Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Knitting punctuation

My photostream is punctuated with knitting at the moment.
  
Starting a new project. Something I've been wanting to make for ages: a hat out of sock wool. #hat #knitting

There are so many good, big, things going on at the moment: birthdays, visits from small cousins, exams and essays (not just for me), high school open evenings and open mornings, meet-ups with grandparents and plans for my next placement.  And in between all these important things, I knit a row here and there, cast on, rummage through patterns and consider yarn choices.  I can lose myself in knitting more and more as I get better at it; and the ability to switch off, take some time for myself and be creative is so important for my mental health and general outlook on life.

Starting a new project..."cast on 254 stitches". Oh my.

Before I started my nursing degree, I rarely considered my emotional wellbeing - but now I am mindful of the very great stresses of the profession I am going into, as well as the more obvious stresses right now of a full-time degree, two children, four chickens and a husband trying to valiantly pick up all the pieces.  I also come across so many issues to do with people's every day mental health and wellbeing during my training.
  
Helping Mum select wool

I now consciously try to incorporate activities into my life which make me stop, think, slow down and enjoy things.  Running is great, walking as much as I can is very good too.  Photography (just snaps on my phone) is a great tool for observing the smaller, prettier, more interesting things about my day.

And knitting.  The soft squidge of the wool is so therapeutic.  The sense of accomplishment is enormous.  The colours and textures of what comes off the needles is both interesting and pleasing.

Helping Mum select wool

I'm not talking here about resolving serious mental health conditions by knitting and taking photos - mental health issues need trained nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals to treat them properly.  But rather, it is about everyday mental wellbeing.  So much is spoken about a healthy lifestyle in terms of stopping smoking, eating well, keeping your heart healthy, or your joints in good condition - but keeping your mind healthy is not discussed or promoted as much.

The NHS Choices website has a good basic article about 5 steps to mental wellbeing, and The Mental Health Foundation has some popular, free wellbeing podcasts as well as a good article on 10 ways everybody can look after their mental health.  They don't mention the healing power of squidging lots of balls of wool, but they still have some pretty good advice and tips.

What about you?  Is knitting the key to your mental wellbeing?  Do you consider your mental health alongside your physical health?  How do you switch off and look after yourself?

24 comments:

  1. The NHS article is absolutely spot on. I take my mental health VERY seriously and I really like the way they suggest that happiness is not the be all and end all to 'good' mental health.
    You are so right about knitting! I go through phases of things that really give me time-out - as it happens, it's knitting at the moment. My garden/plot also contribute hugely to feeding my soul which is how I like to look at my mental well being. Great post, missus xxx

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  2. Great post Nancy and lovely wool! Volunteering at the vineyard takes me outside of my problems and it is good to be in the fresh air, feeling useful and being with a group of like minded people. x

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  3. Thank you for this post Nancy - and for the very interesting link. I would add "Get enough sleep" to the list - sleep deprivation can have long term consequences for our physical and mental health.

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    1. I completely agree with this. I can get very down and anxious when I don't get enough sleep - for me it makes a huge difference. Great post Nancy.

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  4. Great post Nancy and I agree about knitting. It's a wondeful stress reliever

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  5. Thank for this Nancy. I've emailed the links to my daughters, both of whom are at university where life can be very stressful at times.

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  6. Morning Nancy, This post is wonderful....on so many levels...I don't know how I'd feel if I didn't knit, walk and take photos..they help me so much. I have linked this post to my FB page, I hope you don't mind...if you do please let me know and I'll delete it.

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  7. Interesting post and thanks for the links. It is so very true as you say, a healthy lifestyle is often thought of as healthy eating and exercise we forget the mind body connection and assume that by taking care of our physical needs mental health will follow.
    I like the phrase from the first link to think of " “being well” as something you do, rather than something you are. " A good reminder for us to take time for ourselves, something that as busy women we often put low on our list of priorities.

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  8. So thought provoking Nancy thank you. I agree that knitting (and crochet) is wonderful for one's mental well-being, it's soothing, rewarding, creative and useful. Walking too is great as you get the enjoyment of exercise plus the good feeling of being outside and the added bonus of time to let your mind wander, to think through problems and ideas. I also value and need time to myself which if I didn't get I am sure would adversely affect my mental health.

    I would be nice if doctors gave you credit for having great mental health. I always come away feeling I am failing - eating too much, drinking too much, not enough exercise etc but actually I am doing really well at mental health and always have.

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  9. Poignant reminder Nancy, thanks. It is a year today since a family friend committed suicide, a much loved and respected social worker. He left a big hole in a lot of lives and has made us all much more mindful of our own and others mental well-being and the need to be more open to discussing this often difficult topic.

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  10. I couldn't agree more. Those minutes of 'me' time snatched here and there are priceless. And the making of something is invaluable. It's a tangible sign we're not fluttering aimlessly around as it feels most of the time... See look I made a sock that didn't exist before...

    It feels good.

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  11. My creative interludes act as a sort of barometer on my mental health. If I haven't made anything in a while, it's a sign to me that things may well be out of balance. The happier I am, the more I seem to make - couldn't tell you if that is cause or effect though.

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  12. A really thought provoking post. I find that making 'stuff' helps me to feel better and more even. I've not had as much time to make things (knit or embroider) this year with a new(ish) baby and the general busyness of family life but I have baked and I have taken time out to read (this didn't happen with baby no1 - why is it different with no2??). I also agree with Alice and CJ sleep (and the lack of) makes such a difference to my mental well being!

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  13. A wonderful post. I would also add gardening to the list of creative activities which help to ease the mind and give a sense of satisfaction and achievement.

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  14. For me, it's making quilts, the ones I make by hand. Every stage, from drawing round the templates and cutting out the pieces, to quietly stitching them by hand and then hand quilting them. I imagine it brings me the kind of mental well being that you get from your knitting. Which is beautiful, by the way.

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  15. I'm knitting a sock at the moment, the sheer relaxation of going round and round in circles and that being ok is fabulous, when you do it in real life, not so good............... I agree with Sue too, walking is my mental health time x

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  16. Without a doubt knitting (or craft) is my 'safe mode'. I used to commute into London and knit an hour a day. It saved me from the 'commuters' I had to travel with (I refused to be classed as one - I wasn't going to do it long enough to become as morose and rude as them!). I now have a ten minute commute by car, and alas, no knitting time. I can tell if I've gone a week without crafting (knitting, spinning or sewing). I'm a seriously foul person to be around. I also find that laughter is good for your mental wellbeing. Having had a nervous breakdown at 25, my mental wellbeing comes first every time. It's amazing how many people just ignore theirs though.

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  17. How right you are, Nancy. Mental health is something we only think about when something goes wrong. But if you have a problem that you get over, at least you are then blessed with the awareness that means you never quite forget about nurturing your mental wellbeing. A walk up a hill always helps me - up on top, wind on my face, my smallness in space and time is comforting and settling. Or at my sewing machine - if I ever lose myself, that's where I usually find myself again.

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  18. Hello, I've only just come across your blog and totally agree. I'm going to read all those articles you give links to. I'm trying to think what I do to preserve "me". Doing something helps without a doubt, I've had crippling days, weeks and months in the past when getting out of bed has been a huge effort. Not laziness but a overpowering feeling of helplessness, terror, shame, worry and loss. Loss of me. I've never written about being I'll but I just might now. I now find comfort in lots of simple things, reading, walking, a good vigorous garden session, music and yes, knitting! But mainly a day a work gives me joy, I'm a support worker for adults with learning disabilities and it is such a privilege to go to work and love it with a passion. I trained as a registered nurse in the 80's and left a very different profession to the one I joined after nearly thirty years. Good luck with your degree and I shall follow your blog! Jane, a still busy mum of three!

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  19. Hello - I came here via The Quince Tree and wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post and also how much I agree with you. I didn't give a moment's thought to my mental health until I had children, then post-natal depression and sleep deprivation reared their ugly heads. I guard mine jealously now and give it as much attention as I do my physical health. Running and photography - yes, they work for me too, and I would add sewing, crochet, walking, gardening, cooking and time with friends to the list - basically things which give me time to pause and some mental breathing space.

    Thanks for this post, it really got me thinking. Gillian x

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  20. As a person who is currently getting treatment for my second depression and socialfobia I can only say that my creativity and especially knitting is hugely important for me. Both in the depts of my illness, but also in my recovery and my future general mental health.
    I just love to knit, and without it I am lost.
    I am also noticing more small things that helps me. Stuff like doing crosswords before sleeping, and also keeping a diary to get all my thoughts down, so they stop bothering me.

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  21. Absolutely! I have to be creative, either sewing or crochet or sometimes gardening or photography. It keeps me sane, it's a little "me" time which is so important in our busy lives. I can relate to so many of the comments above.

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  22. What a great post, I've just followed the link from Gina's blog. I agree with the calming effects of knitting, but only if it's a simple pattern. What keeps me sane is our frequent trips in our motor home Connie, I love being out in her and often not knowing where we'll be sleeping that night.
    Good luck with the degree, I did one when my children were older than yours but still needy and my husband was a wonderful support.

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Even though I often do not have the time to reply to everybody, I really appreciate all your comments so much - thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts on what I've written.