Stress is part of life – it affects all of us at some point. But if we don’t do something about it, stress can lead to further physical and mental health issues and affect every aspect of life. A recent study by the Mental Health Foundation found that in a 12 month period, 74% of people felt so stressed that they had been overwhelmed or unable to cope. So finding ways to deal with stress is really important, particularly in the hectic world we live in.
Dealing with stress creatively
Creativity is increasingly being recognised as a powerful tool to combat stress, something we wholeheartedly believe at Peaced Together. The course is all about working through tough things you have faced in life – and craft is the vital process that allows it to happen. We asked members of the Peaced Together team to tell us about how they relieve stress.
Using your hands and mind together to create something new forces your brain to focus on what you’re doing in that moment. Allowing everyday pressures and worries to be forced from centre stage, even for a few minutes, can put them in perspective and relieve the burden of stress.
This is definitely true for Peaced Together trainer Jo. “Craft makes me focus on something other than the usual ups and downs and stresses of the day. It makes me use a different part of my brain and therefore helps me to relax and reenergize.”
Ginny says, “I find craft really helpful in slowing me down, I used to knit because it made me stop and sit down!“
Finding your craft groove
Of course, it’s important to find a creative outlet that works for you. If trying to thread a needle makes you want to throw the sewing machine out the window, it might not be the stress relief you were looking for! Maybe your thing is making music, writing poetry, gardening, baking, carpentry, even DIY – it could be anything that gives you the opportunity to be fully absorbed in creating something.
Some of our own team find sewing or other traditional ‘craft’ a bit stressful! But they have found stress relief in other creative areas. Teah says, “I love gardening. I find it relaxing and it’s a physical workout too. Being outside in the daylight makes me feel much more positive and happy. I really notice the difference in the winter months.“
Fatime uses writing to help relieve stress. “Writing helps me to express my inner thoughts and worries and look at them in a different light. When I write I feel relaxed, happy and light.“
Some people like to have an end goal in mind and the sense of achievement when their task is completed forms part of the stress relief. For others, the pressure of having something to work towards is unhelpful. Heidi finds that “when I just ‘play’ with the creative process I find this helps relieve stress. I can find it stressful when I feel I have to produce something.”
The benefits of crafting together
Getting creative with other people has huge benefits as well. Watching the Great British Bake Off this year, what strikes me is how quickly the contestants connect. There is something about creating together that enables relationships to develop. Of course it’s a competition, but my favourite parts of the show are when the bakers help, encourage, console and have fun with each other.
At Peaced Together, making things in a group creates a calm, relaxed environment. For some, it creates the space they need to share difficult memories and the things that trouble them in daily life. Our Volunteer coach Julia has enjoyed finding opportunities to craft with other people: “Crafting with others means I try things out that I wouldn’t be confident to do on my own. When things go wrong or not to plan, laughing about it together is helpful!”
This week it’s International Stress Awareness week. If you’re a seasoned crafter, don’t forget to allow yourself time to be creative, even when life is really busy. Put it in the diary and remind yourself it’s important.
And if you’ve never picked up a paintbrush or wielded some knitting needles before, why not try a new craft – it might be the stress relief you’ve been looking for!