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Carrying Heavy Packs: Mental Health and Outdoor Instructors

For us who work in the outdoor education industry, it is vital to recognize the potential impact of our job on our mental health. Being exposed to nature regularly can be a great way to improve one’s mental wellbeing, but working in this environment can also be taxing and demanding. This is especially true for those responsible for leading groups of people outdoors and ensuring the safety of everyone involved. We need to take care of their own mental health so that they can effectively handle the demands of their job and better support the mental health concerns of our students.

Maintaining positive mental health while working in outdoor education can be challenging due to the unique demands of this field. The nature of outdoor work requires dealing with unpredictable weather conditions, long days, and varying levels of physical activity. Additionally, outdoor educators must manage any risks associated with being outside, such as wildlife encounters or hazardous terrain. These combined factors can lead to increased stress levels, which can adversely affect one’s mental wellbeing.

Fortunately, there are ways in which individuals working in outdoor education can look after their mental health while on the job. Below are some tips that may help:

  • Be aware of your emotions: Pay attention to how you’re feeling throughout the day and take time out when needed if you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Consider waking up early, before the students, to check in with yourself.

  • Make time for yourself: Schedule regular breaks throughout your day, even if it’s just 2 minutes, to check in with yourself.

  • Prioritize self-care: Take part in activities that make you feel good such as exercise, meditation, or creative hobbies like drawing or painting while on course. Eating healthy meals and getting plenty of sleep are also essential for keeping your energy levels up during busy days.

  • Connect with others: Reach out to your colleagues if you need support, as it is crucial to have a strong support network when things get tough. Talking about any issues or worries with someone else may help reduce feelings of stress or anxiety associated with work-related tasks.

  • Limit exposure to media while in the field: Constantly checking news sources or social media can be overwhelming and increase stress levels, so it is best practice to limit exposure whenever possible.

By taking some simple steps towards maintaining positive mental health while working outdoors, individuals will be better equipped to handle whatever challenges come their way while doing what they love most – working with our students!

Interested in helping us learn about this topic? Participate in our ongoing research study on Mental Health and Outdoor Industry Professionals


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