Crazy with stress? Craft your way out

Crazy with stress? Craft your way out

Crazy with stress? craft your way out,

when my mother was diagnosed with dementia, the challenges of caregiving coupled with the intense emotional strain sent my stress levels skyrocketing. How did I cope? By pulling out my art supplies and making mixed-media collages featuring my mom. The creative outlet calmed frazzled nerves and helped me work through my grief.

Nancy Monson is a certified health coach and creativity expert based in Shelton, Connecticut. She is the author of four books, including Craft to Heal, Painting, and other Pastimes
Nancy Monson is a certified health coach and creativity expert based in Shelton, Connecticut. She is the author of four books, including Craft to Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Pastimes

I speak not only from personal healing wise but also from professional experience. As a certified health coach an author of Craft to Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Pastimes I have done extensive research on the psychological and physical health benefits—including stress reduction—of creative hobbies.

For instance, a classic study, cited in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that women who sew experience a significant drop in heart rate and blood pressure, perhaps because such creative pursuits allow the body to rest from the pressures of everyday life.

In other words, the magic of crafts is that they distract you from your worries and let you focus on the simple joys of the here and now. But to reap the benefits, you need to approach your creative activities the right way. Otherwise crafts can become a source of annoyance, ratcheting up rather than relieving stress. Helpful…

  • Give yourself permission to craft. Many women feel that they’re being too self-indulgent if they take time to pursue a hobby when they “should” be working, cleaning or caretaking. So instead of “shouldering” all over yourself, reframe your inner dialog—reminding yourself that your craft is like an essential vitamin that supports your health and well-being.
  • Pursue crafts that suit your personality. Are you a detail-oriented, organized person? You’ll get great satisfaction from activities that require precision and planning, such as quilting, beadwork, decorative painting, mosaic, embroidery or woodworking. If you’re a spontaneous, embrace-the-chaos kind of woman, give yourself some messy good times—for instance, with pottery, abstract painting, fabric dying, collage or gardening.
    Best: If an activity feels tedious or frustrating, drop it and try something else…keep experimenting until you’ve discovered several hobbies that you truly enjoy.
  • Choose the right activity at the  right time. Having a repertory of different crafts allows you to match your activity to your mood. For instance, when you’re feeling frustrated or angry, you can release those emotions through a highly physical hobby such as metalwork, sculpting or felting. When you’re in need of soothing, try a rhythmic, repetitive activity such as knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching or  rug-hooking.
  • Share the joy with fellow  crafters. The stress-busting effects of crafting increase synergistically when you combine your hobby with some socializing. To find new friends who share your passion, take a class in your favorite art form or activity…attend a hobbyists’ conference…or participate in a craft fair.
    Resource: For an online guide to arts and craft workshops, schools and retreats, visit www.art.shawguides.com
  • Adopt a beginner’s mind-set. Trying to exceed your skill level too fast will only add to your stress, so resist the urge to judge yourself harshly if a project does not wind up looking like the masterpiece that you originally envisioned. Crafts are not meant to be taken too seriously—that’s what the rest of life is for. So don’t ruin the fun by being a perfectionist. Instead, focus on the process and not the product…taking pleasure and finding peace in the very act of creating.
 

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