Roughly, 1 in every 4 people in the UK experiences some form of mental health concern each year. Given the prevalence of these issues, it helps to find ways that can help us to equip us to deal with common mental health concerns like anxiety or stress, which many of us will have experienced in recent weeks and months as the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on our everyday way of life.
Hand-stitching crafts (such as cross stitch and embroidery) are more than fun hobbies; they also have some very real mental health benefits.
Many of my generation associate sewing with our grandmothers who, more often than not, would have sewn out of necessity, and used skills that had been passed down through the generations. Sewing is not the life skill it once was. However, since I started dressmaking and hand sewing crafts, I have found that there is a new wave of stitchers – and they aren’t sewing because they have to! They are sewing because it feels good!
Crafty mindfulness is on the rise in a world that is increasingly pressurised, yet passive; where, according to media regulator Ofcom, British adults spend an average of nine hours a day online. As a society, we are suffering from the effect of increased screen time and the lack of real fulfilment that often comes with that. Most needlecrafts are fairly accessible; with the basic skills you can achieve very rewarding results. Not only do you create something beautiful to look at, you improve your mental health and emotional wellbeing, increase serotonin production and inducing a natural state of mindfuness, which is something we can all benefit from.
One of the manifestations of mental health issues is the feeling that you’ve lost control. Stitching can help you regain control by giving you something to have full authority over. You choose what pattern to bring to life. You choose which parts of the pattern to start with. You choose the types of stitches or your project. Regardless of what you choose to do, the simple fact that you have complete power helps to keep any feelings that you’ve lost control at bay.
Feelings of anger, sadness, frustration and fear — which all damage our mental health — typically stem from stress. Like many other crafts, stitching can help to reduce stress as it allows you to work at your own pace. Studies have demonstrated that people who sew or do cross-stitch experience lower blood pressure and a decrease in their heart rate. Sewing is an effective tool in helping you relax after a trying day. After a day of working at the computer screen, I’ve found both cross-stitch and hand embroidery to be relaxing in recent days.
Maintain Cognitive Vitality
If you find yourself struggling to remember things, that may be a side effect of a mental health issue, such as anxiety or depression. Sewing – like knitting, crochet and other crafts – can help you maintain your cognitive vitality by keeping you present and engaged. Following a pattern means having to remember how many stitches are required and what direction they need to go. These little exercises keep your mind healthy and active. Regardless of what’s on your mind, once you start a stitching project and it begins to come alive, your troubles will lose priority in your mind. Crafts like sewing are perfect gateway to mental health maintenance and self-care.