In November 2020, millions of Americans will turn out to vote for who they want to serve as President. The 45th President, Donald Trump will run for a second possible term, and a number of other hopefuls have put their name in the hat for one of the most powerful jobs in the world.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a successful Presidential campaign. In order to make your way into the White House, it’s key to win over a number of ‘swing’ states - those which are neither majority voting Republican or Democrat. These states are up for grabs, and anyone who wants to be President will make them their top priority in order to win.
How can a long Presidential campaign affect the human body? There are a number of issues that could arise for a presidential candidate whilst they seek to secure votes and gain exposure.
The long process
For the upcoming 2020 election, candidates have announced they are running for office as many as 18 months before voters take to the polls. In fact, some candidates may even make their intentions known earlier in order to raise their profile and capital. Having to play the long game, devising your strategy and getting the public onside can take its toll on you both mentally and physically.
Putting in the groundwork for the ultimate pay off requires a candidate to work a sleuth of long hours. You have to build the best team for your campaign, get on the road, do interviews, think about your advertising, attend rallies… the list goes on. The irregular nature of your working hours, locations and commitments can wreak havoc on your body clock.
A Presidential candidate will need to ensure they are getting enough sleep during this process so their brain is fully engaged for the commitments. As many as 40% of Americans between the ages of 40 and 59 are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep, whereas as many as 70 million adults in the US suffer from one or more sleep disorders.
Treated Clinical Lead, Dr. Daniel Atkinson commented, “Spending long periods of time, like a year or more, on a campaign trail takes a real toll on a person’s wellbeing. Insomnia is a major issue in the US, so to combat sleeping problems you should stick to a routine. Be sure to leave electronic devices like your phone and laptop in another room to make sure your sleep is uninterrupted.”
The endlessness of the campaign can be demotivating as you wait for the payoff. It can have an adverse effect on your mental wellbeing as you become so devoted to being President; and it can, in turn, affect your relationships in both a working and professional capacity. Give yourself enough of a break whilst on the relentless campaign trail to ensure you’re in the best possible condition to keep going.
Those long hours and spending so much time on the road can mean that eating well takes a back seat. Skipping meals, eating sugary snacks or fast food will mean the candidate will miss out on vital nutrients and even leave them feeling groggy. The quick fix of fatty and sugary foods won’t fill you up or give you enough energy - be sure to opt for fresh fruit and vegetables where possible instead.
Attending fundraisers and functions can easily lead to overeating, or eating rich foods that don't necessarily hold enough nutritional value - and alcohol could be included. Skipping meals and an imbalanced diet can cause problems in the short term, but longer term it can even reduce your life expectancy.
Adult obesity has risen steadily in the United States, with seven states now exceeding an obesity rate of 35%. There are a number of reasons behind this, notably an increase in food consumption and in particular, consuming more meat. A decline in physically demanding jobs has also contributed to the growing obesity crisis. As many as 80% of Americans do not get enough exercise.
If you aren’t giving your body what it needs, you’ll struggle to keep going. Keeping on track with your mealtimes and what you’re eating will give you a fighting chance of making it to the Presidential finish line.
Trying to get a whole country to support you - but namely, the major states that hold voting power - puts a lot of pressure on a person. Once you’re in the running for the presidency, you have to think about your every move and you’ll need a dedicated campaign manager to make sure you don’t have to do damage control.
You’ll be in the public eye continuously, which is not the norm for many candidates. This added pressure can make you anxious or depressed as the media and the public have a new-found interest in you. Media involvement comes with the territory, but it can impact your private and social life, bringing you more stress.
To be a formidable President, you must be able to make big decisions that affect the entire country, you must be comfortable with public speaking and you’ll have to bring together a team who you can trust wholeheartedly. This level of pressure is a lot to deal with and it can weigh heavy on your mind, affecting your self-esteem, happiness and ability to sleep.
Plus, the Presidential Campaign will need financial backing, too. Between 2000 and 2012, financial spending on a campaign almost quadrupled. In 2016, candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spent a combined total of $1.16 billion on their campaigns - yet the person who spent the most did not win. Both candidates contributed to their campaigns themselves; President Trump is believed to have used $66 million whereas Hillary chipped in $1.4 million. Financial troubles affect a quarter of Americans, who worry about their finances ‘all the time’.
The President must be a confident person but they are not immune to feeling stress. It’s important to speak about how you’re feeling, even as the leader of the Free World. An effective outlet for your stress so it can be managed is important to ensure you don’t suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension), headaches and insomnia.
As we’ve mentioned, if a candidate has any real chance of making it to the White House, they will have to make the ‘swing’ states their focus. These states could be won by either party and historically have been vital in a campaign.
The competitive states that presidential hopefuls are advised to focus on are Florida, Michigan, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada, Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. However, this list could expand, particularly after the results of the 2016 election - potential swing states for 2020 includes Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas.
These states are scattered across the country, so it means a significant amount of travelling for candidates. For example, if Donald Trump were to travel to each state to secure votes, his longest flight time from Washington D.C. would be four hours and 48 minutes to Nevada - the all-round trip is almost 10 hours, just for the flights to one state.
Travelling so much - as part of your campaign, and as President if you’re successful - can increase your risk of a number of health issues. Poor food choices and lack of exercise can mean putting on weight and increasing your body mass index (BMI). Hypertension is also a possibility as is cardiovascular disease, deep vein thrombosis and radiation exposure.
Being on the road so much will take its toll, leading to potential jet lag as well as fatigue. The last thing a potential candidate will want is to feel run down - they’ll catch a cough, cold or a virus easier. In September 2016, whilst on her campaign trail, Hillary Clinton fell ill with pneumonia. Pneumonia tends to be caused by a bacterial infection, with swelling in one or both of the lungs. It can take just 24 hours for the symptoms to develop, such as coughing, trouble breathing and a high temperature.
This diagnosis meant that Clinton would have to recover, taking her off the trail for three days. Not only that, her disappearance was heavily discussed and even brought into light whether she would be fit for the role.
By sticking to a sleeping schedule and eating a balanced diet, their chances of picking up illnesses will reduce. Getting important vitamins like B12 and Vitamin C will help to ensure candidates will have enough energy and combat fatigue.
Dr. Daniel Atkinson noted, “Extensive travel is expected of a potential President, but you should give yourself enough time to rest between flights and trips. Travelling a lot for work can increase feelings of anxiety and depression. Spread out your trips, no matter how short, for your own well-being.”
It’s one thing to be on the road, travelling from coast to coast but you’ll need to prepare for the changes to the weather. The West coast tends to be warmer throughout the year, so pack your sunscreen, stay hydrated and avoid the warmest hours of the day between 11am and 3pm if you can.
Moving over to the East coast - depending on the time of the year - can be much, much colder. Pack layers to keep you warm when you’re meeting the public, keep your vitamin C levels high and keep your hands clean.
“Hygiene is so important for presidential candidates,” Dr. Daniel Atkinson stated. “Shaking hands with a huge number of people, for days and months on end, increases your risk of picking up viruses. Some could leave you feeling rundown, or they could put you off your trail to recover. Wash your hands thoroughly after every meeting or rally.”
Extreme levels of fatigue would lead to a candidate suffering from burnout. Burnout leaves you feeling physically, mentally and emotionally drained - a long campaign trail can have this effect on a person. The draining effects can leave you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flus, further impacting your campaign if you take time off or your own health if you don’t allow yourself enough time to recover.
The signs of burnout can be subtle, and when you’re on a campaign trail juggling a number of commitments, they may go unnoticed. Being in the public eye so heavily could mean that you sweep the symptoms under the carpet in order to keep going. The candidates who feel undervalued in this race are at a higher risk of burning out.
Candidates will have a team around them, but you will take the stand alone to canvas for votes and if you’re successful, you’ll have to stand alone as a world leader. Having to spend months trying to gain public support - which may or may not pay off in the end - can leave you feeling isolated. The time on the road and dealing with commitments can have an effect on your personal relationships; with your family and friends if you don’t get to see them as often.
It’s important to find downtime when you’re in the throws of a campaign trail, whether it is to rest, hang out with your friends or to get some much needed exercise. The intensity of the campaign trail can take its toll on anyone, and if it is becoming too much, it may not be the job for you.
On the topic of loneliness, Dr. Daniel Atkinson said, “Loneliness is a common problem, unfortunately. If you are feeling lonely, and it’s affecting your mental health, it’s important to know you aren’t alone. Speak to your doctor about how you’re feeling to get some tips and guidance on how to improve how you’re feeling.”