Self care is something that is very important to me, and I talk about it a lot on my lifestyle blog, Tidbits of Care. A big part of my self care is crochet. I’m sure many crocheters can relate. There is something soothing and relaxing about crochet–the repetitive motions, the sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed a project. And actually, those who crochet (or knit) have been found to have lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This is because repetitive motion releases serotonin in the brain. So actually, crochet is great self care and truly supports your mental health in reducing anxiety and stress.
I didn’t begin this post with the intention of being vulnerable, but I am a pretty open person and so, I want to share with you something that happened to me a few ago, and how crochet helped me when I was at my lowest.
Story time: Crochet & My Mental Health
Several years ago, I was teaching a challenging kindergarten class. I had students who struggled with getting along and conflict resolution. I had students with special needs. And I had little support. Now, being who I am, I wanted nothing but the best for all of my students. I did my best to put together a structured play based program, created activities and routines for my special needs students and was there every day passionate about teaching these little learners. It was my dream job.
It was also highly stressful, frustrating because I had little support, and I felt I had something to prove. It wasn’t long before I was working with constant brain fog, was exhausted more often than not, and slowly falling apart inside.
When I came home, all I wanted to do was crochet. Because it was the only thing keeping me sane. The environment I worked in was loud, unpredictable and emotionally messy. Both for the kids and me. Help was no where to be found, even when asked for. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what else I could do to help the kids. I didn’t want to be there anymore because in some ways, I felt like a failure and in another way I knew that I could never do all the things I wanted to do for my class without more support. Crochet was the only thing that kept my mind off of work when I was home, the only thing that helped me calm my body and mind after a day of emotional overload.
The day came when I had to take a short leave from my job because I simply could not cope anymore. I had reached the point of a breakdown, and the idea of going to work got my heart racing and my stomach churning. I needed peace and quiet and I needed to not even think about work, never mind go to work.
While I was on leave, I crocheted. A lot. I crocheted a lot. It was all I wanted to do, so I crocheted pretty much all day. I took other steps to help my mental health, but crochet was key in calming me the heck down and allowing me to practice some mindfulness, which I seriously needed at that point in my life. Crochet was a self care habit that really helped me help myself when it came to addressing my mental health.
Benefits of Crochet On the Mind & Body
I wonder why now, it was crochet that called to me when I was most stressed, anxious and feeling out of control. And maybe it was because when I was crocheting, I was in control. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts due the extreme anxiety I was experiencing, and teaching isn’t a profession where you are always in control of a situation. Especially when working with 3-5 year olds, so I wasn’t in control at work either. Crochet provided that control I needed to calm my racing mind. I decided what happening with my crochet–what colour to use, what kind of yarn, what I was making.
But more importantly, crochet provided with me with a way to be mindful, and that allowed my mind to focus, which allowed my body to calm. I felt happier with my hook and yarn in hand. I was relaxed. My own research into this topic has suggested that crochet has benefits for both our mental health, and physical health including,
- helping with mindfulness
- lowering blood pressure
- reducing anxious feelings/thoughts
- improving memory
- creating new neural connections
- acts as a natural anti-depression by releasing serotonin
- improves self esteem
- helps those suffering with chronic pain
- helps with grief processing
I can’t discuss all of these in this post, however I do want to talk a little about some of these benefits in greater detail.
Helping with Anxiety & Stress
I’ve already outlined this, that crocheting helps to reduce stress and anxiety through the release of serotonin, which in turn reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Thus, depression can be eased as well. Since depression often causes sufferers to find daily tasks and activities difficult to achieve, or even exhausting, those who suffer from depression sometimes end up in a cycle of feeling useless or as those they are “less” because they cannot participate in a lifestyle society expects, which in turn causes more stress and depression. Crochet can help those who suffer from depression to achieve a sense of accomplishment since a completed project provides a sense of contribution and increase positive thinking.
Helping with Chronic Pain
I briefly lived with chronic pain in my life, when I had an acute case of plantar fasciitis, which I would not wish on my worst enemy. I was unable to be successfully treated for a year, and it was a horrid time of constant pain that was just debilating in that enduring pain all day every day is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Crocheting can actually help with easing the pain as it distracts the mind from the pain, and the release of serotonin helps with relaxing the body.
Was I surprised to discover that crochet can help with chronic pain? No, because it was my go to during this horrid year and it did help me reduce the stress of dealing with both the pain and the emotional fall out from enduring it all day at work. The benefits of crocheting continue to amaze me!
Reducing Dementia in the Elderly
We have all heard that the elderly can benefit from such activities as crosswords and reading, both of which can keep age related conditions such as forms of dementia, at bay. However, I was surprised to learn that crocheting (and knitting of course) are neuroprotective and can reduce dementia by as much as 50%. I said I was surprised, but finding out this fact also made sense because crochet and knit require attention to detail and brain work. You have to count stitches, repeat stitch patterns and counts, and of course such mental activities are exactly the same as crossword problems etc. Learning new skills can help strengthen and create new neuropathways, and this is seriously important in staving off the onset of dementia.
Those of us in the crafting community know that crochet and knit are hugely beneficial to our lives. These are not just fun or artistic hobbies. Crochet is a powerful way to practice great self care as it has benefits for both the mind and body. Plus, it’s super fun–maybe because it is so good for us! If you suffer from anxiety, depression, chronic pain or are stressed, give crochet a try. Once you learn the basics you will enjoy these amazing benefits in your own life. I have felt these benefits in my own life, so I speak from experience.
What to learn crochet? Check out my how to tutorials!