With the 2020 presidential general election still more than a year away, and more than two dozen Democrats in the race, the candidates have a long road ahead of them. Given the notoriously grueling, high-pressure environment of a campaign trail, HuffPost asked them all how they’ve been practicing self-care along the way.
While the term “self-care” has become popularized in recent years ― often as a kind of “wellness trend” promoted on social media by celebrities or companies trying to sell women their products ― the concept dates much further back, with roots in the medical industry and as a political act in the women’s and civil rights movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The practice of taking care of one’s body and mind involves more than just doing a yoga class or applying a face mask ― though these can certainly be part of caring for yourself. Health experts and activists tend to describe self-care more broadly as a collection of practices or actions people can take to help sustain themselves amid the pressures and stresses of daily life. It can mean setting aside time to exercise, meditate, go to therapy, or any other activity that helps one to restore one’s mental, emotional and physical well-being.
In the political sphere, a new generation of politicians have been talking more openly about self-care in their work, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) posting on Instagram and Twitter late last year that she was “taking a few days to take care of myself,” noting that for “working people, immigrants, [and] the poor, self-care is political,” and that she believes public servants “do a disservice” to their communities by pretending to be perfect or “superhuman.”
Here’s how some of the 2020 Democratic candidates practice self-care on the campaign trail. (HuffPost reached out to all the candidates. Those not included here chose not to comment or did not respond. Some below did not respond but addressed this in other interviews cited here.)
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s team said the candidate frequently stops along the campaign trail to get ice cream, which appeared to them to be a form of self-care.
Reportedly minutes into the Iowa State Fair last week, Biden was spotted getting himself an ice cream.
In a 2018 episode of the WNYC podcast “On Being,” host Krista Tippett asked Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) how he “stay[s] whole” and renews his energy in his work as a politician.
“I try to … engage in spiritual practice that gives me renewal,” Booker said, noting he has a morning routine that includes meditation, exercise and the study of something not given to him by staff.
“When I can get up in the morning, make my bed, sit in meditation, do a little bit of study, get a little exercise in … I feel more momentum at my back, more energy, more … senses of self-worth, of self-esteem, more of a better foundation,” Booker said.
“Do the things that add to your self-esteem, add to your self-worth ― often they’re very small,” he added. “That’s self-care in a world that is going to do everything it can to … bombard you with anxiety [and] distract you.”
John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, has been working out whenever he can on the campaign trail as his form of self-care, his team said.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) starts her days with an early morning workout, aiming to support local, women-owned studios while on the campaign trail, per an aide.
She also attends religious services, including going to weekly bible study with Senate colleagues when Congress is in session, and has gone to various types of Christian services, including evangelical, while on the road. (Gillibrand was raised Catholic.)
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) goes to spin class and cooks for her self-care, per her team.
The senator told New York Magazine’s The Cut last year that she works out every morning, often at SoulCycle. (When asked for comment on SoulCycle’s owner hosting a fundraiser for President Donald Trump, Harris’ team pointed to recent remarks she made to Politico, saying she was “personally really devastated” about the event, but that she “would never boycott a business because the owner decided to support a party.”)
She told Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter in 2015 the advice she gives younger women she mentors: “You’ve got to work out … It has nothing to do with your weight. It’s about your mind.”
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) works out while on the road for his self-care, often going for runs or to the gym, according to his team. While in D.C., he’s part of a bipartisan workout group and attends a yoga class with colleagues. He also practices mindfulness by trying to meditate daily using the Headspace app.
Moulton has been open about his struggle with post-traumatic stress after his experience in combat as a Marine during the Iraq War. He has since sought treatment and continues to go to therapy once a month. He is the first presidential candidate from a major party in recent history to openly share that they received mental health treatment, per Politico.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) regularly meditates, practices yoga and attends Orange Theory workout classes on the campaign trail in order to practice self-care, his team said.
Ryan has openly discussed his meditation practice and even wrote a book on mindfulness.
“Mindfulness practice has really kept me engaged and prevented me from getting burned out and allowed me to still enjoy the work,” Ryan told Mindful.org earlier this year. He mentioned a Republican colleague from Kansas who had shared with him how meditation had helped him cope with stress and trauma. “Self-care is not a partisan act,” he added.
Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) said he does an early morning run of about three miles every day. “It is the most relaxing way to just think and enjoy myself while away from home,” the former U.S. Navy officer told HuffPost.
“The pace, length and weight of a campaign is something one gets used to handling perhaps more readily after many six-month or longer deployments overseas in the U.S. Navy ― including in war ― during 31 years of service,” he added.
Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer loves to workout, per his team, and gets in exercise every day on the road, at the gym or on the tennis court.