No shame in talking or asking

05 March 2021


This Paul Dibble sculpture in Newmarket, spoke to me after yet another Covid lockdown this week. The head in its hands with a deep in thought expression. The Mercury energy building frames the sculpture with light and flowing lines of hope for the future.

Taking a moment to reflect on 2020 and what faces us in 2021 brings out:

  • Change in the way we work – virtual and in the office
  • Covid fatigue and fear
  • Economic stress
  • Budget reductions and doing more with less
  • Redundancies or the threat of
  • Massive workload demands
  • Sense of isolation or restrictions on movement
  • New norms – scan covid QR codes; mask wearing; separation distances; Stay at home if sick
  • Team of 5 million; Kindness, Respectful & Connect; Stay safe
  • Massive legislative and organisation change – including the Resource management reforms
  • Ratepayer outcries over significant rate increases
  • Blaming of Planning and RMA system for the woe’s of NZ including the shortage of housing
  • Increased anxiety on whether we are good enough, fast enough, or working hard enough.

These are extraordinarily challenging and emotional draining times, so take time to look after yourself, reach out to others and reflect on what you need for Wellbeing in your workplace. Each of us has our own stories. Let me share 2 of these:

The current NZPI board with David Curtis has created a culture of respect, where it is safe to share and debate/test diverse ideas, this is healthy, supportive and constructive. Sometimes our focus on the business is at the expense of taking time to check on how we each are. At our November meeting it was not until mid-morning that I asked the question, how are you? Ten amazing, resourceful, and experienced professions shared feelings of tiredness and running on empty – physically and emotionally from the demands of 2020. Being in a safe place with people you trust meant that the 20 mins of sharing and listening energised us and showed that we all had things we were dealing. No one is alone. How often do you do that in your team? Take those few minutes each week or month to say ‘How are you …really?’ All too often people have many things going on – love ones battling cancer, relationships are not as great we hope, issues with kids. It is ok to say ‘actually I’m having a real hard time’. No one should feel that they can’t speak up. If you can’t talk to your leader, or colleagues, reach out to a friend! No one should feel alone.

Some of you will know I have a concussion injury (physically invisible that I am impaired). What seemed to be an insignificant knock to the side of my head is resulting in nearly 5 months of recovery back to full time work. 24,000 kiwis every year do a mild traumatic brain injury, yet its not really talked about. Each injury is unique to the person so recover varies as do the symptoms. Going being a highly productive, massive workload and nationally engaged on the 16th of December to late January 2021 finally and depressingly being forced, for my own health, to hand over my family of projects to a colleague and consultants. The days after were empty and gut wrenching to say the least. My focus had to be change to the process of slow recovery under direction of my concussion expert team and a caring male friend that called every few days. To be honest I should have shared more with friends outside Auckland. Everyone from family, friends, health experts and Spark plus others not mentioned have been creating space for recovery. I am still learning the “act of slow” and exploring for the positives of my concussion, at the moment they include:

  • Time to share a Allpress coffee on our deck each morning with wonderful partner Catherine Relearning to breath
  • Sense of vulnerability and fear – getting my head knocked again for example on the street by being banged into by other pedestrian or scooter or when driving
  • Quality time with people
  • Slowing down to focus on one thing at a time
  • Learning when I am getting closer to fatigue and stopping. This one is a work in progress.
  • Our planning systems does not really engagement and take into account the needs of the “normal stakeholder”

Sharing my injury meant that for our recent Board meeting a separate room was available should I need it. Andrea watched me and checked in when she thought I was getting tired. If she didn’t know what was happening in my life she may not have been as aware. Just shows the power of sharing.

With so many things going on in our lives and for planning in general, here are a few things we can all do:

Stay Connected – its now more than ever to connect with your family, friends, colleagues, mentor and your team. Maintaining connections and relationships is critical to help us feel valued, loved and have purpose -all this makes us feel good!

Be active – Stay active or getting moving is not just good for our bodies, it makes a real difference to how we feel. Take advantage of the quieter streets explore the neighbourhood again, walk the dog. Just 20 minutes steady walking a day to get fresh air and connect with nature can give your brain the quiet space it needs.

Routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, and eat at regular times. Having a routine to transition from work to home is important as well. Andrea walks after work to de-stress and physically do something different between work and home – was essential during lockdown and continues to be important today.

Take notice and express what you’re feeling. Take time to notice or reflect on how you are feeling gives us space to be mindful, breathe and slow down and appreciate it with all our senses

Reach out to others. Talk with people about how you’re feeling. Be a listening ear for others if you can. Have empathy, even if others seem grumpy, as that may be a sign that they are not ok! Many employers offer EAP services, if they don’t there are other resources out there – see the list below.

Keep learning and nourish your mind - Learning helps keep our minds active join a NZPI panel discussion or offer to lead a panel discussion on something you’re passionate about. Start a hobby. A key part of self care is doing those things that targets the creative side of brain. It allows your brain to rest and allows you to have a break from the ‘busyness’.

Give kindness whether it be a smile, a compliment, offer of support or lending a hand. Kind acts make us feel better and helps us build connections with others. Have you walked down the street and said ‘Good morning’ to those you pass with the smile. You never know, it could be the best thing in a day for someone struggling.

Be Grateful each day make a list of those things you are grateful for. You will be surprised of the positive things each and every day to be thankful for.

Our government continues to recognise that importance of maintaining mental health. You can text 1737 and someone will ring you back straight away. Learn more about this service here:

You can find further information or guidance at the following websites:

Stay safe, be kind and connect, there no shame asking for help. Know that we are here you.

Kei runga noa atu Koutou

Andrea Harris, Graeme McCarrison,
NZPI Board