Spare a thought

I had a lovely day off today indulging in some Christmas shopping and getting some more chores done. I was also able to spend a bit of time with a good friend to talk about life, work, priorities and 2018. It reminded me how important it is having people around to help and support.

The festive period can be a lonely time for many people. I have seen a number of charity adverts that try to make people aware that if you are alone then the Christmas and New Year period can be really depressing. If you are sitting down to eat on your own and you have no visitors then the fun and festivities around you can feel a world away.

Christmas can be quite a selfish time. We become obsessed with our own celebrations, buying presents, sorting the food and pushing to find the perfect Christmas. There is so much to do that we can easily forget all those who find the season a real trial.

Charities really need our help at this time of year. They need us all to remember that we can make the season better for many people who are struggling. There are food banks, toy drives, animal shelters needing support and all kinds of fundraising. You don’t need to go far to do it as most large supermarkets are providing drop off points for toys or for food banks. We just need to give a little bit of time and thought to others.

When you are next out shopping, buying presents, finding Christmas food or making plans remember those who will have a tough time this year.

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Take a look inside

How many times do we hide our real selves or even worse than that we pretend to be something we are not? Being ourselves is a worrying thing because we open up and become vulnerable.

Today I went to a lovely event focusing on health and well-being. Some years ago it was the sort of thing I would have loved to attend but I couldn’t for fear of what people would say. I was concerned that they would judge me and create a view of me based on little information.

So many of us are caught in this position. We try and behave in a way that we perceive to be acceptable to society and will make sure we are popular. I am starting to feel that social media, for all its positives, has made this worse. The pressure on people is just so significant as they watch other people’s lives in minute detail. I have blogged before about the masks we wear and how we are all being conditioned to want the perfect life.

Being true to yourself and even understanding who you really are is not easy. It takes a huge amount of courage to step out and be who you really are. It is peeling away the mask and letting people see the real you. If there is rejection it feels even harder but you have to ask to you really want those people around you if they can’t accept you. In the inimitable words of Morrissey ‘why would I waste valuable time on people who don’t care if I live or die’.

We all spend too much time on trying to find our way and fit in. I have never really been concerned about conforming- it wasn’t how I was brought up. But I have been too concerned about what people think about me.

I haven’t got it totally cracked as I do sometimes get concerned about things. But I feel free, free to be myself and to do what I want to regardless of what people think. After all the real friends will be those who see the real me and still want to stick around.

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Rush, rush and spend more

This is supposed to be the season of goodwill to all. As I have been out and about over the last few days this seems to be in short supply.

Our main focus at this time of year seems to be rushing to the shops, buying everything we see and think we need and filling every cupboard with food. The supermarkets are full of people and there are queues to get into retail park car parks.

People are stressed, very stressed. They can’t get a parking space, they can’t find that toy that their child has demanded, and they haven’t got enough time or money.

Over the past couple of weekends I have avoided all the town centres, shops and retail parks. I have witnessed people shouting and arguing, barging and being rude to everyone in the shops. There certainly doesn’t seem to be much goodwill around.

I am not a religious person more spiritual. This time of year is a reminder about the importance of kindness and helping others. It is a time of giving thanks and taking stock. It doesn’t matter what your religion those are always important things sitting alongside helping others.

It is time to remember those important things and stop rushing around in the grip of a consumer frenzy.

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Welcome the festivities

It has been a difficult year. I have lost track of the amount of times I have said or written that in recent weeks. The first of December is the start of advent with calendars, candles and decorations everywhere. So time to be jolly.

This has been another tough week and I am honest enough to say I have struggled on a number of occasions. I have been stuck in self reflection, frustration and a sense of failure on many levels. Communication and PR is a tough world, policing is a tough world and when they come together it can create pressure. So I have lived with a cloud over me for much of the week.

Too often we gloss over things and bottle them up. I have been guilty of that many times over the years but am doing my best to change.

My start to the festive season was to have created a jar of advent affirmations. For those who don’t know what affirmations are they are positive messages that you can recite and focus on to help yourself and improve your mood. I wrote them some weeks ago and it is my alternative take on the usual chocolate advent calendar.

Today I started with “I am grateful for this moment and find joy in it.” I definitely have the first and I am working on the second part. I am privileged to work with amazing people and I have this week. I have an amazing support network and great friends. I get to do the most amazing things that can really help people. I am loved by family and friends, and fabulous animal pals.

You know what there is a lot to find joy in both today and everyday. So I will keep my affirmations close and allow myself to be reflective just some time. This week may have been hard but I have survived and that can only make me stronger. A final thank you to everyone who has helped me this week – you know who you are and I am truly grateful.

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Waiting for the call

I don’t do it very often but when I do I really feel under pressure. When I moved into public relations it was the first time that I did it. In the last 10 years I have done it infrequently. What is it? Being on call for the organisation for any media and communication issues.

Last night I helped out when we were short staffed and took an overnight on call. It was a busy and stressful 17 hours which started with an urgent appeal. I then dealt with a few queries before trying to go to bed.

In the middle of the night I received a call and had to quickly try and function so that I could give advice. Finally I had to deal with a serious incident in the early hours of the morning and put an appeal out.

The whole evening was a reminder of the respect I have for my colleagues who do it on a regular basis. They have to make decisions alone in the middle of the night. They have to ensure they are poised to respond immediately and they have to be prepared to have interrupted sleep.

There are few communicators who when on call will face the range and complexity of issues to deal with. Police press officers need some specific skills and abilities to be able to do the job. They have to be resilient, innovative, knowledgeable about a wide range of things, quick and efficient. Above all they have to be dedicated to the role which will impact on their lives.

I did need a little snooze this afternoon when I had finished my on call. It was a tough night but I think all communication managers should face the things their frontline staff have to.

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Time to think

I have had a week off work. Well it was supposed to be a holiday and time to relax but I had other ideas. I had lots of chores to do and things to catch up on. So many chores that as I write this on Friday night there are still many more to do.

As many who know me will agree I am not a pretty sight after a night out. I don’t drink but I have found a way to get a lack of sleep hangover that means I don’t miss out on that joy. This week I had managed to book tickets for bands on consecutive nights, not the brightest idea. But I had a great time both nights and have some amazing memories.

Despite the fact it was a holiday I still managed to keep connected and on a number of occasions switched into work mode. This is partly because there is a big conference next week and partly because I think I am a little obsessed.

Yesterday was a key day for me and despite feeling drained it has given me the kick up the rear end I needed. I saw my life coach, which isn’t at all like you imagine from the awful people who have been on TV. This has been a way to identify the issue I have and find a way forward. It is coaching that helps me with my life – simple as that.

It has helped me hugely over the past three years and yesterday felt like a watershed moment. I have been rebuilding my resilience and trying to focus on my own wellbeing but it is not good enough. I have dealt with surface issues and gone no deeper. Going deeper is challenging and makes me feel vulnerable.

But I came away with a lift of homework and a plan to start to make significant improvements. Part of which will be not to pack me week off with so many things. I need to have time to think and to breathe. I can only give my best to those around me if I have looked after myself. This has been a great week but now I need to start to look after myself a little bit more.

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An honour and a responsibility 

I am feeling in a reflective mood for many reasons including that we are heading towards the conclusion of 2017. It has made me take stock of a few things and particularly from the past week or so.

Last Thursday night was the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) North West region Pride awards, which is a big date in the PR and communications calendar. For the first time we attended and  received a special recognition award for the work in the aftermath of the horrific terror attack in Manchester. 

I admit I shed a tear or two when the details of what the team did were read out. The team are amazing and have had to do things no communicator would ever expect to face. It was remembering the dedication, commitment and professionalism that was shown throughout. There were cancelled holidays and nights out, there were very long shifts and there were few rest days. The recognition of those PR colleagues who gave the team a standing ovation was worth so much to us all.

It is only now almost a week after the awards night that the achievement has really sunk in.

The other signicant event last week was that I was made a fellow of the CIPR which I still have not quite fully grasped. It feels a little unreal. I am very grateful to the people who nominated me and helped me achieve this honour. 

I do feel the burden of responsibility as Fellows for me have a duty to help enhance and progress the profession. I am sure there are things I should and will do to live up to this honour. I am overwhelmed by having the recognition from fellow PR professionals. 

Earlier in the year I blogged about the amazing feeling of being made a Fellow of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA). Having both is beyond my wildest imagination and I just hope I can do justice to both of them. I am committed to living up to the support and confidence that has been shown in me this year. 

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