Anxiety at Camp – A review of Bob Ditter’s Camping Magazine Article

Anxiety. Just reading the term might bring up feelings of tightness in one’s chest, a quickened heartbeat, and clammy hands. In reality, it’s something we all face, but some just face it a bit more regularly. Many people have techniques for dealing productively with anxiety, while others let it take over and are unable to function productively.

Let’s dig into this term. Dictionary.com defines anxiety as “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune” or “earnest but tense desire; eagerness”. It also includes a definition in relation to psychiatry as “a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder.” So, from these definitions you get a broad understanding of the term anxiety as either a negative feeling (fear), a positive feeling (eagerness), or a mental disorder (clinically diagnosed “anxiety disorder”). Positive feelings of anxiety can be good as they might motivate us to act, but when anxiety is a negative feeling, interventions (and preventative techniques) may be needed.

Bob Ditter is quite well known in the summer camp industry. On his profile on the American Camp Association (ACA) (link: https://www.acacamps.org/authors/bob-ditter), his is listed as a licensed clinical social worker who specialized in child, adolescent and family therapy. He has written countless articles for the ACA and has been a leader on cutting edge topics such as technology and screen use among adolescents and anxiety. He has recently written an article for the ACA’s publication Camping Magazine (link: https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/camping-magazine/biting-my-nails-revisiting-staff-anxiety) discussing issues of anxiety among staff. I encourage you to read the entire article as he includes a lot of great information.

For today’s blog, I want to highlight Ditter’s “Staff Self Care Plan” that he includes at the end of his piece. While he explains why some staff may be experiencing feelings of anxiety working at camp, I think the takeaway here is what to do to prevent feeling overly anxious at camp.

1.     Sleep – We all know the importance of sleep, and for any of us who have already worked at camp, we know how hard it can be to come by. Make sure to plan ahead to sleep during time off and to get to bed early as often as you can.

2.     Short breaks: meditate/breathe – Consider different strategies that work for you during your short breaks, including meditation, deep breathing, or even journaling. Find out what works for you.

3.     Light, daily exercise – While it’s not always possible to get a full workout in at camp, think about ways that you can get your body moving, whether it be a brisk walk, using resistance bands, or body weight exercises.

4.     Plan ahead for your time off! – Be smart about what you do during your time off. Linking back to the first point, sleep is essential and using your time off to rest up would be a wise decision. Be careful not to engage in activities that actually make you more tired – that’s not what time off is meant for!

5.     Have trusted allies – talking to people you trust is one of the best ways to alleviate feelings of anxiety. It’s great to have friends and family back home that you can talk to, but sometimes at camp it’s not possible to access them, so find colleagues and leadership staff that you feel comfortable speaking with.

Hopefully these tips and tricks from Bob Ditter (and elaborated on by me!) are helpful for you during your summer camp work experience. Keep in mind that this is just a taster of the types of things we will talk about during our “Get Prepped” course. If you want more, make sure to register for our course, and watch this space for more blogs coming soon! 

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