In my last post I shared how embroidery has become an important part of my mental health management. Continuing with the mental health awareness theme, I wanted to share some tips for how embroidery can ease anxiety and generally boost your mental health.
This has been especially relevant for me in the last couple of months. I got very ill with covid 19 which created all sorts of anxieties. Thankfully I’m recovering well now, although sometimes getting impatient that’s its not going quicker!
If I’m not careful I can still get very anxious. It’s easy to let all the uncertainty we are facing get to us. So I’m making a very conscious effort to look after my mental health.
Here are some of the things I find helps me keep anxiety at bay…
Create an album for your favourite projects
I often find looking back over things I’ve created calms my mind. There’s great joy to be had in the appreciation of beautiful things and if it’s something you’ve made there’s the added bonus of a sense of achievement!
Make it easy to remind yourself of beauty you’ve created. I’ve got an album on my phone where I store my favourite photos of my stitching.
I find having this is especially useful for those times when I’m not able to do any actual stitching.
If you are new to stitching and don’t have many photos of your own work yet, why not create an inspiration folder of the patterns and kits you want to stitch.
Take a short stitching break
It often amazes me how quickly a little bit of stitching can ease anxiety and help me relax. Even in just 10-15 minutes I can feel noticeably better.
With so many of us working from home these days, a short stitching break has never been easier to take. So if I find myself feeling anxious or stressed I’ll take a 15 minute stitching break.
I also often do 15 minutes of stitching before I start work.
I’m so much more productive when I’m in a calmer frame of mind. Sometimes the solutions to problems even come to me while I’m stitching!
I make this easy to do by keeping a project “ready to go”. I have all my project supplies in a readily accessible bag. Then I can quickly get to stitching rather than spending a few minutes finding everything.
Create a stitching habit
I don’t know about you, but I know I generally feel better when I’m stitching regularly. But sometimes it can feel quite hard to fit it in around life’s demands.
Making it easy to do small chunks of stitching will hopefully help with this. For even more chance of fitting it in, think about how you could make stitching part of your routine.
Routines and habits are incredibly powerful. One of the easiest ways to build a new habit is to create a trigger. Use something that you do everyday (or week) as a trigger for some stitching. Perhaps you could do a little stitching after breakfast? Or as a treat after doing the washing up?
One of my favourite times to stitch is Sunday morning. After breakfast, I’ll put on some classical music and indulge in a bit of stitching. It’s a beautiful start to the day!
Having a trigger means that the new habit will more easily become second nature. As well as something you do, triggers can be ways you feel. So if you start feeling anxious, use that as a trigger to do some stitching or look through your inspiration folder.
Make it social
Embroidery is often something we do on our own but it doesn’t need to be. One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about the embroidery classes I’ve taken is to be stitching with a group of people who share my passion.
While in person social stitching may not be possible right now there are other options. Look for online groups where you can chat about and share your stitching with. Some may even organise virtual stitching sessions.
Having a stitching community can help keep you motivated if you get in a slump. I’ve found online stitching communities to be incredibly supportive and kind, which is a great help when I’m feeling low.
While I was very ill with covid I didn’t have the energy or concentration to stitch. But I found admiring all the beautiful creations being shared on Instagram really helped to calm my mind and bring a little joy into my day.
No pressure and enjoy the journey
I’ll try to always have a project on the go that I feel zero pressure about. Something that allows me to simply get into some soothing stitching.
Sometimes this will be a simple design or some sampling. Sometimes a pattern or kit with very easy to follow instructions. You’ll know what feels best for you.
And when things don’t go quite as I’d hoped, I find it useful to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We often learn and grow more from things that don’t work out the way we’d hoped.
“Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.” – Oscar Wilde
Other tips to ease anxiety
While stitching is obviously awesome, there are a couple more simple tips that I wanted to share.
Focus on your breathing. This is so simple it can be done anywhere. Take a few deep breaths and simply focus your attention on the feel of the breath going in and out of your body.
Go for a walk. Exercise has so many benefits for our all round health. If possible I’ll walk among trees or by water. I find it incredibly helpful to spend a few minutes appreciating the world around me – birds singing, waves crashing, or simply watching the wildlife.
If you feel like you need help, talk to someone you trust. There are also plenty of mental health organisations that can help. Mind and the Mental Health Organisation are just a couple. Try searching “anxiety support” for organisations local to you.
I hope these tips help you to use embroidery to create a bit of calm and ease anxiety. I love that this year’s theme for mental health awareness week is “kindness”. That includes being kind to yourself, so make sure you take some time for self care.