Written by Michaela MacBlake Matthews
Good, hearty stress relief is the gift that keeps on giving, while stress itself seems to be the monster that keeps on taking… if we let it. Is crafting a good way to relieve stress? How does it work, and where does the problem of stress come from? What happens when we are too stressed out? Today, we’re taking a look at how crafting and stress relief play together!
What Is Stress, And How Is It Different From Anxiety?
Stress is an emotional and physiological response to a threat, and can stem from many areas of life. Common causes of stress include work, difficult relationships, health challenges, finances, and juggling too many obligations and responsibilities at once.
Stress is often the result of taking on too much at once, and worrying that there simply isn’t enough time, energy, or both to manage everything that is important. Stress comes from the fear of consequences if something we feel responsible for isn’t done right, or on time. Stress can also come from a game of chance, when we are trying to move forward to something important, but have to rely either on unknown variables in the process, or people who we don’t know and trust to follow through.
Stress is chemically similar to anxiety, but it’s different in that stress usually has a clear and realistic consequence. While an anxious person may wonder if they simply have enough money in general, a stressed person is more likely to be concerned about a specific bill, or a cost that is directly related to something they know to expect. Understanding the difference between stress and anxiety is an important first step to managing them, as separating the two feelings helps us prioritize our biggest concerns, and combat our white-noise, respectively.
Why Is Managing Stress So Important?
Chronic stress is proven to wreak havoc on our bodies, and pose a serious threat to long-term health. It weakens the immune system, damages the heart, disrupts sleep, and even makes digestion less efficient. Stress is a high-alert state of being, and it uses all of the body’s resources in a full-throttle, make or break mentality. We know that stress needs to be avoided, but the problems that cause it can’t always be… So what do we do?
The key to relieving stress is finding ways to continue working on solutions to real-world problems, but to do it in a way that is less full-throttle. This could mean working smarter, not harder, and choosing to take a simpler approach when possible. In some cases, it may be picking your battles, and lessening the load of obligations even just a little bit- or, in more emotional situations, lowering your expectations, and not taking things so personally. Stress management could also be as simple as managing your time more consciously, and learning how to pace yourself, setting things on the back burner when possible, so you can focus on one issue at a time, today.
The cause of stress is best handled logically, but the feeling of stress is a bit trickier.
Stress and anxiety are very close siblings, and wherever stress goes, anxiety tends to follow. Even when you have done all that you can to solve a problem in the current moment, the feeling of pressure can be stubborn, and that stress can hang around, morphing into anxiety. From this point, we need a different strategy, one that works on the mind.
How Do Arts And Crafts Reduce Stress?
Once the problems of the day are handled as much as they could be, it takes a little bit of coaxing to begin to relax, and release the tension that stress brings. After a long period of high-risk situations, the muscles often stay tense, and replicate the feeling of stress even after the event has been resolved. Using this time wisely and remembering to decompress is crucial to recharging your mind-body batteries, and avoiding burnout in the long term. This is where crafting, and other meditative activities come into play!
The trick to recharging after stress is to help yourself make a gradual transition to a relaxed state. The things that trigger stress are often complex, fast paced, and engaging. When we try to unwind all at once, it can sometimes feel like a shock to the body. Just as going zero-to-sixty is a hard physiological shift, going sixty-to-zero is pretty intense. Using an engaging technique to relax can help to ease the transition, instead of slamming on the breaks all at once.
Creating art and crafting are fantastic ways to unplug and relieve stress because they offer complexity without demanding it. A repeated stitch pattern provides a rhythm that can move more or less quickly, depending on your state of mind at the time. Meanwhile, the overall design of a project can be infinitely complex or beautifully simple, all depending on what your mind and body need to stay occupied, and detach from the stress of the day. Crafting and creativity offer a full-range offramp, and can be customized to suit your needs at any given moment!
Not only is crafting a custom-tailored solution to stress and anxiety, but it is also beautifully inconsequential. There is no wrong way to create with art and crafting. You don’t have to worry about deadlines, results, or finished products- only enjoy the process as it unfolds, and learn as you go, if you like. This freeform state opens us back up to simply allowing ourselves to be, and letting go of controlled outcomes.
“Let’s see how it goes” is the anthem of creativity, and the antithesis of stress.
Working on your goals and fulfilling responsibilities is always important, but at the end of the day, it helps to hold onto something you can let go of. Crafting is a tried and true way to do just that! With each creative respite, we give ourselves the chance to recharge and remember how it feels to be beyond all of the struggles- so that when the next issue arises, it comes as a challenge, and not a final straw.
"Mac" is on the Lifestyle Team here at Darn Good Yarn, and loves taking a ‘teach a man to fish’ approach to creative therapy. She is certified in neuro-linguistic programming, and is also the surreal artist and author behind Surrealismac.