It’s mental health awareness week (or month, depending on where in the world you are!), so I wanted to share with you some of my personal experiences of how stitching and embroidery have helped my mental health.
When I was in my teens and early twenties I did a lot of cross stitch. I didn’t realise it at the time, but looking back I think it was a powerful respite for me when I was finding life difficult. I can remember one morning being sat on my bed in my school uniform cramming in as many stitches as I could before I had to leave for school!
Perhaps the most powerful piece for me was this Mirabilia design. I struggled a lot with mental health at university and it got to the point that I need to take a break. During that break, I stitched this design.
I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember the feelings of being calm and safe in my room while cross stitching. It was something I could do while so much else felt impossible. I’m glad that I was able to create something beautiful during that dark time.
One of the biggest turning points for me was when I shifted my thinking from “how do I cure my mental health issues?” to “how do I best manage my mental health?”.
I stopped looking for a magical fix and instead focused on ongoing strategies. Many of which are surprisingly simple!
I’ve come to realise that embroidery, sewing, art and crafts of all sorts are really beneficial to my mental health. “Busy hands, calm mind” as they say.
With this realisation I stopped feeling guilty if I was prioritising stitching over something else that I “should” be doing. Confident that it’s giving me the time I need to rest and recoup so I can be more productive and effective in other things I do.
Ongoing self care
So now I actively use stitching to manage my mental health.
When I start to feel anxious or notice a tightness in my chest, I’ll first take a moment to focus on my breathing. If that isn’t enough, I’ll take out a bit of stitching. Often it only takes 10-15 minutes for me to notice the positive shift back to feeling calm and in control.
I also aim to do at least some stitching every week. As I know that when I’m regularly stitching and being creative I’ll generally feel better.
I’ve shared more about my tips for using embroidery to ease anxiety and generally look after my mental health here.
If you are feeling low or anxious please know that you are not alone and that things will get better. When I first struggled with my mental health it was very much a taboo subject. But awareness has really improved over the last few years and thankfully talking about it doesn’t carry the stigma that it used to.
A great first step is to talk to someone you trust. It’s amazing the difference that sharing a problem can make. There are also loads of great organisations that provide help and advice, for example Mind and Mental Health Foundation.