The damaging effects that stress can have on our health are widely known, and millions of Americans have made a priority of avoiding extended stressful situations to prolong their lives.
Political campaigns are one of the most stressful projects you could be involved with, though (I can attest to that from personal experience on the campaign trail), and candidates often overlook the dangers that a hectic election season can pose to their health.
The stress and health risks of a hard-fought political campaign comes in both physical and mental forms. Physical symptoms can include fatigue and lack of sleep; foot, ankle and knee soreness from many miles of door-to-door work; even problems from the unhealthy and hurried diet you can face on the campaign trail (I should include dog bites, too, since I know I’m not the only candidate who has suffered his fair share of those).
As bad as the physical ailments from hard campaigning are, the mental strain can be even more taxing. There’s a reason why we’ve said that you should get the support of your family before running for office: if you’re in the game to win, then it’s going to be a stressful trip.
There’s no way to take all of the physical and mental stress out of political campaigning, but there are a few simple tips that can help you get through the election season with a minimum amount of damage. Most of it is common sense, but the rules are worth reviewing before you hit the campaign trail.
1. Don’t neglect your family
The well-being of your family life is much more important than the well-being of your political campaign. Running for political office can take a severe toll on your marriage and your family, especially if it involves long hours on the campaign trail away from the people you love.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with your family is an important part of warding off stress and staying healthy. And if you’re political candidate, you’ll need your family to help provide support, love and a safe-haven from the rigors of campaigning.
2. Eat healthy and don’t skip meals
A good diet can help you maintain plenty of energy and an optimistic attitude, and both of these are vital for political candidates. Although you won’t have a whole lot of spare time on the campaign trail, make sure you take efforts to never miss a meal and consume healthy, nourishing foods.
3. Get plenty of sleep
This rule becomes harder to follow as you get closer to election day, even if you’re running in a small local political race. Still, you should never forget how important it is to get a good night’s sleep if you want to do stay as sharp and effective as possible. Tired candidates make plenty of mistakes, and you can’t afford to miss any cues.
4. Delegate jobs to volunteers
If you’ve decided to run for office, then there’s a chance that you’re the type of person who likes to do everything yourself (I know I am). You need to get over your fear of delegating authority, though, if you want to alleviate unnecessary stress and make your campaign more successful.
If you’re faced with a campaign task that can just as easily be done by a willing volunteer, then delegate!
5. Don’t skip (occasional) days off
Setting aside time to focus on things other than campaigning needs to be part of your weekly schedule as a candidate. Play with your kids, go out to dinner with your spouse, take time to work on your favorite hobby . . . just don’t let campaigning intrude on this important time off.
Although you may experience seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm early in the election season, you risk burning out during the home stretch if you don’t allow yourself an occasional short vacation.