As a camp counselor, you have many responsibilities to juggle, including home life, camp life, and life after camp.

It’s important to prioritize your physical and emotional health, as they are intertwined, and taking care of your physical body can improve your mental well-being. Stress, lack of energy, poor sleep, and other physical problems can negatively affect your mental health. You must be in a good physical and mental space for your campers — because they will imitate your actions. By focusing on self-care, you can create a foundation for a successful summer where everyone can thrive and make unforgettable memories.

To help you keep up with the demands of the camp environment, review the tips in the following self-care guide that offer a stress-free approach to maintaining a healthy balance during the summer camp season.

Physical Check

  • Stay hydrated: Make it a habit to carry a water bottle and drink plenty of water, especially during outdoor activities. Encourage fellow counselors to do the same.
  • Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness by paying attention to the present moment and doing a body scan meditation to become more aware of your body and its sensations. Don’t forget to take a moment to breathe.
  • Team support: Foster a supportive team environment and encourage and support each other in maintaining physical health.
    • Pace yourselves throughout the day.
    • Stretch.
    • Remember to wear a hat while outside.
    • Wear sunscreen.
    • Help one another with coverage and break times.
    • Work to your strengths, and get to know your co-counselors’ skills and leverage their skill sets when needed. Is someone really good at slowing things down? Is someone best at hyping up a tired crowd? Work together to make it happen and everyone benefits.
  • Resting: Set a reasonable schedule to allow sufficient time for rest, replenishment (think healthy snacks), and sleep. Lack of sleep can negatively impact physical and mental health. 
    • Let go of the fear of missing out (FOMO).
    • Take full advantage of your scheduled breaks to disconnect from work and reconnect with yourself, so you can be ready to connect with others.
    • Don’t get caught in the stay-up-late club. Prioritize sleep like you prioritize time with those you love.

Emotional Check

  • Overcoming homesickness: It is normal to feel homesick when away from home. To make it easier, bring familiar items like a favorite pillow, book, or snack.
  • Open channels of communication: Create an environment in which open communication is encouraged among campers and counselors. You should be able to express concerns to leadership staff or seek assistance without fear of judgment. And you can be that ear for campers. Communication creates care.
  • Clear expectations: It is important to communicate expectations and responsibilities clearly to reduce confusion and promote a pleasant environment. This includes daily scheduling, break times, coverage, and much more.
  • Team building: Seek team-building activities to bond with your fellow camp counselors and create a supportive network that fosters resilience and a sense of belonging. Try organizing a staff book club or karaoke night.
  • Conflict-resolution skills: We may not always agree with each other, but it’s crucial to develop the ability to understand another person’s perspective. Work on your conflict-resolution skills to address interpersonal issues effectively and promptly, and turn potential conflicts into opportunities for personal growth.
  • Setting boundaries (respectfully): Establishing healthy boundaries to protect your mental well-being and personal space is a must. Make sure you do so with kindness.

Prioritizing self-care is essential during a busy camp experience. Establishing a routine that includes enjoyable activities, sufficient sleep, healthy eating, physical exercise, and relaxation time helps.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a framework that promotes a harmonious balance between your emotional and physical well-being — and one that contributes positively to the overall camp experience for you, your campers, and fellow staff.

As a camp counselor, your impact is immeasurable. Each day, you have the chance to change the world by spreading hope, love, and encouragement to every camper and fellow staff member you come in contact with. Your dedication shapes campers’ minds and fuels their adventurous spirits. Embrace the challenges and celebrate the victories, because your future can be better than your past, and you have the power to make it happen. You are not just counselors; you are the architects of unforgettable summers! 

Jamal Stroud, PhD, is the mentoring and outreach manager for Camp HOPE America (, a national program of the Alliance for HOPE International designed for children impacted by trauma and abuse. Jamal is also the founder of Big Homie Lil Homie (BHLH), a nonprofit mentoring program for young boys growing up without father figures. In addition to his professional and community work, Jamal is a motivational speaker on improving character and on strategies for prioritizing children and their overall success.