Guest blogger series | Crafting for health

by Admin on 27/09/2011

in Beauty+Health, Features, Guest blog series2 2011

Jodi Anderson grew up in the woods of Wisconsin and her past is very present in everything that she does today. Her greatest love is beauty in the mundane, which isn’t difficult to find, and she keeps track of that in her online journal, Daybook. She refuses to let her struggles with pain and illness define her.

Crafting for health

Crafting really can be a unique and useful tool in achieving a healthy life, despite circumstances beyond our control, while participating in something that is creatively productive.

These are things that, whether you are healthy or not, you may have experienced:

Waiting for the doctor to call with test results, the loss of a loved one, gnawing physical pain, trying to put your life back together after ending a relationship, biding your time while undergoing cancer treatment, feeling ready to explode from the pressures of everyday life, being laid up short- or long-term, or struggling to stay afloat despite depression.

We are united in our ability to feel emotional pain and in our inability to completely avoid disease. Our lives, even when in good health, are certain to contain trying moments, periods of anxiety-inducing waiting and emotional distress, not to mention an ill-timed and unexpected cold or flu. With more serious health issues, mundane tasks can become increasingly difficult and life is likely to include long periods of time when everything seems to be in limbo, maybe waiting for an appointment with the doctor, anticipating an unknown diagnosis, or watching for the earliest signs of healing and recovery. So much of it can not really be avoided, yet we can determine how we handle these times, whether we succumb to them or use them to propel us forward in some other measure.

Meditation and journaling are often recommended in addition to more traditional physical and mental healthcare methods. I find that both can be helpful in a variety of ways. Meditation may lighten our mental load, center our thinking, and provide a sense of peace that can pervade all areas of our life. Writing can bring us focus, a chance to vent our thoughts, a way to feel less burdened, and a map to navigate our way through confounding circumstances.

Living a handmade life through crafting and art can provide many of the same benefits as well as a very personal physical product of our experience. Earlier this year, I found myself particularly housebound. Despite loving the cold and dark hues of winter, I began to crochet a brightly-colored rainbow blanket for my daughter. It seemed like an impossibly long project: hundreds of tiny stitches in every row, nearly two hundred rows to do, thousands of yards of double knit yarn, and a small hook. Making that blanket, in hindsight, feels like one long and slow deep breath. At the time, it kept my mind off of my body. It allowed me to meditate, stitch by stitch. I felt a sense of control and peace. Sometimes I did think about my unknown future while working, but it was more constructive than when I simply fretted with my hands rolled into fists. Of course, the sweet icing on the cake is seeing my young adult daughter tote the blanket, a sort of map-journal of my healing, around the house, wearing it like a robe at times, and sleeping under it nearly every night.

Much handwork is repetition in both a small and a large way, with a great number of seemingly trivial motions producing a grand item, such as with embroidery, knitting, and crochet. A large knit piece may contain hours of meditative stitching, the chance to mindlessly work or, also, an opportunity to focus on something besides the self, like proper technique, tension, and the progress of the piece. This repetitious movement and chance to free the mind is so much like meditation, and some find it easier as negative thoughts can be replaced by intentionally thinking of the work at hand, refocusing the brain.

Craft comes in all forms and negate none of it. Take hold of what brings you joy and peace.

The act of dressing a plate with food can start out as creative experimentation, but develop into a satisfying ritual. Maybe you will again find your passion for fashion by piecing together your wardrobe into new outfits or sewing up a fresh addition. Scrapbooking may seem like merely a way to save photos, yet it can be the story of your journey, which is important to recognize and, perhaps, share. You may wish to keep it private, but that does not lessen its significance. Stick a small sketchbook in your bag, whether you feel that you can draw or not. Use it to see what is around you or use it to get out what is inside of you. Let it help you to pass the time while waiting at the doctor’s office. Other small projects, like knitting, are great for this too.

While you can not control all of what happens in your life and with your body, you can grab hold of yourself and live dynamically despite apparent obstacles. The busywork of creating can help to get you through the small crises, and the satisfaction of a finished piece can lift you during the duration of illness, perhaps even physically comfort you.

Crafting is unlikely to cure a serious illness, yet it may provide a sense of relief or contentment as well as a feeling of accomplishment when even the activities of daily living are difficult to obtain. Cross-stitching may not mend your broken heart, but it could be a healthy way to vent your feelings. (Yarn bombing, anyone?!)

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