It’s National Stress Awareness Day! Is it just irony that it’s a day after tax day? Probably not. Stress is something none of us can escape but we can reduce it! When I was 18, I started suffering from generalized anxiety and panic attacks. Of course, the first thing the doctors wanted to do was prescribe a medication. Being young and somewhat naive, I took them up on it. I remember the first few days, all I wanted to do was sleep. It made me incredibly tired. I was on those meds for close to 7 months before I got pregnant with my son and stopped taking it. I don’t recall it really helping much anyway.
I’m a very cautious person (hence why stress is a big issue for me) and I knew I wanted to eradicate the anxiety without meds. Something in me knew there were better, natural alternatives – for me. I know medication helps many others and I don’t think any less of them for taking them. I just knew I didn’t want to myself. They can have side effects I wasn’t interested in adding to my residing mental health issue. So I did a little research and found out that psychotherapy was what I wanted. I wanted to learn how to deal with the anxiety and panic attacks through natural methods like breathing and relaxation techniques, exercise (though I really didn’t catch the exercise bug for a good 12 years after), diet (this is also still being worked and improved upon) and massage. When I first started seeing the therapist, we worked through a workbook called The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. I can’t recommend this workbook enough if you or someone you know is dealing with these issues. And, believe me, many people are!
It took about a year for me to get well enough to continue therapy on my own. (Which I have to say, when I first met with my therapist, I was told me she didn’t think I’d be able to overcome the anxiety without meds. But I did it!) I haven’t done my best at maintaining a stress reduction regimen and there are times it catches up with me. Since my first round of therapy, I’ve gone back to other therapists on different occasions when the stress and anxiety started to feel out of control. In fact, in the past four years or so, stress has crept up on me in ways more physical rather than mental. I’ve dealt with having a difficult time breathing, like something was sitting on my chest and throat – which of course, after visiting the doctor, I realized was just stress. I’ve had stomach issues that I ended up getting an upper GI scope for and, low and behold, stress again. They labeled it, “IBS” or Irritable Bowel Syndrome but I believe it’s just another form of stress coming out. I also have had heart issues. There are times when I exert myself (running, etc.), my heart will skip beats. I wore a halter monitor for a month and of course, it didn’t happen as much at that time. (Plus I went on vacation for two weeks during that time and didn’t wear it as much as I should have and wasn’t working out regularly…oops.) After a year, it continued happening and I started seeing a new doctor who wanted me to get a stress test, where I ran on a treadmill for 15 minutes or so (monitored the entire time) and then they did a sonogram of my heart valves. Of course, it didn’t happen as much during that test either and I was told my heart if fine. Whew… soooo…what I once used to worry and stress over (the heart palps while exercising) has decreased because I decided not to worry about it. I decided if I’m going to die on the side of the road while out running, then I die. I can’t control everything and I’ve needed to learn to let go and let God.
As you can see, I’ve had my fair share of dealing with stress and anxiety. I’ve learned many techniques that truly help including breathing, meditation, EFT (tapping), and taking care of my body with exercise and keeping a decent diet. I also tend to stay busy so my mind doesn’t have time to think up scary thoughts. One way I stay busy and find extremely helpful is making stuff. Obviously, I love to make things. But it’s not just the satisfaction of looking at the project when I’m done and saying, “I made that.” It’s also the process I totally enjoy. Well, usually. Sometimes there are projects that aren’t totally stress-free but even working through technical problems can help keep your mind from wondering to other things that may be stressing you out such as money, family issues, friends, etc.
For instance, last night, I wanted to cut some 2×2 blocks for a project I’m doing (which I’ll share with you soon). We had to figure out how to cut those blocks from a scrap wood post we had lying around. It took some thinking but we figured it out and continued on the project cutting the blocks. The entire time, I thought of nothing else. Not the laundry that needs folded or what my son in college might be doing. No worries or stress for at least 30 minutes. Yes, please!
Crafting keeps your mind busy working on a particular task and that’s all you will (should) be thinking about for the time you’re creating, giving your mind a break it so deserves.
For information on how crafting can help reduce stress, see these articles:
If you’re looking for a simple craft that won’t cause a lot of tension and just might relieve some stress, try my Cork Wine Glass Charms.
Rather be baking? Give my Zucchini Bread with Chocolate a shot! Chocolate can always make things better. 🙂
How do you deal with stress and/or anxiety? Do you find crafting, cooking or baking helpful? Share with me below! I’d love to know what ya’ll do when the stress bug creeps up on you.