The more people meet in the fibre industry, the more people I find with a common connection – anxiety and mental health issues. There is a terrible taboo out there about mental health issues in general but its more common than a lot of people realise.
In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with advertising, who we should be, how we should look, what we should buy, what we should be watching on tv… the list goes on. There is a lot of pressure to conform to the ‘norm’ which causes stress – and this stress sometimes leads to anxiety and mental health issues that can have a huge impact on your life.
I say this from experience. I have suffered from anxiety for several years now. I have always been open about this, in the view that talking about it helps people to understand and break the taboo – although a lot of people still judge you for it (trust me on that!).
My anxiety started when I was very ill in late 2008 and I had terrible days of pure panic. I couldn’t breathe, I was on the floor gasping for air at times. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack from palpitations in my chest. But after seeing my doctor it was all down to stress and anxiety.
Thats when I got back into knitting.
I’ve always been a knitter really. My mum taught to make a garter scarf when I was about 4 and I remember going through primary school being crafty. In secondary school I loved art but sadly had to ditch that subject when I started GCSEs because it was in the same choice block as child care & development (and the time I wanted to train as a nursery nurse so I could either work in day care or be a nanny). So when I left school I drifted from this craft for many years, although I did make the odd baby gift for friends.
But when I developed this anxiety I knew that I needed to do something to distract my mind. Knitting just seem to click (forgive the pun! lol). It helped me focus, it helped me feel calm and it helped me feel in control again – and believe me that is the biggest challenge when you are having a panic attack! You feel really out of control of your body and you feel like the room is spinning around you. It is a terrible thing to experience and some panic attacks were worse than others.
So how does knitting help?
Knitting is a form of mediative mindfulness and research has shown that mindfulness is a very effective method for treating depression and chronic illnesses. The repetitive nature of knitting creates harmony and its rhythmic movement distracts your chatterbox (brain). Similar to yoga, knitting allows you to switch off to daily stresses, focus on the stitches/pattern, and calm your mind to allow your body to relax.
Knitting has many other benefits as well including increasing your self esteem through learning and creating, improving your mood, and reducing loneliness through involvement in knitting groups and social activities.
So is yarn therapy?
I would say yes 100% but I’m bias I guess as I’m a knitter and us knitters love yarn, don’t we. But as knitting is proven (through research) thats its good for your health & wellbeing, then that must mean yarn definitely is therapy.
Question is it cheaper than therapy. I’m on the fence with that…if you had 10 sessions of therapy costing 400-500 pounds would you spend that much on yarn? I’m saying nothing…my lips are sealed!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you ever experienced anxiety or stress and felt the benefits from knitting (or crafting in general)? Please leave a comment. Lets all getting talking abut this more to take away the taboo of mental health issues.
In my next few posts I’m going to talk about some of the other therapies that have helped me deal with my anxiety, sharing some techniques that you can try out yourself.