As the first days of this New Year unfold, they are ripe with possibility. We envision our best selves stepping boldly into 2018! We make new goals, which speak to who & how we want to be as we embrace another trip around the sun. While all our resolutions will be as individual as we are, there are a few we can certainly agree on: more crafting, less stress! For generations crafters have known, although we’ve only recently had the science to back it up, that crafting brings about a sense of calm that’s incomparable. If you want more calm in the New Year, join us as we craft for less stress.
In recent years, psychologists have warned about the danger of making New Year’s Resolutions. Because they’re often based in external achievements, they can spring from what we think we should do, instead of what would really make us feel alive. And coming on the heels of frantic holidays, as we are racing back into busy schedules, we run the risk of compounding last year’s stress with this year’s stress. Goal-setting is challenging even for those who practice it often, and requires attention to the right details (here’s a resources for setting better goals!). Since many of us set only one major goal a year, and with the added pressure of sharing on social media, it’s no wonder there are so many pop culture jokes about quitting two weeks in!
While the New Year’s stress feels very real this week, we are juggling stressors all year long. The commitments of work, family, and an ever-growing pile of WiPs, not to mention any more-pressing responsibilities, is enough to leave anyone a ball of nerves by the end of the first week of January. Life throws us curveballs, too; illness, sudden shifts in our family dynamics, job changes, these stressors can be temporary or more long-term, and have major effects on our minds, bodies, and spirits. Stress ages our brains prematurely, and can lead to issues with memory. Long-time, unaddressed stress can even lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Reducing stress can be a major preventative step in staving off many health issues.
And the great news is, you can improve your relationship to stress today by picking up your current project!
There are groups who’ve spent years analyzing the experiences of real knitters, and the results of scientific experiments, to enrich our understanding of how yarncrafting positively impacts our wellbeing. One of these groups is the Craft Yarn Council, featured in the video below:
The crafters mention many of the stress-reducing qualities of crafting, and Stitchlinks mentions a few more.
There’s only the next stitch. The mindfulness of knitting, tuning the mind into the present moment, provides the opportunity to escape wallowing in the past or worrying about the future. Our thoughts are often busy cataloguing and replaying the day, and preparing anxieties for what lies ahead. In either case, we’re in a reactionary state – reacting to some stimulus, real or imagined. Spending time in the present moment is about getting into ‘the zone’, or flow. Mindfulness practices of any kind (popular ones being meditation and yoga), enable us to spend time doing a semi-familiar activity in flow, which gives our brain a chance to practice small challenges from this relaxed point of view.
One of the most immediate results of getting into the flow of a project is that you’re more likely to be breathing! Deep, belly breathing has enormous positive effects on our ability to manage stress. Stress responses often come with shortness of breath (in the worst case scenarios, panic attacks). Breathing that happens higher in the chest increases your heart rate, and sends less oxygen to your blood. It can also activate secondary breathing muscles, which are in your neck & shoulders – places people carry chronic tension! More relaxed breathing, like the type that happens when we get into the zone, sits lower in our bodies. It occurs naturally in rhythm with our diaphragm and eases the mind. This is what is meant by ‘breathe easy’!
When you narrow your focus to include just your current project, you’re focusing in on something you can control. Sure, there are ups and downs with any new yarn, pattern, or technique, but ultimately, we know we can always work back and solve the problem – it’s not the end of the world. In times when it feels like it might be the end of the world, this small sense of control becomes crucial. You’re getting your hands moving, which sends the message to your brain that you refuse to sit idle. Progress (of any kind) in the face of what seems impossible gives you a major confidence boost! The results are visual, which is a very effective way to send a message to our brains, and can be built upon – it’s easy to take this confidence off the hook or needles and into our lives.
For a little project to craft for your stressful moments, check out this Lemon Stress Ball by Twinkie Chan on Ravelry!
We know we can’t change overnight, but the possibility of a New Year is intoxicating. We get swept up in big dreams, and forget to celebrate the small actions it takes to get there. What small actions will you take to reduce stress in 2018?
Bring a project to your workplace, and carve out a few minutes on a break or at lunch. *Bonus points for making time to craft before a stressful meeting or presentation!
Take your crafting where you stress out most – the waiting room at the doctor’s office, on the plane, on a visit to relatives.
Make sure you’re crafting in your most comfortable position, so you don’t add any tension to your stress-reducing activity! Here are some tips from Stichlinks.
Choose a pattern just outside your comfort zone – this type of challenge really engages our brains to get into flow, which amplifies the positive results of crafting.
Notice your breathing while crafting. *Bonus points for noticing your breathing away from crafting!
We would love to hear about your experiences with crafting for less stress, and any tips you’d like to share.
Are you thinking of trying any of these stress-reducing techniques in the new year?
Whatever you’re looking forward to in the New Year, we look forward to spending some quality time crafting with you.