As a busy autumn approaches with party conferences and a potential General Election on the horizon, politicians are under more scrutiny in the public eye than usual. Both the media and the general public are paying more attention to what MPs and councillors are doing, and this can have an adverse effect on your safety and wellbeing. From keeping safe while out and about to making sure you are taking care of yourself, this short blog and associated briefing bundle will help you to deal with these heightened activities over the next month or so.
Our Essential Guide on Personal Safety for Councillors is full of key information for keeping safe in your role. Here are some key points that are particularly relevant for party conference season and election campaigning:
- Trusting your gut – if you feel a situation is “off”, it probably is. Everyone’s bodies have different ways of telling them but common indicators include anxiety, nausea, butterflies in the stomach and goosebumps. Act accordingly and listen to your body!
- Being safe online is especially important. Harassment and cyber-bullying is widespread and people in the public eye are more vulnerable. Be careful about sharing your location online, and always report inappropriate behaviour. Threats of violence are illegal and should be reported to the police.
- Always report incidents to the relevant groups – whether within your political party or your council. Some councils have incident reporting teams for this exact purpose, so make sure to utilise them.
It’s easy to let stress get the better of us during busy and eventful times. That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself and relax. It’s important to:
- Spend time with family and friends and maintain a healthy work-life balance. It might be full on but this “downtime” is essential to avoid burnout.
- Eat healthy and take care of yourself. It might sound obvious, but fast food is a much more tempting option when you are overworked and busy. Eating home cooked and filling meals when you can will make a big difference to your wellbeing.
- Don’t take on too much. Know your limits and turn down that extra admin job, or get an early night if you know you need it. Your body and your mental health will thank you. And, remember that you can’t be the best councillor you can be if you’re exhausted and burnt out.
- Disconnect from social media from time to time, especially if you’re on the receiving end of hostility or harassment. It can be easy to get caught up in it when the political landscape is messy, so take a day off Twitter and focus on what’s important.
The media have a particularly watchful eye this time of year and during any election. You can read more about the best way to manage your communications in LGiU Scotland’s Essential Guide to Local Government Communications. Having good relationships with the media can really make a difference to your experience as a councillor and your wellbeing. In addition, the guide has useful tips about social media usage when it comes to both councils and individual councillors, which is well worth a look.
It is an exciting time but with that comes extra strains and pressures that we don’t usually have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s important to keep yourself safe and healthy, and take a break after it’s all over!
We are running a seminar at the end of September on Personal Safety for councillors – find out more and register here.