Resilience for Election Campaigns – or May the 4th be with you


Julie Bell of the National Committee is running for council in Angus.  In this blog she passes on her tips to other candidates as to how to survive the campaign!

Resilience (n):   the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress; an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change (; bounce back (me)


Whilst I’m a relative newcomer to this election malarkey, losing my election virginity for the Westminster 2015 campaign, I quickly learned the pitfalls and have made up for being a latecomer. This experience mitigated some of the damage for the Holyrood campaign last year so, as we move into battle for the local authority elections, I really want to avoid the worst excesses again

Maybe writing them down to share with everyone will help my resolve and time is of the essence.

This blog is therefore intended, not only for brand new activists of whichever party, but particularly for the candidates, of whichever party, because that seems like taking things to a whole new level. And I’m one of you. Yikes. Forewarned is fore-armed.  

What pitfalls, you may be thinking?

  • Carb overload - you will randomly grab sandwiches and pasties from every passing shelf when you fill up with petrol or nip in somewhere to buy cat food because you forgot last night. Even though you don’t eat bread and pastry. Carbs will tempt you, you will succumb and you will feel bloated, sluggish and nauseous if you do. Don’t. Carry a box of emergency carrot or celery sticks and fresh fruit with you at all times.

  • Not cooking proper food from scratch – delegate if you can or make the effort. This is a really important strand of using healthy, nutritious food as medicine to fight stress and exhaustion. Avoid microwave, carb-loaded boxes of plastic, chippy teas and takeaways – none of your clothes will fit and you will be bankrupt.

  • Being skint – another danger of campaigns, especially if you end up in the pub afterwards. It’s very social to get a round in for your team, but times are tough: it’s not unreasonable to have a wee kitty, buy your own or drink water (see the entry for ‘Alcohol’). Manage your personal finance as well as the campaign’s.

  • Bingeing on chocolate – if you can avoid succumbing the first time, you can do it again. And again. You know you’ll regret it in the morning.

  • Bingeing on crisps – if you can avoid succumbing the first time, you can do it again. And again. You know you’ll regret it in the morning.

  • Bingeing on cakes – you get the drift. These foods are addictive – whether it’s sugar or salt – and that makes want you to binge. Resist.

  • Alcohol use – this is tricky. If you are aware that it’s becoming increasingly common for you to open a beer or a wine when you get home at night, consider allowing yourself this ‘treat’ as certain times only: such as the weekend, not on a ‘school night’. This will help you to feel brighter in the morning, to sleep more soundly and to avoid having to cope with a liver that’s sluggish from overwork and dehydration. It sneaks up on you though, so be aware. No one is saying abstain completely, but manage your intake and stay within the maximum safe levels for women – which is 14 units a week (a bottle of wine is 9). Talking of which…

  • Drink plenty of water (even if it means more loo stops. OK, so this is a big issue in a very rural area like Angus, but plan your pitstops accordingly).

  • Eating at 10pm when you’re just in from a branch/campaign meeting or canvassing or leafleting, then either:

    • staying up until 2am because you’re too wired or tired to move

    • going straight to bed on a full stomach and not sleeping or having nightmares.

  • Stressing about not going to the gym or yoga because you have too many doors to knock or leaflets to deliver. You are well-advised to carry a fitbit (other apps are available) or similar, to help you rack up those steps as you go roon’ the hooses. You’ll be amazed at how much ground you cover. Try to ensure you do stick to your favourite class, whatever it is, because believe it or not, there is life outside politics (who am I kidding?).

  • Euphoria – if the adrenaline is pumping too much, step back a little bit and breathe. Go for a walk, run or cycle, meditate, do yoga, Pilates, read a book, avoid social media for a few hours. You’ll burn out otherwise and no-one wants that. Except the oppo. Remember, you’re part of a team.

  • Depression/distress – don’t hold onto this alone. Speak to someone you trust – a friend, colleague, GP, counsellor.

  • Housework – forget it. It’ll be there on May 5th. Except maybe the bathroom.

  • Too-enthusiastic social media use – slow down, ration your intake, have a friend take the phone away.

  • Losing touch with your non-political friends. Don’t – it’s not worth it. If they want to help in some way but not in an activist role, let them – they love you, after all, so maybe they can cook for you so you can eat properly before or after your evening’s work. Or make other arrangements to keep in regular contact because you need all the love and support you can muster. Even if you have to reduce the frequency of contact, keep these friends close – they will keep you grounded.

  • Taking insults personally – I know this is hard but please, try not to. Remember the Four Agreements, all of which are important:

  • Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity; say only what you mean; avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or gossip about others (the Word simply means the power of language); use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

  • Don’t take anything personally -  Nothing others do is because of you; what others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dreams.

  • Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want; communicate with others as clearly as you can to avid misunderstanding, sadness and drama; with this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

  • Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment – it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick; under any circumstances, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.

  • Sore legs, backs, knees, hips – from all the walking, bending and standing up again: why aren’t letterboxes conveniently-sited? If you can, have a hot bath with Epsom salts or invest in a magnesium oil spray for efficient topping up of this important mineral, which helps sleep, repair of connective tissue, muscular aches and pains and mitigates arthritis-related joint pain. I swear by it. Also Vitamin B complex and Vitamin D3 (whilst your out in the open air, remember this is Scotland and most of us should really be on D3 all year round!)

Speak to a nutritionist if you feel you might have other vitamin and mineral deficiencies. These are usually caused by the body’s changing ability to absorb them as efficiently, not about your diet as such, although if you’re carbing up and bingeing, altering your habits will also help.

  • Sore feet – special category all of their own. Sturdy shoes, comfy boots or trainers, depending on the weather. My favourites, essential for muddy farm tracks and paths, are wellies. Attractive. But so comfy!

  • Neglecting yourself – so easily done and all the above is involved. Take a little time each and every day to do something for you. I have a timetable like an old school timetable called My Bliss List – one thing in each square for me, daily. It’s not selfish: it’s self-care. Even if it’s 5 minutes breathing meditation, or a foot soak, that is your special time – do it.

  • Don’t forget the fun – it is possible! You are with many like-minded folk, communicate, enjoy the banter and people will respond well to that.

(This list is not exhaustive.)

If you want to do a deeper analysis of your current levels of resilience, Derek Mowbray’s self-assessment tool is the one we use in the Healthy Working Lives session, Resilience and Wellbeing. There’s an action plan that needs to come out if it, looking at what you can do in each area to build and maintain your own resilience. So keep an eye on that and when one area feels depleted, take action.

Moving On

Whatever happens, you will learn and grow as an individual; no experience is wasted. In time, you may even be able to laugh about your campaign travails!

If you win and become a local councillor – congratulations! You will need to be resilient more than ever so review how you coped, what you learned, what you could do better, find your natural support networks in amongst the other councillors – and council officials. Learn to be sensitive to your own needs and you will be more responsive and sensitive to the need of others, including your constituents, who are now incredibly lucky to have to as their representative. Remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup.

If you have time and inclination, Martin Seligman’s ‘Authentic Happiness’ provides a brilliant model to raise your happiness quotient. There are lots of easy-to-use questionnaires on the website and the book is great. Martin is a founding father of Positive Psychology and is worthy of exploration, when you can fit it in (I would argue – fit it in and everything else follows).


And finally…

Bear this in mind. We won’t all win (although…) so that means some of us will be very low afterwards or whenever the polling or canvassing data doesn’t look good. That’s life and that’s politics – you will have done your best and it’s over to the voters.

We are here to love and support each other so use us, use your networks and ensure you are in the best possible place to bounce back, stronger, wiser and ready for the next step of your amazing, wonderful and beautiful shero’s journey.


Go, you!


Julie A Bell

WFI NEC Member





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