“Almost everything comes from nothing.” ~Henri F. Amiel
There are uncountable ways to deal with difficult times in life. Some people turn to prayer or meditation, others open their hearts in therapy or to friends, and many choose to hide from the pain by eating their weight in chocolate or purchasing expensive bags; to each their own. I have a different approach: crafting.
When I’ve gone through difficult times in life—depression, unemployment, relationship problems—I have often turned to craft projects. For a long time, I didn’t think much about it, but eventually I realized how much it has honestly helped me.
When I went through a serious bout of depression, combined with unemployment, I started to participate in craft swaps on an Internet forum.
Part of what helped was certainly the communication and fellowship with my swap partners. Isolation breeds unhappiness, and making things to another person’s tastes requires getting to know them, which is an effective antidote to isolation.
But a lot of what helped was the crafting itself—making things with my own two hands, planning projects, and so on.
When I was at my lowest and most frustrated, when I was writing yet another cover letter for a job I wasn’t quite sure I even wanted, the promise and plans of creation got me out of bed and into my day. It was something to look forward to when I did not have much else going for me.
But honestly, that’s something I could have gotten from almost any hobby or activity. Hell, a television show with eight seasons on Netflix can give me something to look forward to. Crafting gave me something more: healing.
How the heck did crafting heal me?
It gave me something else to think about. Rather than focusing on my own feelings and situation, I focused on picking patterns, selecting supplies from my stash, and then making things.
It was productive. There is something healing about creating something from raw materials—wool into felt, yarn into crochet, fabric into quilted bags.
It brought a confidence boost. When I felt like crap, it was easy to feel like I had no control over anything, but making something proves that, at the very least, I have control over craft supplies. It may not sound like much, but it’s a start.
It’s a sort of movement meditation. The repetitive actions of certain crafts can bring about a sort of clarity and calm, which is certainly helpful under any stressful circumstances.
It got creativity going again. When I was going through a crappy patch, I needed out of the box thinking in order to get through it. That means creativity, and crocheting vampires and embroidering pumpkins can be the first step to loosening the neural pathways.
So how can this help you?
Is there anything you enjoy doing with your hands? Whether it’s painting, sewing, crochet, embroidery, fishing, origami, woodworking, painting miniatures, or any other handicraft, it’s worth re-introducing it into your life.
If you’ve never had a hands-on hobby like that, pick something interesting and try it out. Wander around a craft store until you see something you like, or search for how-to kits on Etsy. Ask that friend who’s obsessed with Robin Hood to take you with next time he goes to the archery range, or see if your local community center offers a shop class.
Learning something new can be even more absorbing than doing something you already know. The only limit I suggest is that you find something with a physical component. While I adore cerebral activities like writing, they have a different set of benefits.
Let yourself be absorbed by it. It’s okay to become obsessed, to spend your lunch breaks and your after-work time pondering and planning for the next time you can pick up your project. In fact, that is part of the point.
If you’re fixated on making a sweater or tying a fishing lure, then you are not obsessing over everything that is wrong with your life.
Chasing those same thoughts around in circles will not help you solve anything, but breaking out of them to do something else can provide a much needed change of perspective. That change of perspective may well show you the way out (and even if it doesn’t, it’s less time that you’ve spent being miserable).
As coping mechanisms go, hobbies are a healthy one. They are inherently creative, never destructive (even fishing creates something: dinner). When you’re in a tough spot, you need to build a new life, not tear yourself down.
About Joanna Weston
Joanna Z. Weston uses crafts and story to guide women out of the shadowy realms of uncertainty, unhappiness, and anxiety, and into the light of confidence, inner peace, and forward momentum. You can find her at 3speedlife.com.