We’ve all heard the story. A hard-working campaign staffer loses their marbles right before election day. They collapse from a lack of food, their eyes start twitching from too much caffeine, and their friends haven’t seen them in months. Then, election day comes and goes, and that staffer is exhausted. They’re not happy–no matter the outcome of their race. Their health is in shambles, and they’ve got a hard case of the burnouts. It’s super common in some careers–including politics and medicine–and it’s a real issue. Not only is it bad for your emotional health, and your career, it can also have major ramifications on your physical health. 

As someone who brushed against the edge of burnout a few too many times and has studied the topic a bit to prevent it in the future ,I want to offer a few tips on how to prevent burnout when you’re working in politics. 

Self-care is about more than chocolate & bubble baths

“Self-care” is often touted as the cure all to every emotional issue, but self-care is about more than chocolate bars, bubble baths, and wine nights. Self-care is about taking care of yourself holistically–physical, mentally, etc. Having a good self-care routine is absolutely necessary for preventing burnout. Self-care should be individualized to your personality. What help you disconnect from stress and reconnect with your stress? If you’re still looking for ways to explore this, try the phrase “tend and befriend.” Tend to yourself first–eat well, sleep well, meditate, exercise, etc–and then look outward. Who brings you joy? Spend more time with them. Listen to what makes your heart happy and step outside the “item driven” self-care. Try sleeping more. Try taking a walk without your friend. Try drawing or doodling or painting a wall. Don’t ignore self-care until later. 

Limit the alcohol when you can

I worked a very stressful job, and I know that it was such a relief to come home and drink some wine, or hit up those happy hours when the deals were good, but alcohol was just masking my stress and anxiety. Heck, sometimes it was making it worse. If you’re already stressed and working hard, try cutting back on the alcohol when you can. Alcohol can complicate some of the symptoms of burnout and hide the true impacts of the stress on your life. Lean into other beverages. Trust me–there’s time for celebratory drinking later. 

Have non-political friends

Working in politics can dominate your entire life, especially if you’re surrounded only by people who work in politics too. Inevitably, work will bleed into “non-work” time and you’ll just keep compounding the stress.  Have non-political friends! They will be your saving grace. Of course, it’s hard to just…find new friends. If you’re looking for a way to make this work, try engaging your political friends in a non-political activity that will keep your mind and hands busy with non-political work. Go to the gym. Volunteer in a soup kitchen. Knit! Do something non-political and engage with other humans about literally anything other than politics. Might I recommend a good Netflix show or a great book as a starting point?

Turn off your notifications

Hear me out, because I know this sounds crazy, but having constant email and social media notification is bad for your mental health and stress levels no matter what your job is. In politics, it can be deadly. Try starting small: no Twitter notifications. If you’re like “but I run our Twitter!” listen, you have to find some way to find balance. Try turning off notifications over night, so the pings can’t interrupt your sleep schedule. 

Try turning off email notifications on the weekend. Set times throughout the day to check your email. Heck, try taking the email app off your phone if you can. When you’re not being paid to be at work, you don’t have to be working–especially if you’re already teetering on the edge of burnout. 

If you’re worried, talk to your manager or supervisor about ways you can limit after-work contact to give you the chance to practice self-care, see friends, etc. 

Give back

One of the best ways I found to prevent burnout in any field is giving back–engaging in service to your community that is not at all connected to your field or career. In times of pandemic, obviously that looks a bit different, but try to make masks to donate, or volunteering at a soup kitchen, or baking bread to give to a food bank, or writing cards to veterans. Do something with your hands and your mind to distract you, and do something tangible. For me, that made all the difference. In politics, so much is intangible until it’s too late: after the election. It feels so good to say “I made 25 sandwiches that fed 25 people today” or “I donated 3 coats that clothed 3 young teens.” 

I know, you think, “but my job keeps me so busy, I don’t have time,” but the fact of the matter is we all have 168 hours in our weeks. No one has more or less no matter their career path. It’s all about how you spend those hours. I promise, if you spend all of them working in politics, thinking about politics, and dreaming about politics, you will face burnout sooner than you think. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member