Voting day is upon us!
For all South Africans eligible to vote (i.e. older than 18 and in possession of an ID book/card), 8 May 2019 is a very important date. This is the day when you have a political voice as you get to choose your homeland’s future as one of the 26 736 793 (read carefully now!!) registered voters for our sixth general election since 1994. One of our most fundamental rights as citizens will be exercised and we should all be very excited about this prospect.
Having said that, my personal excitement wanes somewhat when I consider the ins-and-outs of the voting procedure and process:
- Wake up early on a public holiday;
- Drive to your voting station, which in my case is a small community hall with limited space;
- In all probability, park a few blocks away from the voting station and set off on foot;
- Stand in a queue with (often) limited personal space;
- Try to remain calm while there’s constant noise around you;
- When you finally reach the inside of the building, you squeeze in behind a cardboard box, try to locate the lucky candidate who’s getting your vote on the busy voting ballot and draw your X in the appropriate block;
- On the way out (you are sprinting at this stage) you desperately try to avoid a talkative neighbour who’s patiently waiting their turn;
- As you reach your car, it becomes clear that you’ve been parked in (because you were there EARLY) and will have to wait for your co-voter’s return.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?!?
No use considering NOT to vote… it is your right!!!
But let’s consider a few sensory strategies to ease the experience.
WHY SENSORY STRATEGIES?
Because we all react in a unique way to our environment based on our sensory thresholds. Individuals will cope differently with various amounts of sensory input (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, movement and body position). Some people seek more sensory input (brighter, louder, stronger smells, more spicy tastes, tickles & hugs, faster) while others prefer less sensory input (natural colours, softer, odourless, milder food, less- or firm hugs, slower). Supplying our nervous system with the right input, enhances harmony and a relaxed state-of-mind… as is needed on 8 May!
We have a few general strategies up our sleeve, to ensure you (and your nervous system) remain regulated during voting day: you need to focus when drawing that X!!! These strategies are universal “self-regulation” strategies and can be used by all:
Deep breathing is one of the fastest, easiest ways to de-stress. Follow the outline of your fingers with your other hand’s index finger, pretending to trace it: breathe IN when drawing up towards the fingertip, breathe OUT when drawing away from the fingertip.
Always have a water bottle at hand. Water is essential for our bodies and minds. Using a spout bottle is the absolute best, as the sucking action will calm your nervous system even more.
Take your stress ball with to the voting station or fiddle with your car keys.
Moving your body is one of the easiest ways to de-stress. Stamp your feet to the rhythm of music playing through your headphones. Stretch your neck- and calf muscles while standing in queue. Sway from side-to-side if you start feeling stressed.
- CARRY A BACK PACK
Applying deep pressure is calming and relaxing for our nervous systems. Fill your back pack with a water bottle and go voting with added deep pressure on your back and shoulders.
- SNACK ON HEALTHY FOOD
Take along biltong, raw apple/carrots and chewing gum. Chewing will provide more deep pressure and keep the hunger pains away.
If you don’t enjoy making small talk, put your headphones on. Also, if you’re sensitive to sounds, headphones can drown out environmental noise.
- COMFORTABLE CLOTHING
Choose your voting outfit well. Choose comfortable shoes and clothes that you enjoy wearing. Remember a warm jacket, just in case the queue is very long.
- YOUR OWN PEN
An easy way to ensure things run smoothly on voting day, is to have your own black pen at hand. The person who’s in front of you in line might just have the sniffles.
- HAVE SOMETHING TO EAT BEFORE YOU GO
Don’t go voting on an empty stomach!
- SUNGLASSES & SUN SCREEN OR UMBRELLA
You might end up standing outside for a long time. Take your sunglasses and sun screen or an umbrella with you.
There’s no reason to dread voting day … have your say … your way!
See you in the queue!
To find out what your unique sensory needs and strategies are, complete a Sensory Matrix and create even more harmony in your own life.
Written by Marieta du Toit, a qualified Occupational Therapist with an interest in sensory integration, neurology and human behaviour in the modern world. She is based in St Francis Bay, where she manages her school-based practice dealing with children, parents, teachers, principals and health profession colleagues. Marieta is an online coach, regular blogger and is our Eastern Cape Events Co-ordinator.