Saturday, April 13, 2024

Idle hands: staying creative to stave off stress

by Elena Johnson
| May 13, 2020 12:16 PM

When my mind is racing, and my thoughts are heavy, I pick up my yarn.

The repetitive looping of soft wool around your fingers, picking at stitches and tossing them onto the next needle, or looping through chains is steadying.

A calmness of order and structure. Of simple math and just enough focus to occupy thoughts and just enough repetition to soothe the mind.

Something controllable when life is hard to accept.

Idle hands probably aren’t the devil’s playthings.

But they are a problem when you’re feeling anxious, upset, or powerless.

So needless to say, my hands have been well-occupied.

I’ve made a pair of pot-holders, as I slowly craft my way into obscuring the idea that we were ever two adults lacking such fundamental kitchen items.

(Hey, mason jars are acceptable dishware now AND they make for cheap Tupperware.)

I even crocheted a tiny stuffed octopus. Because what else do you make when feeling listless and have yarn to eat up?

I’ve even started, restarted and restarted a blanket.

As much as knitting brings peace of mind and helps you accept the things you cannot change, it only serves to empower you to obliterate and begin again anything that IS in your control.

Naturally, I will have to start over at least seven more times, but I’m sure by Christmas of 2023 I will have a beautiful blanket to gift my best friend.

It doesn’t seem like I’m the only one getting creative, either. Friends and family – as I’m sure y’all have noticed as well – are sharing their newest projects.

I even know a Latin professor who recreated a 2,000-year-old bread recipe based on a loaf of stale bread found in the buried city of Pompeii.

Let’s hope his is fresher.

It’s a good thing, too. Research indicates the importance of staying creative and using your hands.

For repetitive crafts like crocheting and knitting, there’s evidence that the mentally-stimulating, but physically monotone tasks can lower stress and anxiety. Some studies suggest a possible correlation with improved cognitive function in older age.

And on the anecdotal side, practically anyone who knits or crochets — or bakes, or sews, or does anything creative — will probably tell you how useful it is to keep their hands busy and their minds focused on something positive and controllable.

April was, rather more fittingly than usual, national stress awareness month.

I hope you can all find something soothing and creative to do with your hands, bodies or minds.