How Recreational Therapy Helps

I was angry, so tied up in knots, and stressed out that I couldn’t speak.

I was in my first job as a manager and had a problem employee. She did not want to do the job. Called in sick at least twice a week and bad-mouthed me to the rest of the staff. I tried to cover for her lack of production.

The topper was the day she came in for an hour, slipped her resignation letter into my mailbox, then went home “sick.”

I was furious.

The last thing I wanted to do was go camping with a troop of Cub Scouts and their parents, sleep in a tent with no internet, no electricity, and no bathrooms.

It was the best thing that could have happened to me.

We drove out to the middle of nowhere on a Saturday morning, set up our tents, and got busy earning merit badges. I was on the remote control, just going through the motions, brooding about the problems at work.

That evening we gathered around the campfire to roast marshmallows and tell stories. I slumped in a camp chair and stared at the fire, listening to the happy chatter and stories. And I began to relax. Staring at the fire, I realized that all of those problems at work needed to stay there, they didn’t matter in the middle of the woods and, in fact, they really didn’t matter at all.

Turns out, I was experiencing recreational therapy and didn’t even know it.

Recreational therapists prescribe arts & crafts, sports, games, dance, music, and community outings to help reduce stress, depression, anxiety, build confidence, socialize and improve basic motor functioning and reasoning.

There are 19,000 recreational therapists in the United States and the U.S. Department of Labor says that number is probably going to grow as the population gets older.

Whether you seek professional help or, like me, treat yourself. Recreational therapy can help increase attention span, reduce insomnia, strengthen the immune system, return the appetite, increase cooperation, improve conversational skills and give a better body image perception.

Sometimes, it just helps clear your head. My middle son has a stressful job in a warehouse. On the weekends, he loves to go for hikes with his girlfriend. Being outside and enjoying nature brings him so much joy. My youngest son works at a summer camp. When he gets stressed, he heads outside to take a spin on his ATV and check out the grounds.

For me, just spending an evening staring at a campfire put everything into perspective and I was able to go back to work on Monday with a new attitude. I left all that anxiety and stress in a fire pit in the forest.

By Amanda Rogers for Surepoint Medical Centers

Amanda Rogers is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas

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