Mental Health Awareness Week – Part 2: Seven Ways Sewing can help your Mental Well Being (and 4 ways it doesn’t!)

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Horses – My previous obsession

As promised, I thought I would write a second blog for Mental Health Awareness Week on how sewing helps keep me sane. I think sewing really took over just as one of my other obsessions came to an end – horses! I had a gap in my “me-time” that needed filling and sewing seemed to fit in just nicely. Skip to the bottom for my 7 ways sewing helps my mental well being and 4 ways it doesn’t!

Despite riding as a child, I started riding again properly about 5 years ago. I took weekly lessons and had to overcome some pretty debilitating fears to do so. I had had a couple of falls, got trampled on, witnessed worse falls and fear set in. Not to mention the social fear and anxiety of entering a world known for its elitism, I’m not much of a socialiser at all and forcing myself to go each week and be with people was as intimidating as the fear of getting hurt.

After a couple of years of lessons and a lot of self improvement reading, I started loaning a horse and was happy I had pushed through my fears. I took some time off when pregnant, then went back to my loan horse every Saturday morning – this was difficult. Leaving my baby behind was mentally difficult and also, it mattered a lot more if something did happen; I couldn’t have coped with a baby if I picked up a riding injury. Then without warning, I developed chronic back and hip pain. It was possibly pregnancy related, but it was so bad I was forced to give up riding all together 2 years ago.

So I stopped riding, but with it I also stopped having time for just me. I stopped having time to think about something other than my family, stopped achieving something I couldn’t do before, stopped pushing my boundaries and started to lose my way.

In my post about my sewing journey so far I talked about how my sewing has grown. I think sewing filled a lot of the areas that were left empty after I gave up riding. I can look back and see how the challenges of it fuelled that part of my personality. However, where before I would have given a horse a great big bear hug to ease away my worries, I lean on sewing now. It’s not as cuddly, but it works in a different way.

Seven ways sewing can help your mental well being…

1. Total Absorbtion

It might be called mindfulness by some. But you cannot worry about catchment areas and how you’re going to last til the end of the month when you are concentrating. That’s why I love making shirts – they take a lot of concentration.

2. Off the bandwagon

You don’t need to keep up with anyone, buy the latest clothes other people are wearing or any of that social pressure guff. Soon you focus on what you like, what makes you look good – you stop worrying about clothes sizes and dressing rooms – none of it matters and poof, worries extinguished.

3. Slow and steady wins the race

I’m still a hare. I want to start a project and finish it on the same day. But I am slowly learning that taking my time is a good thing. In life, I don’t have to have everything right , right here, right now to be happy.

4. Improvement

Every project brings a new skill or new level of competence. With each little lesson learned, I feel joy when I use that skill again without needing you tube.

5. Little rewards and pats on the back

At the end of each project – I get a new outfit! That’s a nice little prize. Then each time I wear something I’ve made I feel like I can walk a little taller, like my clothes give me luck. And if someone gives you a compliment on how you look, it’s not just a well done for picking nice clothes.

6. I can so I might.

The more you learn, the more possibilities there are. You start to think “yeah, I could make that” and “I fancy a new top, what’s in the stash?” But you don’t have to. Feeling that you could is a nice boost.

7. Seagulls in glasses, moustaches, cats in hats and monkeys

One of my most favourite things – fabric! I can make a top with sheep wearing sunglasses and a skirt with seagulls wearing sunglasses and erm anything wearing sunglasses. I love “childrens” fabric and I have no shame in making myself clothes from it. Pure joy.

Four ways sewing can make you feel like shite…

In the interest of balance, I have to offer the other side to sewing and mental well being.

Mistakes

Big mistakes where you’ve cut up some gorgeous fabric and messed it all up. Or you’ve completed a project you were so excited about and it turns out to look bloody awful. This can dwell with me for days and make me feel like giving up.

Kids music

Sometimes I sew when Hazel is drawing or making play dough opposite me. She insists on listening to her music (alphabet and number songs by They Might be Giants) or watching you tube videos of The Wheels on the Bus in 1000 different variations. That hurts my mind.

Spending

Yeah. I love fabric.

Onto a new bandwagon

If you’re not careful, you can get straight back onto a new bandwagon of some pattern that everyone is making so you have to. A new fabric type that everyone is using so you have to. A new Instagram challenge that everyone is following … It’s always good to take a step back and say to yourself “No. You know a dungaree dress would look stupid on you, even in scuba”.

 

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