Legislator as an Occupation and You!
Why should you care about the health and well-being of your legislators?
The legislative session is in full swing in Kentucky. The schedules senators and representatives keep during this time are long and the issues discussed may impact you personally. Could your legislator’s occupational balance affect you? Try applying the seven domains of occupational science to legislator as an occupation and see!
Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are basic tasks that people do daily such as bathe, manage personal hygiene and eat. Everyone, including legislators, function best when ADLs are met. Beyond these essential and routine ADL tasks, there are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). These tasks include managing finances and clearly communicating ideas. Given that legislators are responsible for making decisions about how our taxes are spent and what bills become laws, a legislator’s level of advanced thinking is essential so they can best serve you and your community.
Taking care of one’s health, eating well-balanced meals regularly, and allowing breaks to recharge during stressful days are all necessary to maintain good health. Managing health is one way a legislator can assure they will be present more, absent less, and better able to serve you.
If a legislator has health issues, they may miss work or fall behind in their work priorities. For a legislator, this could mean being absent for a critical vote. If an issue you feel strongly about is up for a vote, but your legislator is home sick, they will not be able to vote on that particular issue even if you have communicated effectively with them.
Rest and Sleep
Several legislators have been “caught” on camera falling asleep during session over the years. If your legislator is tired during session, they may miss important discussions taking place on the floor. These discussions involve potential bills that could become laws on a broad array of issues from education to health to taxes. Decisions made on issues impact everyone. Given that they are in a high-stress environment and career, legislators need adequate rest to process information quickly and effectively. Might there be a day when your legislator needs to rest or nap in their offices between meetings? Yes! Adapting sleep patterns in this way allows them to be alert during the most critical times.
Education and Work
Have you ever thought about how much information your legislator must learn? Legislators must understand how to draft a bill, find co-sponsors, discuss, and promote issues that are of high importance to their communities, and more. There is much to learn so that the work can begin.
Beyond the legislative process, community members expect legislators to be up-to-date on a wide variety of issues. You need your legislators to read, listen and learn about new topics in a critical way that values best practices and evidence-based science.
Work for your legislator does not end when the day’s meetings conclude. Legislators often volunteer alongside those who voted them into office. This gives you opportunities to participate in these local experiences and get to know your legislator. Imagine talking to your legislator about issues that are important to you! You can have those conversations by seeing them in your hometown or by visiting their office.
Sometimes you may see your legislator playing golf or going to a sporting event and you may question why they are spending time engaging in leisure activities during a legislative session. Participating in such activities helps your legislator avoid burnout. They can return to their next day’s session refreshed and better ready to serve you.
Most legislators enjoy activities in their own communities. Beyond that, local events allow legislators to discuss issues with you during re-election campaigns. Legislators are there to represent their constituents. Sometimes you and your legislator will see an issue similarly and sometimes you will see it differently. Allowing your legislator the opportunity to know you on a more personal level will help them understand why certain issues are important to you.
As you can see, there are many reasons why it serves you better if your legislator has occupational balance. Through the lens of Occupational Therapy, a legislative career may create barriers to occupational balance, requiring dedication to bring these seven domains back into working order, especially during a legislative session.
I asked a new Kentucky legislator, Amanda Mays-Bledsoe, if she found the balance to be a challenge and, if so, which of the seven domains she has found to be most challenging during this legislative session. Senator Mays-Bledsoe replied, “A mentor told me that, in the beginning, it’s all overwhelmingly new – the people, the physical location, the protocol of session, the legislation, the intense schedule not to mention the fast pace. Only experience will help build muscle memory to allow for more margin. I’m trying to balance learning it all while maintaining the understanding that it’s going to take time. I am fortunate to come home at night to see the kids but session is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting leaving little to give them. The phone calls and e-mails come in high volume about bills with little time to respond. Sleep has been challenging as the conversations and material from the day continue to replay in my head. No question, this is one of the harder things I’ve done. Even so, I’m committed to keep learning and trusting that I will be a stronger legislator and person in the end.”
And in finding that balance, occupational science confirms that a legislator will be stronger and make better decisions for you, the ones who voted for them!
Occupational therapy is a health-based profession that uses physical and social-emotional considerations to provide quality of life, and health and well-being to our clients. Using skills to enhance everyday living makes occupational therapists unique among the healthcare team.
The University of Kentucky Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning (BH WELL) research team works to promote behavioral health and wellness among individuals facing behavioral health challenges. Mental health is health.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (4th ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74(Suppl. 2), 7412410010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.74S2001
Battaglini, M., Sciabolazza, V. L., & Patacchini, E. (2018). Effectiveness of connected legislators. American Journal of Political Science, 64(4). https://doi.org/10.3386/w24442