WREN Stories: Identity, wellbeing and taking your own advice

This month's WREN (Workforce Race Equality Network) Stories blog comes from Crystal-Bella Romain-Hooper from our Research and Development Team.

My name is Crystal and I am the Research Programme Manager in the Trust’s wonderful Research and Development Team. I have been part of the team for over five years and with support of colleagues have been lucky enough to progress my career in research.

Knowing what to share in this blog was tough as I haven’t done anything like this before; even doing a simple post on Facebook fills me with dread! I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go as an opportunity to challenge myself as we have all been challenged in one way or another throughout this year.

When invited to write this blog I was asked to touch on my identity and what it means to me, so here goes… I don’t see my identity as being about the material things like the way I look, the colour of my skin, or how I choose to dress, but more about who I am as a person and how others perceive me. To me, my identity is more about what dictates my emotions, how I express myself, what drives me, my inspiration/aspiration and the morals I choose to live by. Words I feel I identify with spring to mind such as personable, flexible, laid back, and love a challenge. It is also defined by my many flaws (nobody is perfect), my limitations, and all those little failures in life.

I always think we should be grateful for some of those failures we have in life, big or small; those job interviews that were not successful, the tests we failed, the mistakes we made at work and in our home-life, and all those times we felt we said the wrong thing. Those are the things that I am grateful for because, as cheesy as it sounds, those are the things that have taught me how to get it right sometimes, and without those mistakes we wouldn’t be who or where we are today.

One of the self-confessed flaws I have always found tough to overcome is not following my own advice. I am sure there are many others like me who are very quick to advise others on how they could be looking after themselves better and the importance of taking time for you but not doing this yourself! The last year has really reminded me to finally start following some of my own advice to stay well both mentally and physically. If the past year has taught me anything it would be this – it’s so important to take your own advice! A little quote I love on this: “I don’t practice what I preach, I preach what I practice”

Everyone has had everything thrown at them over the past year and we have all pulled together as a society and adapted to a very different way of living. As a line manager this called for a more supportive, flexible approach and really challenged my communication and leadership skills, so I could be there to offer what felt like a new level of support to colleagues through such a difficult time. I needed to make sure, more than ever, that I was looking after myself so I could be in the right place to offer that support.

The Trust has a great range of wellbeing resources on offer to us and recently I have taken advantage of the peer support leadership circles workshops which have been a great place to share experiences with colleagues from other services, which makes you feel like you are not alone in some of the challenges you face day-to-day. It is not about waving a magic wand to make them go away, but having a safe space to reflect and learn from others has been really useful.

Switching off and taking that time out from the challenges of the day has been so important to me and has kept me motivated and able to keep that positive energy up. Even now when restrictions are easing it’s important to keep up those routines we have built for ourselves. Those walks out in the countryside or just around the local area after the working day are so important to me and I don’t know where I would have been without that escape from the four walls.

We are always told that the great outdoors and fresh air make a difference to our mental health, and they really do!