I have found creating, and sewing in particular, to be the best way for me to calm down and de-stress. I have even been known to take some hand sewing into a stressful meeting, and will whip out needle and thread from my bag in railway station waiting rooms to help me cope with delayed travel!
Hand piecing patchwork is well documented as a means to bring empowerment when life is not how you would choose. I have been reading about the benefits of patchwork produced by slaves at the time of the American Civil War and modern day prisoners in the UK, blogged about earlier this year.
These narratives give an insight into the empowerment of quilting with others, sometimes in sewing bees. During my workshops, there has been sharing and friendship develope over crafting, and the importance of relationships is the focus of this year’s mental health awareness week.
Feedback on workshops includes the declaration they have been better than therapy! Fun, relaxation and a chance to have me-time are shared. Find out about my upcoming workshops
At home I have this poster up, useful to point out if anyone questions sewing purchases!
This week also sees the return of The Great British Sewing Bee to Uk screens. Competition is not usually associated with de-stressing, but the encouragement to the nation to express your personality and creativity through stitch certainly is. There are also the obvious benefits: no dropped hems or missing buttons, and a personalised, unique inexpensive wardrobe because of refashioning what’s in your wardrobe. Being able to sy “why thankyou, I made it myself” is an amazing feeling!
Neil Slate the army officer who came runner-up in last year’s BBC series the Great British Sewing Bee hoped to inspire other men to take up sewing. He also says it can help improve mental health as creating something can give people a boost and a sense of fulfillment.
See Sewing could help soldiers’ mental health issues
I believe the theraputic effect of stitch goes even deeper than this. Sewing requires us to focus both physically and mentally on a task and the hand-eye coordination is good for our brains. Repetetive tasks can also enable you to consider problems but with the soothing effect of the task. Research seems to back my experience up. (you can skip the next three paragraphs if you don’t want to get into the research)
Betsan Corkhill, a former NHS physiotherapist, realised that even maximum doses of medication were relatively ineffective if the core issues of loneliness, low self-esteem, anxiety and “an unoccupied mind left to ruminate on problems” were not provided for. She left the NHS in 2002 and went to work on craft magazines and start Stitchlinks. To her surprise she discovered “huge amounts” of emails and letters extolling the health benefits of cross-stitching and knitting, saying they had help alleviate even suicidal depression and had allowed people to reduce some pain medication.
The findings of the study, published in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, show that taking up a new mental challenge may help maintain cognitive vitality. Study senior author Doctor Denise Park said “Although there is much more to be learned, we are cautiously optimistic that age-related cognitive declines can be slowed or even partially restored if individuals are exposed to sustained, mentally challenging experiences.”
A clinical study commissioned by the Home Sewing Association (HSA) and carried out by Robert H. Reiner, at the Department of Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center, reveals that women who sew, both skilled as well as novice sewers, experience a significant drop in heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration rate when compared to women who participate in other leisure-time activities. Studies have shown that engaging in an activity like sewing reduces your overall heart and blood rates and promotes relaxation. In this sewing study, women underwent biofeedback monitoring through the placement of special fingertip electrodes, which were connected to a computer. Blood pressure was taken with a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope.The study results Indicate that sewing is the most relaxing activity out of playing a card game, painting at an easel, reading a newspaper and playing a hand-held video game.
So (or should I say sew) whether it is solitary or communal, I would encourage you to. It is the process that I think is the most inportant, although the a finished product is nice too – please send me links to yours.
I would also love to hear from you about how you find sewing theraputic