“How much longer are you going to be?”, “Why are you starting another project when you haven’t finished the other one?”, “When do you think you will be able to clean up your tools?”, and the list goes on of the questions I’m asked when I’m doing my crafting thing. Until more recently, I found it very difficult to just sit without purpose. While watching tv with the hubby after a long day, I wanted to multitask that time by planning a birthday party, making a cardboard mailbox, pinning a sewing project, drawing up a woodworking plan or scrapbooking. Anything to keep my mind engaged in that way. On occasion, I also acknowledge I might switch from one project to another midstream because another idea inserted itself into my mental focus. I didn’t realize this could be related to my mental health maintenance.
The Creative Mind
When an idea enters my mind, it lingers there and nags at me. Some of those eventually dissipate into memory and some hang on for dear life until I make them a reality. Those are the ones that plague and prod me to action even when I don’t have the time. I admittedly considered myself to be pretty poor at practicing self-care. I’m not one of those moms or women who do much shopping for myself and very rarely get my hair done or get a massage. I don’t frequent the nail salon and actually went a solid 2 or 3 years without going into one. For a time, I hadn’t read a book for years, because I didn’t think I had the time for it. I tried to purposefully take care of my physical and mental health, but often focused more on my family’s needs.
The Overactive Mind
When we moved into our new house 5 years ago, my mission to produce went into hyperdrive. A newly built blank slate. A DIYers dream. We didn’t paint for the first year to allow for the builders to fix all the nail pops and such. It was downright painful for me to abide. By the third year, almost everything was as we wanted. Our kids’ schedules were then taking over the calendar between travel soccer, travel softball, dance, play rehearsal, basketball, lacrosse, band, gymnastics, etc, etc. This ended up meaning there were periods where I wasn’t able to create anything. During those times, you would have instead heard me telling my husband, “I just don’t feel like myself”. My mental health was suffering.
I was drawn to work on projects when I had a few seconds between making lunch and doing dishes. I would find myself sneaking away to get another coat of polyurethane on the antique hutch while the kids were playing. It wasn’t just for the purpose of getting it to the finish line but also to focus my mind; to sort through my mental mess. It was my catharsis.
One day, I decided to do a quick Google search. I came across this article which ended up being my lightbulb moment. Having been in the mental and behavioral field for over a decade, I was surprised at how late the realization hit me as to why I was drawn to it. I knew of the many benefits of art therapy but had never applied it to my own mental health.
The Benefits of Sewing and Crafting for Mental Health
“Crafting, sewing or woodworking help you reduce negative emotions and stress by allowing you to create unique pieces of art. For example, woodworking is one of the most effective form of art therapy in the world, because it combines strategies for planning, , getting the supplies, planning your cut list, measuring, cutting, painting.”….and that explains my addiction
So whereas I believed myself to be inadequate at self-care, it seemed I was doing it in the best way I knew how. I realized my me-time was hiding away with my thoughts and a paintbrush in my hand. There’s a sort of peace in concentrating on something you enjoy. There’s also fulfillment in seeing your own ability to create something that maybe only you will love. (Although, I always shoot for others liking it too.)
I also like to share the end products of my me time to inspire. I want to show others really anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I’m frequently asked if I sleep, to which I answer, “Definitely. I can’t go without it.” Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have episodes of insomnia that provide me with a bit of extra time to squeeze in some tasks, but generally, I just make time for the things that matter to me.
How Do You Spend Your Free Time?
We all have choices to make on how we use our time and energy. Some have more abundant energy than others or are selective in what they put the energy towards. Maybe I innately have more energy than some others. Or maybe I choose to put it first towards my family, towards my full-time job and then to the things I see as valuable. I see value in activating my mind in creating.
I had been considering starting a blog for some time and got a bit stuck on the name. After this little revelation, I settled on a name that fits the way creating helps me de-stress and stay sane and reinforces the importance of keeping tabs on the status of your mental health. So go forth and craft to benefit your mental health! Try something simple like refinishing frames.