Australia is heading in to an epic three month long election campaign. Elections, like any high intensity campaign time, can place individual campaigners under a lot of stress and pressure. Look after yourself this election season.
Here’s some reminders that might come in handy…
Connect to your motivations
What motivates you to campaign on this election? Why is the outcome important to you – or why is the opportunity to get your issue on the agenda important to you? Getting in touch with these feelings and beliefs can be sustaining – especially when you may need to do things which are less fun, frustrating, or feel futile. Being clear about your motivations also helps when you’re talking to people on the campaign trail.
When embarking on such a big project, clarity around goals is essential. The campaign goal and objectives should guide your campaign activities, motivate you and the people you work with, and help you decide where to devote time and energy.
It also helps to be clear about your personal goals. What do you want to get out of this campaign? What skills do you want to develop? One of the successes of your campaign may be your own increased confidence as a campaigner.
Having a series of clear objectives provides lots of opportunity to celebrate success, which is great for morale. Not succeeding can provide useful lessons. What can I/we do differently next time? Don’t give yourself a hard time if things don’t go according to plan. Keep looking forwards.
Manage time and prioritise
During the campaign there may be numerous tasks and decisions flying at you, many urgent and important. Planning and prioritising can make a big difference to what you manage to achieve, and your stress levels.
Prioritising means focusing on what is most important at the expense of lower value activities. Some questions to ask when prioritising tasks:
- How does this task impact on the campaign, or relate to our goals and objectives?
- Who is impacted by this task?
- What will happen if I don’t do this?
- Can someone else do this task? What do they need in order to do this?
Prepare for stress
Stress is a normal part of life. During an election campaign it’s likely you will experience times of high stress. Everyone deals with stress differently – we have our own triggers, reactions, warning signs and coping mechanisms.
When there are lots of demands and not enough time we can find ourselves in a high-adrenalin, fight or flight condition. While we’re running around, jumping from task to task, it can be hard to cover our basic needs. So good healthy food, regular exercise, breathing deeply, relaxation, time with friends and loved ones, and a good night’s sleep can all fall by the wayside. Unfortunately it’s exactly these kinds of things we need to handle stress effectively. If we miss out on attending to our basic needs for too long we can run ourselves down and become prone to physical illness, exhaustion, and emotional meltdown.
To be more resilient throughout the campaign, invest in your own strategies to manage stress. Remember, the election campaign is time-limited – this particular stress will not last forever!
Rally your support network
Think about the people in your life – how can they support you at this time? Whether it’s moral support, making dinner for you, baby-sitting, or volunteering on the campaign, it can make a big difference to have folks on your side. Let people know why you’ve made the decision to campaign at this time, what it means for you over the next few weeks or months, and what it would mean to you to have their help. You don’t need to guilt people, just ask! Check out more tips for building a support network.
Make space for the campaign
Being a campaigner isn’t about being superhuman. Campaigning during an election can take a lot of time and energy – if you expect yourself to do everything else you normally do as well, you’ll run yourself ragged.
Think about what can be put on hold until after the election, be done by others, or simply not get done, so you can prioritise this project. If you are able to take time off work (if your campaign role is voluntary), defer study, get extensions on deadlines – do it. Let friends and family know that you may be less available at this time, and why you’ve made this decision. Practical things like cooking lots of food now and freezing it can make space in future evenings for campaign work (or having a break!)
Taking some time to talk through what’s going on can be really useful. It’s a reminder that you’re not alone. Do you know someone who is a good listener? Someone you trust? Or has potential? Ask if they would be happy to listen to you.
Set some guidelines for what works for you, for example: please don’t interrupt; treat this confidentially; don’t give me advice unless I ask for it; stay relaxed if I get emotional; be pleased with me and say reassuring things etc. A ten minute vent at a key time might be the pressure valve you need to keep going. Make sure you ask people’s permission before you let rip – and emphasise what shouldn’t be repeated to others. You may want to schedule a regular phone check-in, or weekly cafe catch up to talk through what’s going on. Alternatively, seek professional help from a coach, counsellor or therapist.
Recognise feelings as normal and natural. Anger, frustration, sorrow, despair, fear, excitement are all natural responses to hard situations and a big deadline impacting on the future of the country! The trick is to find appropriate ways to express these feelings.
Conflict is part of life, and even more so under the pressure of a campaign. You and the people you work with will be put into stressful situations where emotions can run high. Wherever possible conflict or grievances should be addressed promptly and directly with the people involved. Don’t allow things to fester or become ongoing divisions in your team. Try to debrief about conflict outside of your campaign team and avoid gossipping.
Recover after the election
There is life after the election! Regardless of the outcome of the election or your campaign you may experience mixed feelings. After putting so much time and energy into the campaign you may feel like there’s a big gap in your life and it’s a bit of an anti-climax. People who have campaigned in previous elections have described hitting the wall, experiencing deep exhaustion and fragile emotions.
Plan now to have some nurturing time post election. Give yourself time to recover. Book a holiday, get some movies, reconnect with neglected friends, get physically active. Take some time before jumping in to a new project.
Reflect on your experience. What did you learn? How did you grow? What’s next for you? Plan for campaign evaluation and group debriefs too. Make this experience a learning one that can result in greater strength and effectiveness in the future.
What have you figured out about take care of yourself (and others) during high intensity campaign times? Please share below.
Stay tuned to Plan to Thrive on Facebook for more reminders and post-election recovery activities. Take care out there!