers dwindle and then stop altogether. She quickly switched gears and started making and selling face masks to make ends meet.
This, she says, has helped her stay afloat despite the looming gloom of economic instability.
“The winners that will come right at a time like this is innovation led by technology. The revolution will be meteoric. Even for dinosaurs like me, the adaptation to these times has been expeditious,” claims a recent pivotal op-ed by the founder and publisher of Forbes Africa, Rakesh Wahi.
And he is right. Take Duncan Kimanthi, a chicken farmer based in Kitengela, for instance.
He found himself thrown in the deep end when sales ground to a halt after the government directives caused the closure of many food-run businesses, such as restaurants, who were his main clients.
“It was so scary to think that a huge chunk of my income would go.” He decided to make use of WhatsApp and send out mass messages to all his contacts in search of a new client base.
Much to his delight, he sold most of his chicken and discovered a new way of doing things.
Like many young small business owners, Judy and Duncan have had to completely revamp their business models.
“As a small business owner or start-up, it is a good time to rationalise your business to increase efficiency. Explore any incentives being offered by government to small businesses,” advises Stan Getui.
Curbing coronavirus anxiety
Money woes hopefully put to bed, let’s turn our attention to our mental and physical health, which may be taking more of a hit than we realise.
The self-isolation coupled with unclear prospects has torn away any sense of normalcy we previously enjoyed, and many of us are battling on an emotional level.
Concurrently, worrying about the kids’ educational requirements, unusually unfamiliar work structures and constant negative news feeds do little to help.
Siaanoi Marima is an AEC certified coach whose specialty is offering insight to CEOs to enable them to navigate through crises and move forward.
Her approach calls for the 3Rs: Reflect, Respond, Re-emerge.
To those fearful for what the future may hold, Marima says the very first step is acceptance. “Do not allow fear to take over. Acknowledge it, calm down, evaluate what works and what you can do differently. Exhale. Visualise your future then plan to re-emerge – you could revamp your linked-in profile! Right now, the whole world is learning... why not learn a new [helpful] skill?”
Stay connected despite social distancing
Weekdays used to be for meetings and after-work drinks. Weekends, for visiting friends and family. Not anymore.
This unexpected change can cause distress, and in some cases, loneliness says Anne Muthoni, a Clinical Psychologist at Selus Consultancy, a wellness company.
“Understanding why we have to remain isolated can help us cope better. Though it is difficult to stay away from loved ones, connecting regularly via messages, audio and video calls with those we care about is still beneficial for lowering our stress,” she says.
Not working from home? We cannot deny that mental well-being goes hand-in-hand with productivity and creativity levels but what about those not working at this time? How is staying at home affecting them?
Anne says dealing with a loss of income is tough, especially since we do not know when things will get better.
“If you are a financial provider at home, talk to your family about the changes that need to take place at home to see you through this period.”
As for the children, Anne says that it is very normal for parents to feel overwhelmed. “What’s important is to develop a routine for them and cultivate constructive hobbies depending on their age. Communicate what is going on and find out how they are coping. If you can get help with your children, take it!”
Do not skimp on self-care
Okay, I am guilty of this. Not making time to take care of ourselves, Anne says, can lead to physical and psychological issues.
“Self-care can be as simple as watching a stand-up comedian you love or talking to someone positive to lift your spirits. Do something just for you.”
She stresses the need for exercise for our physical and psychological health. “Staying busy during this time is vital. Read, tackle a project you have never gotten around to and if you feel like you can’t cope, seek professional help because it’s okay not to be okay.”
“Cereals should never miss in our pantries”
More than one of my friends and colleagues has joked about the rate at which their waistlines are expanding lately.
Jokes aside, we need to learn some self-discipline when it comes to what and how we eat. We all know we cannot get away with eating all the junk food our hearts desires but what should our daily diets be?
According to Teresa Wetoyi, a nutritionist based in Nairobi, even on a tight budget one must prioritise good nutrition, with immune-boosting fruits and vegetables being in the forefront.
“Consider adding omena as an alternative to animal protein, lots of cereal and whatever fruits are in season.”
Teresa highly recommends a low-fat diet for our over 65-year-olds at home while for those pregnant and breastfeeding, they should have a diet rich in protein, vitamins and whole grain foods.
Monotonous food plans can be avoided by switching up the methods of cooking and adding garnishing and food decoration when presenting the food.
Pharmacovigilance expert Coyie Mathenge advocates maintaining regular health checks despite being wary of the current situation.
“Watch out for diseases like Malaria, respiratory conditions like asthma, pneumonia and TB. Not all the symptoms you experience mean you automatically have the Covid-19 diagnosis. If you are unwell or suspect to be sick, don't be afraid. Just walk into the nearest hospital or dial #719* and get a proper diagnosis.”
Coyie also says it is dangerous to self-medicate. “Self-medication or stockpiling on medicines we've heard about in the news that are associated with a "cure" for this disease, like antibiotic drugs is at most useless and at the worst dangerous. A viral disease like Covid-19 cannot be treated by an antibiotic drug. See a doctor and get a proper prescription that fits your condition.”
Lastly, Coyie wags a disapproving finger at those (like me) who have filled their medicine cabinets chock-full of immune-boosting supplements.
“Stop it!” she cautions. “The new trend dubbed taking ‘jam starters’ has people deliberately overdosing on common supplements like Vitamin C.
This does more harm than good. Take the directed dosage of your supplements and eat well. And if you forget everything else, she adds, just stay calm, stay positive and think. Logic will guide you.”