Project Wonderful

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ask Nancy: How to Invest When You're At Your Most Stressed

One of the strange things about being a field organizer is an overwhelming sense of professional responsibility juxtaposed with an almost complete lack of control over one's personal life. You're often in a new city, sleeping on someone's couch, with very limited income and less time to spend it. By necessity and by choice, organizers tend not to take very good care of themselves preferring instead to devote every last resource to their jobs. Personal health, fitness and relationships take a back seat to recruitment, turf cutting and canvassing. I myself have been known to live by the mantra "you can sleep on November 5th."

When I started writing this post 2 weeks ago, I was on my way to yoga reflecting on how I ever put my body through the rigors of being a field staffer and wondering what I would advise if I could go back in time and tell little organizer Nancy to take better care of herself. Flash forward a week and I had accepted a short-term job as a Field Director on an extremely intense high profile race. I quickly found myself trying to figure out how I was going to move out of my apartment of 2 years in the middle of GOTV and not drying my hands in the bathroom because I was in too much of a rush to get back to the office (brilliant time saving strategy, Leeds.) I'm getting a first hand reminder of the fact that "self care" is easier said than done.

So, from one very sympathetic field person to another, here is my advice for what to put your energy and money when both are at an absolute premium.

When it comes to money, there is no better investment than controlling your space.
1) Scented Candles. I know this sounds girly, but smell is the most powerful sense in terms of evoking memories and enhancing your mood. It's a great way to quickly change the vibe of your space. (Get ready coworkers, I am totally bringing in a scented candle tomorrow.)
2) Fans, window unit air conditioners and space heaters. I know you don't want to take the time away from the office to get them or invest in a big ticket item, but you'll save yourself HOURS of productivity if you are not constantly sweating, freezing or suffocating in stale air.
3) Comfortable bedding and pillows. A good night's sleep makes a huge difference and is often the only "you" time you ever get. You will be absolutely miserable if your sleeping arrangements are uncomfortable. Even if you're sleeping on a couch buy yourself an extra comforter if you need one. You'll often be getting 4 hours of sleep a night so you best make them count.
4) Laundry, F. That. Noise. I know it seems impossibly privileged and we field folk are supposed to be scrappy but suck it up and pay for a laundry service or a fluff and fold. You don't need another tedious yet stressful activity on your plate.
5) Microwave, mini-fridge, coffee maker. This stuff costs money but you will save yourself much more in delivery and Starbucks in the long-run. Plus the ability to have healthy snacks nearby keeps you from binging on volunteer doughnuts. Sometimes.

Manage Your Mental Health.
1)Plan something to look forward to. It is really debilitating to look onto the horizon and think "and...after this I'll be unemployed and homeless." I'm trying to reframe my choice to find a cheap sublet in the village when my lease runs out and spend the two weeks after GOTV applying to jobs as a staycation that will allow me to finally allow me to enjoy the city I've lived in for two years unencumbered by grad school or campaigns.
2)Have one outside friend who "gets it." The last thing you want to do is spend 20 minutes of your time explaining why yard signs are such a necessary waste of resources before complaining about having to distribute them. Sorry in advance for all the text messages, my beloved broworkers.
3)Be grateful. Besides being Jewish, I am devoted member of the church of Oprah. One of the tenets of Oprahism is recording five things you are grateful for every day, a practice I've participated in for about a year. I have to say it really helps because it keeps you aware of the little victories even on a crappy day. I do it before I go to bed and since I have begun doing so (don't laugh at me) I've been waking up in a better mood.
4)Don't take other people's stress personally. I tweeted about this the other day because it is SUCH a common campaign pitfall, at least for yours truly. When you have a crappy call time, its stinks but you don't fester on it afterwards. Getting snapped at, dismissed, or talked down to are similar unavoidable campaign pitfalls and reflect as little on your worth or abilities as getting hung up on. The more you can let things roll off your shoulders, the happier you'll be.
5)Have something that's "yours." Despite my best intentions, it never takes long for my whole life to become about a campaign. Whether it's your ten minute walk to the office, a weekly home manicure, or a fantasy sports league you need something, albeit small, to remind you that you're still you. Mine starts with a C and ends in "ampaignSick."

Thanks for being my little bit of sanity. I hope I helped yours.

Campaign Love and Mine,


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