Yikes! Not the best picture of me, but I like it because it shows me doing one of my favorite things–playing with yarn. It doesn’t look like it, but I was actually having a good time organizing my stash, which I find to be very soothing.
One of the main reasons I love crochet (or any creative activity) is the relief it provides from sometimes overwhelming anxiety. For me, the repetitive, tactile nature of the craft can be a type of grounding exercise or something that keeps one in the present moment, rather than becoming swept up in a whirlwhind of distressing thoughts. Also, the feeling of accomplishment at a project’s completion is such a mood booster.
As a licensed mental health therapist, I support clients in finding ways to cope with and lessen their anxiety. I thought I would share some of my personal, favorite ways to manage/relieve anxiety.
- Find a creative pursuit you really enjoy. The act of creativity can lift one’s mood. It doesn’t matter what the finished product looks like. The process is what helps one feel relief. Go back to something you enjoyed in childhood or take a risk and join a class. If you’re not feeling adventurous, there are plenty of free tutorials and projects to watch on YouTube.
- Use a “worry stone.” This can be any type of smooth object you can easily hold in your hand. Focusing on the sensations of the stone within your palm will keep you grounded. It’s a bonus if you “imbue” the stone with a pleasant memory that you recall when you hold the stone.
- Keep a small pillow, soft shawl or throw close by. If you are a Peanuts fan, you will remember Linus with his security blanket. It might seem childish, but holding or wrapping up in something soft can really help. If you are in a place where you can hold a stuffed animal, that’s good too!
- Use a weighted blanket . These can be spendy, so if you would like a an inexpensive alternative, try filling half a pillowcase or large dish towel with some cheap, white rice and knot the end of the case or dish towel. Place the pillowcase on your lap which promotes feelings of groundedness or being present in this moment.
- Exercise. I know this isn’t always the easiest thing to want to do when you’re feeling anxious. But even light stretching or walking will bring some relief. It’s not necessary to do something strenuous. The act of getting in tune with your body and out of your head will generally help one feel better.
- Pay attention to what you’re eating. It’s not just our brain that produces chemicals that affect our mood. So does our gut. If we’re eating things that support production of good bacteria in the gut, this supports improved mood. Refined foods and sugars do not contribute to good bacteria but can increase the inflammation and feelings of distress. Personally, when I consume too much of the things things I know are irritating to my stomach, like too much caffeine, I will feel an increase in anxiety.
- Watch something funny. It’s hard to feel anxious while you’re laughing. Reminding ourselves there’s another side to life gets us out of that awful, shuttered cone of distress.
- Finally, try to be gentle with yourself. These are anxious times and unfortunately, there can be a lot to worry about. If you need a mental health day, take it. But most of all, create consistent time to care for yourself in some healthy way. One of my favorite resources for self compassion is InsightTimer.com. There are thousands of free meditations, visualizations, talks and calming music. There is a dedicated section filled with resources for anxiety. You can also type “self compassion” in the search bar.
I hope you find this list useful. Let me know in the comments and please share any tips you have.