Today I wanted to make quite a personal post and I’m afraid it’s a long one. I’ve been toying with the idea of even writing this blog but I’ve said all along that this blog will include what goes on behind the scenes at Butterfly Crafts . Mental health can affect anyone and at any time in their lives and its frustrating that there is still such a stigma in society about it, people are scared of it, scared of people with it, don’t want to talk about it or, and perhaps even worse, don’t know how to talk to people with it. So this is me, doing a little bit to break the stigma.
Today is World Mental Health Day 2015, and I live with mental health issues. That sounds quite dramatic writing it like that, but it’s true – anxiety and depression are facets of mental health and I live with them on an almost daily basis. Anxiety more than depression. Thankfully I’ve not always had these companions in life, I know how they started, I know the person whom they are of a result of having in my life (but not anymore!) and I am dealing with them in the best way I know how. I have good days and I have bad days, the bad days are known as “Unknown sad ons” in our house and they sometimes involve wearing a post-it note on my forehead so the husband knows its a bad day – but to be fair, he can tell anyway, he’s pretty darn amazing like that.
The focus of World Mental Health Day 2015 is to focus on the facts, so that people with mental health problems in their life can live that life with dignity. There are some big stats out there, such as work place stress being a huge factor in mental health absence in the working environment, causing 70 million working days to be lost each year. (Stats from here, above image source here.) This is a statistic I can sadly relate to, I have experienced work place stress so much that it was in part what led to a career break in 2014.
It can be very hard knowing how to talk to, support and be there for someone as they go through mental health problems. Personally I know people can find it hard to relate to me when I am having really bad anxiety days, days when I doubt everything from my products not being up to scratch to feeling overweight; a lack of self confidence, not wanting to really leave the house, worried that I haven’t cooked a tasty dinner or that my house is a mess. Often there is no logic to high anxiety – hello brain?? I’m living through a house renovation!.
The charity Mind has some excellent resources about how to be supportive of someone with mental health challenges. One of the ways they suggest you can help someone going through a particularly anxious time is with distraction. And this brings me to my next point of this blog post – craft.
There is much research ‘out there’ suggesting that craft can be great to help mental health, knitting in particular, but other creative pastimes too. In a study by Betsan Corkhill of over 3545 knitters, over 81% said knitting left them feeling happy, and many said they knit for the sole purpose of relaxation and stress relief. Those people in the study who knitted more than three times a week felt less stress and were both happier and calmer in their life, leading Corkhill to conclude “Knitting has significant psychological and social benefits, which can contribute to well-being and quality of life.”
What’s so great about knitting? Well for me, I like being totally absorbed in what I am making, probably because I have to concentrate on my stitches but also, when I have me needles out I find my mind is focused on what I am doing and it can calm my anxiety because other thoughts seem to disappear, even if for just a short period of time. At a TEDTalk in 2004, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said
“When we are involved in [creativity], we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life…You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”
but it doesn’t just have to be knitting. Being creative, whether it be baking, painting, sewing, singing, writing, cutting and sticking or scrapbooking, can be so good for you because:
- mental stimulation,
- focuses your attention,
- develops hand-eye coordination,
- teaches patience (even when you drop stitches!)
- can create a sense of pride and achievement,
- social time – particularly if you craft with friends or in a group
Being Creative With Friends Can Help
And so, if you are a sufferer of mental health, why not try out a craft, you might just be surprised at how much you enjoy it. And if you know someone who is struggling invite them to be creative with you, it will not only have the benefit of time spent together (especially good if cake is involved) but you will be helping them in more ways than one.
Has craft ever helped you? Or do you suffer from anxiety and have ways of coping? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.