Camping

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! 

The Origin of GetSETraining

If you’re wondering where this idea for GetSETraining came from, its origin is back in the summer of 2010 at a summer camp in Pennsylvania.

This was my first time doing a work-travel opportunity and working on a J1 visa in the USA, while our other co-founder, Renee, had already been working at camp for a few seasons and had some great experience under her belt. During my first few years at camp, Renee was always a strong leader for me. She used her experience and wisdom to not only help myself and others get through personal struggles and challenges working with campers, but she also inspired many to be better people overall. It has been clear that she always wants the best for others, and wants to help them succeed personally and professionally.

In the summer of 2014, I moved into a leadership role at the camp where Renee and I worked. This change meant that we were working quite closely together on a regular basis and got to know each other much better. We found out that our leadership styles and professional interests aligned quite well. While we originally began working in the camp industry to provide campers with a fantastic experience, our focus has now shifted to staff and their success.

Most staff at summer camp are 18-25 years of age, and are currently in a newly recognized life stage called “emerging adulthood”. This stage is incredibly important as it is when many young people are gaining greater independence by having experiences separate from their family lives. During this time, they are really discovering who they are now, and who they want to be in the future. Renee and I have always had a passion to support staff members during this experience.

Over the years we have seen more young people struggle with the experience of being a staff member at summer camp. In this role they are not only responsible for themselves, but also the many campers in their group. They have to negotiate new social relationships and discover who they are as an individual in a group of staff, apart from who they are as a family member or student. It is a challenging time and more emerging adults are struggling with this experience and process of exploration. This is especially true for those who are engaging in a work-travel program and leaving their support network to travel overseas for this incredible experience.

As Renee and I both travelled to a different country to work at a summer camp, we understand the hardships that come with this, but also the life-changing experience that it is. We have personally experienced it and worked with hundreds of emerging adults who take part in the J1 cultural exchange program. We firmly believe in the importance of preparation for this experience. As we want to support summer camp staff ahead of time, we formed GetSETraining to help young people during this work-travel experience. We hope that with our guidance and support, emerging adults will be able to successfully navigate summer camp work and bring their newfound skills and experiences home.

We’re here to help you! Let us know what type of support you’re looking for in this experience!

Scroll to top