April has been stress awareness month for decades. As easy as it is to say "awareness days and months shouldn't have to exist- we should notice these things all the time", it's not doable for most of us.
Rather than see stress awareness month as a time when people will virtue signal or send shallow messages of support, we can celebrate the ways in which we can combat stress and make the rest of the year as enjoyable as is possible (and realistic).
Who does stress affect? What is stress?
Absolutely every one of us experiences stress at some point in our daily lives. Not all stress is terrible for us. Sometimes a bit of stress can help us to meet deadlines, achieve goals or approach something with more energy. This is short lived stress though and doesn't usually cause a problem.
The stress that most of us associate the word "stress" with is the kind that can consume us for hours, days, weeks or months. It's usually brought on by external factors such as money worries, struggling to manage responsibilities or feeling like you have no time to talk to others or do your job properly.
Stress is horrible. It can lead to ailments such as heartburn, bloating, headaches and anxiety but in the long run can lead to mental illness and heart problems among other potentially life threatening diseases.
The good news is that there is a lot we can do to help relieve stress!
Mind charity has some excellent advice on how to manage your symptoms of stress. Some of these methods include engaging with new hobbies or activities, spending time relaxing, sleep, exercise and spending time in nature. Finding a way to de-stress doesn't have to cost anything.
While it's hard to achieve any or all of these things when you're working full time and at the beck and call of others, you do need to remember to put yourself first and be kind to yourself. I have worked in jobs where somebody has died and the employers have a replacement lined up almost immediately. The day of that employee's funeral has been a normal work day for the rest of the team. Is that job worth all of the stress? Probably not. Was that person kind to themselves? I don't know. I hope that they were. I hope they had a hobby.
It's easy for us to get caught up and trapped in our head and rush through the day to get boxes ticked but we need to remember that some things are not worth the stress.
Do hobbies help relieve stress?
Finding a hobby can be a simple and effective way to relieve stress. A hobby can provide an outlet for stress, a source of pleasure and a break from the daily stress of life. E.g. Art and craft, gardening, cooking, singing, making music.- NHS Oxford
Why are crafts such as knitting and crochet mindful?
Mindfulness involves paying attention to what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.It's easy to stop noticing the world around us. It's also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living "in our heads" – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour.- NHS.
Where does knitting and crochet come into this?
When you're working on a project, stitch by stitch, row by row, you are practising mindfulness. You are aware of your movements and what you are thinking and feeling in that moment. That's a form of mindful meditation. The rhythm of your hook or needles and the repetitive actions allow you to focus on the yarn slipping between your fingers and wrapping around the needle or hook. Sometimes you might hold the work away from you and stop and admire the colour or the pattern you've made. That's mindfulness!
Mindfulness can be a really effective way of managing stress and anxiety as it involves you being present in the moment. It's not a passive action like watching television. It requires active engagement.
Working on a project also allows us to step away from ourselves and see what we are creating. There is no instant gratification with knitting and crochet. You can't give yourself a quick fix because it isn't doable. You have to make it to enjoy it. Mindfulness is just being aware of what you're doing and enjoying the development of your skills or the accomplishment in completing a project, or simply stroking the yarn or holding the needles.
Knitting and crochet are peaceful.
Undertaking a knit or crochet project whilst alone at home, in a public place or with friends can give you a sense of inner calm and peace. If you do have thoughts about things that are causing you stress, you can slowly approach them and reflect on them as you're creating. This may help you to manage them and decide what is and what isn't worth worrying about.
Knitting and crochet has helped me through some of the most stressful periods of my life. I do not doubt that it was due to the mindful meditation of working on something with yarn. The other bonus is that they are portable. Take them with you to places where you might feel anxious or stressed. It's something to do with your hands that isn't biting your nails or wringing tissues. Instead of being destructive, you're being creative. That has to be a good thing!
If you haven't already, pick up a hook or some needles and have a go. Who knows what you'll get out of it? You don't have to be a pro to enjoy a new craft.
Knitting and crochet: