This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. That's why the Movement Team is using the opportunity to share some advice to help chanichim, madrichim, rakazim and even medics thrive during their FZY Summer.
As a youth movement, our members are some of the boldest, brightest young people in the world. They are an inspiring collective, full of passion and laughter. During the summer, these incredible young people are bursting with energy: chanichim, madrichim, even rakazim! They are all non-stop chock-a-block, full of go-go-go enthusiasm! What's more, our programmes are so busy: when you only have a few weeks to enjoy, you jam it full of content...
But for everyone, from chanichim on Ofek right the way through to rakazim on Netina in Ghana, a youth-movement summer can also present some challenging moments. We find ourselves in new environments and surrounded by new people. With less 'me-time' than usual, summer with FZY has the incredible ability to energize and exhaust us at the same time!
So with our summer programmes just around the corner, we've spoken to a number of former participants at all levels, and we're happy to present our eight top tips for looking after yourself on summer camps & programmes!
# 1 - Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast
This might not be what you expected us to say, but one of the most important things to do in the summer is make sure that you come early for breakfast. Once the days get going, it's really tricky to find a quiet space again until free time, or until your Tour/camp has some down time before bed.
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but people forget how relaxing it can be. On Israel Tour, grab yourself a steaming hot lemon tea and a plate of fresh salads. It's so much better than arriving late and hurriedly eating a bureka before the coach has to leave!
And on that note, a snack from home can sometimes be all you need if you're in Ghana and missing your own bed.
# 2 - Leave the bubble once each day!
Okay. So you can't actually leave the bubble of Kesher UK or of Israel Tour. You live and breathe in that bubble, all day, every day. And sometimes, that can be a bit stressful for people.
Back in the good ole' days, nobody had mobile phones on summer programmes. Today, it's not quite like that. But one of the amazing advantages of the 21st century is that you're never too far from your friends and family. If you can find a few minutes each day to check in with a friend or sibling from outside of camp, it's a nice refreshing moment to remember that there's a whole world out there!
# 3 - Sleep
This one seems so obvious that it shouldn't really even be considered self-care. But it's definitely worth repeating: sleep, sleep & sleep.
We know that the days are busy and that it's important to wind down in the evenings. Every year, some chanichim take this too far, though. They sit up all night whispering and chatting. We love that people make such amazing friends on our summer programmes, but it's important to shut your eyes and let your body catch up with itself. One Harvard study even found that sleeping more helps us avoid dehydration! Talk about self care!
# 4 - Get into the Shabbatmosphere
Anyone who has ever been on an FZY programme, will know that Shabbat is always a highlight. With its rowdy ruach and its shiny white tablecloths, Shabbat is a chance to pause time and check in with ourselves.
Before Shabbat starts, you might be lucky enough to have a few hours to shower and feel clean, neat and fresh. As a pluralist movement, our members celebrate and mark Shabbat through a range of different practices, but we would definitely encourage you all to take it as an opportunity to have a sort of detox moment. It's a lovely space for a deep breath.
# 5 - Sing to your heart's content
Did you know that music is great for our wellbeing? Music helps to release dopamine, which is one of the brain chemicals that help us feel good. And when we sing together, it also increases our feeling of belonging... if you take part in our summer programmes, your songs and chants join you to your camp or tour group, as well as to FZY, and to the Jewish people as a whole.
Singing highlights could include chanting at the Maccabiah, or more gentle singalongs around the various campfires which often appear on our summer programme. In the immortal words of Green Day - a campfire classic - "it's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right. I hope you had the time of your life."
# 6 - Get your five-a-day!
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, lettuce and carrots and apples and pears and juicy Israeli passion fruit and luscious British strawberries and mountains of Israeli salad. These are a few of our favourite things!
Experts are not 100% sure why, but eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables has a positive impact on our mood and wellbeing. It could be that vitamins C and E help reduce some of the inflammation in our blood, which some experts have suggested is directly linked to low mood and depression. On summer programmes, lots of our madrichim have an on-the-go mentality, so they opt for sandwich or the quick schnitzel... but remember to make room for veggies, too!
# 7 - Stretch, moisturize, repeat
You know all this already, but summer is hot! And this means that we're putting our bodies through more than usual: hiking, dancing, singing.
Sometimes, the best self-care you can do is to take care of that body. After all, it does its best to take care of you. Bring a gorgeous, luxurious moisturizer on your summer programme as a way to thank your wonderful body for being so fantastic. Or, in some free time, find some outdoor space for stretches or yoga. There is plenty of time in shady parks or under beach shades on Israel Tour - or outside on the campsite - where a group of people might love to enjoy some yoga. And by the way, the absolute best way to look after yourself in the heat is to keep sipping water throughout the day! Take your bottle everywhere.
Plus, if no one else is leading it, here's your chance to step up and be a leader!
And finally, #8 - chat to your madrichim/rakazim
If anyone is finding things hard during the summer, please do remember that you're not alone. Your madrichim are given lots of training and they also have their own experiences to draw upon. They believe in you, and they are always around to offer a kind, listening ear!
Bonus - Madrichim only: take turns
As ever, we want to remind our madrichim that it's not a competition! We don't want madrichim who are too tired to make a positive impact on the young people around them, and you cannot be inspiring if you're struggling to keep your eyes open. In such an intense environment, it's also easy to get bogged down in the details, and mistakes can feel like the worst thing in the world. But you're only human, and we love you for that! Take a step back and speak kindly to yourself; if you make a mistake it’s always fixable and try to learn from it rather than berate yourself for it. Plus, one way to try to see the bigger picture is to each day find 1-3 things that made you happy/proud/positive and recognise the work you’re putting in and the results you’re getting daily.
Sometimes, the best madrichim are the people who know their limits. If you need an early night or a late wake-up, we want you to all feel comfortable to speak to your rakazim and ensure that you have the space you need. We're there for you, and we'll do all we can to ensure that you're on top of your game.
Now remember, we're pretty sure that you're going to have an incredible summer, but we just wanted to extend some useful hints and tips for those slightly tricky moments.
We're not professionals, and although we're trained, we would always encourage people to find professional help where required.
If anyone reading this does have any specific worries about the summer, please do get in touch with us in the office, which you can do confidentially if you would prefer. All of the contact details are on our website.
If you or your family or friends have been impacted by anything in this article, please see this list of helpful resources on Jami's website.