You’re in a high intensity phase of a campaign, like the last weeks prior to an election or another big deadline… maybe you are frazzled and living on pizza. What else can you do?
Here’s a bingo sheet full of low barrier things folks can do to stay healthier and handle stress better when under pressure. You might like to set the bar a bit higher during less intense times – but the point is that even when we’re really stretched we can take small steps to look after ourselves and each other. See if you can weave some of these small into the days and weeks, either individually or in teams.
These suggestions were crowd-sourced via the Organise group on Facebook, the Commons volunteer Slack channel, and chats with a number of activists.
Download the Resource
- Campaign Wellbeing Bingo Sheet – printer friendly PDF (text only)
- Campaign Wellbeing Bingo Sheet – printer friendly PDF (text with pictures)
- Use this bingo sheet as a personal reminder, ticking off activities as you complete them during a day, week, or until the campaign deadline.
- Pair up with a buddy and aim to complete a line of activities, or the whole sheet, in a defined time.
- Set this as a challenge in your campaign team. First person to complete a full line wins a prize.
- Modify the bingo sheet to fit for your particular campaign or your personal practices.
The focus on steps individuals and teams can take doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for structural and systemic change! Obviously, our whole society’s approach to working conditions and wellbeing needs an overhaul. If you are concerned about the culture and practices in your own organisation consider bringing that up during campaign reviews and join your union.
About the activities
Have a chat with a friend
- If you are deep in the campaign reach out to a buddy who isn’t
- It could be a text, call, or in-person chat
Do something helpful for someone else
- Studies have shown that when we do kind things it literally gives our brain a boost, activating its ‘reward centre’ and that feels good (Source)
- If your campaign has an organising approach it might not make sense to do tasks for people (Building Organising Leadership During Election Mobilisation), but you can still connect people with skills and resources to act powerfully
- There are many other ways to show kindness – like sharing your healthy snacks
Have a check-in with a colleague
- Swap a few minutes of listening time to vent about how the campaign is going
- Catch up for a cuppa where you each share highlights and challenges
Ask someone for help
- Remember you don’t have to do everything on your own!
- It might be:
- asking someone for help with a campaign task
- asking a friend, family member or house mate for practical support (eg making a meal or driving you to an event)
Tell someone how much you appreciate them
- Appreciation is good for the person on the receiving end but also helps you focus on strengths and positives rather than gaps and deficits
- You could give positive feedback about a task well done (‘Well done for confirming X volunteers for the event’) or appreciation about a particular quality they bring to your work together (‘I love the way you’re so upbeat and welcoming when people come into the phonebank’)
- Try to be specific with your positive feedback so the person is more able to hear it and take it on board (as opposed to a very general ‘you’re so great!’)
- Show appreciation when it’s fresh, soon after something has happened or you’ve thought of it – but even delayed or awkwardly expressed appreciation can be valuable
- Try team appreciation eg a round where each person says one thing they appreciate about the person on their left (or equivalent online activity)
What you eat or don’t eat can have a big impact on how you feel, how clearly you think, your energy levels and your overall health. Fresh is best but at this time convenience might need to come first.
Eat some vegetables
- If you order take-away try to get an option that includes vegies
- If you are able to meal prep, like making a big pot of food to eat during the week, try a vegie-rich dish like Sweet Potato and Kale curry
- Have some fresh vegies handy for snacking like carrots, cherry tomatoes and mini-cucumbers
- The recommended amount of water to drink in a day is 8-10 cups (equalling 2-2.5 litres)
- If you have a headache you might be dehydrated – reach for water as well as painkillers
Do some meal prep
- When you have some time prepare for when you won’t have time
- You could prep a bundle of snacks for eating on the run
- Cook a big pot of food to eat during the week, like Lentil and Vegetable Soup
- Set up a lunch club with your team where one person makes lunch for everyone each day, that way you only have to organise food once a week or fortnight depending on your team size, and everyone eats well
Have a healthy snack
- Keep snacks handy like nuts, muesli bars, crackers, vegies, and fruit
- Let’s face it, your snack doesn’t even have to be ‘healthy’, it could just fill your tummy and give you some energy, which is much better than going without
Choose an unhealthy meal over missing a meal
- Working late? Order that take-away, have a bowl of cereal, make some toast from the loaf you keep in the freezer, or access whatever basic nutrition that will get you through
Be in Your Body
Walk around the block
- During high pressure campaigns it can be hard to make time for exercise or breaks but a 5-15 minute brisk walk around the block can make all the difference
- Moving your body, breathing fresh air, and paying attention to your surroundings can help clear your mind
- If you can’t leave your phone behind take it with you – you can have a walk and talk meeting if necessary
Do some stretches
- If you are sitting at a computer all day your body will thank you if you remember to stretch!
- You might like to set a timer to remind you
- If you’re working in person with others have a stretch break together
- Stretches are great to incorporate into online meetings for energisers and team building
- Here’s some options:
Get your heart-rate up
- Exercise boosts endorphins and other happy chemicals, while suppressing the hormones that contribute to stress and anxiety
- Even small bursts make a difference:
- Try the 7 minute workout
- Take a dance break: move as much as you can for the duration of your chosen song
Make sure you are warm enough
- When we’re stressed out we can miss cues from our body about what we need
- Being too cold or too hot is a background stress we can do without
- Tune into your body and be prepared for temperature variations
Release muscle tension
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a great technique for checking in with your whole body and intentionally relaxing
- This video guides you through the process in less than 4 minutes, or you can follow this handout
Take a break from your phone
- Sorry if this one is tricky! Depending on your role and what’s going on you might need to keep your phone handy for urgent requests or social media moderation
- Think about if there’s times of the day when you can limit engagement with your phone. It can be important to limit screen time in the lead up to sleep, because of the impact of the screen light but also stress reactions to what you see on social media etc
- If you’ve been using your phone a lot for work look for other ways to relax or be entertained, such as reading a book or watching a show on a different screen
Take 3 deep breaths and relax your jaw
- Doesn’t that feel better?! You can do this as many times per day as you like
- If you want to tune into your breath more try:
Unwind at the end of the day
- After a busy day on the campaign trail it can be hard to wind down, relax, and get a good night’s sleep
- In order to be really ‘on’ for the campaign (present and productive) we need time when we’re ‘off’ (resting and present to our own needs)
- Try developing an intentional transition from public campaign time to personal time:
- This could be a physical journey, like the drive or bike ride home
- Have a shower, and imagine the day’s worries washing off you and going down the drain
- Change clothes
- Create a simple ritual that signals to you to relax, like lighting a candle or playing a particular piece of music
- Substances can help with shifting states but be mindful of how much you consume and avoid getting into unhealthy habits
Have a plan for time-off
- You won’t always be in this grind!
- Having a sense of the light at the end of the tunnel can help with getting through demanding periods
- You can think small and immediate (like brunch the day after the election) or bigger (a long holiday or sabbatical) or something in between (a number of long weekends to step down from the stress)
Pay attention to nature
- Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. (Source)
- If access to nature is difficult in the hurly-burly of the campaign take what you can get: time with pets, an indoor plant on your desk, a walk around the block
- Check out the iNaturalist app to focus your attention on the nature all around you
Fun & Affirmation
Watch something that makes you laugh
- Laughter is good medicine!
- There are plenty of ridiculous things out there, find what works for you
Give yourself something that feels like a treat
- If the campaign is feeling like a bit of a slog treat yo self
- It could be a favourite food, a new outfit, or time out doing something fun
- After the campaign you may like to give yourself a present to commemorate this big experience
Notice something you are doing well
- Take some time to appreciate yourself!
- What particular contribution are you making to this campaign?
- What have you learnt and how have you grown?
Share some good news with others
- Has the campaign had a win? Share it around!
- Stories about how people are stepping up to create change are inspiring and counter the demoralisation rife in politics
- Happy news from other parts of your life, or cute animal videos, also count
Listen to a song that makes you smile
- Maybe it’s a song that helps you feel revved up about your campaign, or a song that helps you feel transported somewhere else completely
- Try making a shared playlist with your team or buddies
- For an alternative option, one activist recommends reading a poem a day. Mary Oliver is a favourite.
- No Burnout Bingo – Activity sheets from the Center for Story-based Strategy
- 10 Great Resources On Activist Wellbeing
- Maintaining Group Morale and Motivation
- Running Effective Campaign Debriefs