Maintaining your resilience as a councillor webinar, 14 September 2020: Unanswered questions

Find unanswered questions from the webinar held on 14 September 2020, regarding 'maintaining your resilience as a councillor'.

The table below provides answers to questions that were not covered during the webinar: with thanks to Cllr Ed Davie, Cllr Mimi Harker and Cllr Sarah Osborne for their contribution towards this document. 

With the increase in casework and 24/7 feedback loops from social media, it can be difficult to switch off. How closely do you stick to a set 'switch off' time and how do you manage this?

It is good to have a symbol that the day is over for example writing down the positive actions you have taken that day and writing a list of further actions for tomorrow, having a quick debrief with a friend or colleague, closing the door of your work room, putting away/shutting off your computer/phone, going for a run/walk.

Do you have any tips on how to balance my work as a councillor with employment; caring or other responsibilities?

The most important lesson I have learned from 21 years as an elected member, is that you need a strong support system around you. I have a supportive husband and even though my children have grown up and no longer live at home, when they were here, they were really understanding and even joined in with some of the things I was involved with! I believe it was good for them to be involved in the community and experiencing first-hand what a great feeling of satisfaction is achieved by helping someone out and by volunteering!

As time has gone on however, I have learned that no matter how much I always want to help people whenever they need you, it is a good thing to draw up boundaries. I’ve done this for long enough to know that being a councillor is not a 9-5 role - it can take over everything! But ask yourself if something needs acting on immediately or can you plan it into your routine?

I had someone knock on my door at 10.30 one night to report a tree branch had fallen into her garden and I remember someone calling me after midnight about a planning application. That really isn’t acceptable as neither of those were emergency situations that needed the help of a local councillor at unsociable hours.

Then of course there’s the rest of the family to consider as well. I had two young children when I was first elected and the absolute decision, I made was that they would always have priority on my time - numero uno! Always! They are such wonderful young adults, that I know that was absolutely the right choice and in return, they have so much respect for the hard work they now realise went into being their mum and a good and effective local councillor.
There is always a balance to be had and if you get swamped in any of the avenues of your life, please remember, if you are not mentally and physically reasonably happy, you might feel overwhelmed.

So, think about how you portray yourself, and yes, you can be all things to most people but probably not all the time! Don’t forget to look after you! And although there are times when you have to focus on something in particular, and it may take over for a short while, e.g. the completion of a project you’ve been working on, don’t forget that time management is key in making sure that you keep the balance between everything at all other times! Most of all enjoy what you’re doing! The day that enjoyment stops, well - you don’t need me to say it! Good luck! Go change the world!

Can you share some tips about how to keep colleagues healthy and happy during these difficult times?

Contact your colleagues regularly and make sure you ask if there is anything they need and to ask them how they are feeling really, not just the usual polite 'how are you’? Further information is available in the accompanying PowerPoint document.

Do you have any tips for someone who lives right in the middle of their patch and always has the door open? How do you get comfortable with saying no when we need to prioritise our own personal space?

The way you get comfortable in saying no is practise, practise, practise. When you have repeated experiences of saying no without being rejected other negative consequences saying no will be comfortable and guilt free!

To Cllr Davie- are you able to share a list of the books you mentioned during the webinar?

School of Life and The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain De Botton

Happier, Tal Ben-Shakar – This Harvard Professor’s Happiness Course at the university was the most popular in its history

Happiness by Design, Paul Dolan – some useful techniques based on psychological science

Happiness, Richard Layard

Overcoming Depression, Paul Gilbert – the whole ‘Overcoming’ series using cognitive behaviour therapy techniques is very good and covers a range of areas from problem drinking to anxiety etc.