– Not baking banana bread –

By Georgia Turner

Comms Unplugged co-creator, Georgia Turner blogs for Mental Health Awareness Week

I’m what most people would describe as a positive person. Glass half full. Bags of energy. Looks on the bright side. I’m resilient too. Strong as an ox (mentally). I always bounce back. Chuck another throwaway cliché phrase in there too, if you want (you know, for good measure). It’s true, I am generally optimistic, strong and happy.

But I think it’s fair to say that, like many (all?), my wellbeing has taken a knock of late.

I was busy at work anyway. You know, before all this. In the public sector, who isn’t? But with the enormity of the response required for covid-19, I’d been pushing on so relentlessly, at such pace. For the first few weeks of lockdown, especially when it was cooler, I was going days without setting foot outside my house. And in fact barely leaving the room that has become my temporary, what feels like permanent, home office.

I knew this wasn’t ideal, but it was my job. I have a responsibility to lead my organisation’s statutory warning and informing duty. People are relying on me. I must show leadership. I must have the answers. I have to keep the team motivated and high performing. It’s important and can literally save lives.

I sit on the Executive on LGComms, our industry’s national body. It was only when on a call with fellow committee members recently, when making chat about new things we might’ve taken up during lockdown, I found my answer to be “Nothing. Just work more”.  I couldn’t even say “baking bloody banana bread like everyone else.”

Of course, in reality, I have embraced some new things – home exercise that I find really sets me up for the day and is a much better way to spend the first waking minutes than scrolling on my phone; walking in the evening instead of watching TV or, yes you guessed it, scrolling on my phone.

But my immediate, natural answer “work”, shows that these activities still hadn’t balanced the 60 hour weeks, the pressure to be resilient* or the feeling that I am never switched off from work.

This made me stop and think. As Darren Caveney wrote in his blog on the eve of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, it’s time for an emergency stop.

Honestly, I’m still working on that. I’m not entirely sure how to make it happen. But the realisation and acceptance is the start I think. Throughout this crisis I’ve upped the gratitude. Spent some time thinking about the small things that are improving my life, and trying to do more of those things. Spend time in my little garden, speak to family and friends, cook with my husband, listen to birdsong and watch the blue tit parents flit back and forth to the nest box, water my plants, get out into the sun every day (or the fresh air, at least), stroking my cat, enjoy images of wildlife and nature. Call it by another name, and I think it’s about taking notice, about mindfulness.

It’s simple stuff but it’s a start, it makes a difference and it helps to keep me being me – optimistic, positive and happy.

Georgia is Head of Comms and Marketing at BCP Council, Executive Committee Member for LG Comms and co-creator of Comms Unplugged. Find her on Twitter and say hi.

* What is resilience? On a recent webinar by Jericho Chambers on workplace wellbeing, a panellist described workplace wellbeing as an organisation’s way of expecting its staff to suck it up. And packaged as a desirable character trait too. Is that your workplace? Is it mine?