Help with stress and anxiety for creative people (aka everyone)

Is craft therapeutic?

There’s a lot of chat and (can I be honest?), I think, rather superficial stuff written about how doing craft is relaxing, therapeutic, blah blah. Of course, it’s true that doing a repetitive physical task, and losing yourself in the creative process can often be a real boost to your mental health, but I feel it’s nowhere near as simple as that, if the comments on my posts about creativity and mental health are anything to go by.

My own experience is that sometimes undertaking craft projects when you are feeling low or anxious can end up making you feel worse. I remember, a few years back, just at time when my mental health was taking a downward turn, I went on a ‘make a textile piece that expresses your inner self’ type course, and came away feeling beyond dreadful, because I wasn’t able to concentrate, focus, or come up with any ideas.

Creativity and meditation

Being creative requires playfulness, decisiveness, self-confidence, concentration, inspiration, enthusiasm, head-space – all of which can be in short supply when you are depressed, anxious, or feeling low. Sometimes you need to work on strengthening your inner resources and building resilience in other ways. This is something I have been working on recently, prompted partly by the book I want to tell you about today – Meditation for Daily Stress: 10 Practices for Immediate Well-being by Michel Pascal (Abrams & Chronicle – thanks to them for a free review copy):

A review of the book Meditation for Daily Stress by Michel Pascal. Click through to read the review and some thoughts about how meditation can support a creative life.

If you’ve never done meditation, or you have tried to get going with it and found it hard to stick with because of time constraints, I think this book is a great place to start. Or, if you already have a regular meditation practice, there are some really useful tools here that you could add to your kit – this isn’t a standard meditation guide.

Using visualisations

Pascal’s meditations use simple visualisations, combined with a very uncomplicated approach to awareness of breathing. He has created a practice that can be used in short bursts throughout the day – making it practical to do even on the train or bus, at your desk or at times during the day when you can just take a moment.

Pascal’s method is designed to be used in the moment that the stress starts, before it takes hold and causes upset. He also teaches ways of meditating in busy and noisy situations – something that’s been invaluable to me as I struggle with crowds – and makes this a fantastic resource when you need a bit of immediate emotional First Aid.

Meditate for emergency stress management

Buttermere in the Lake District, a visual trigger for meditation practice. Click through to read more about my personal exploration of how meditation can support creative practice, and a review of Michel Pascal's book Meditation for Daily Stress.

I find the visualisations very effective (especially the suggestion that you use real images – that you can have on your phone/PC/tablet – to help you get started – here’s the picture of Buttermere and Great Gable that I use). I have found this particular visualisation for the practice ‘meditate like a mountain’ absolutely invaluable in helping with upsetting feelings that have threatened to become overwhelming over the last few days. I was setting a timer to take a few minutes every couple of hours or so, almost like pain relief. After spending some quiet moments I found I was able to refocus on my work in the Studio.

Getting started with meditation

Pascal’s style is approachable and charming, and he writes with wisdom drawn from his experience of living and learning at the Kopan Monastery in Nepal, from his experiences teaching meditation in LA, from neuroscience and from the Christian tradition too (which I appreciate very much because it is so familiar to me, having grown up in the same tradition). For a small book, there’s so much good stuff here – and if meditation is something that you feel might help you with your creative journey, I think this might be an excellent place to start

There’s lots more to say about meditation, creativity and stitching – I’d like to share more about the science behind meditation/mindfulness/contemplative practices, but that’s so fascinating, I don’t want to rush it, so I will leave it for now. Suffice to say, there are plenty of scientific studies which provide evidence and some insight into why regular meditation practice can support your creativity. But more another time!

Do you practice meditation, mindfulness or contemplative prayer? I’d love to hear about your thoughts on how it supports your creative activities.

4 thoughts on “Help with stress and anxiety for creative people (aka everyone)

  1. I am finding these blogs on the frustration of crafting, very interesting and enlightening. Fortunately I don’t suffer from depression but I am very hard on myself when crafting and something isn’t ‘perfect’
    Pulling out rows of stitching/ knitting to correct something that wouldn’t be noticed by anyone else, also feeling panicky and stressed when starting something new.
    I have been crafting for over 50 years and I have only ever been able to enjoy it when I am not stressed or feeling out of sorts.
    Knowing I am not alone with these feelings is helpful and meditation is a useful tool to help with not only stressful situations in life but to bring some moments of peace in all our very busy lives.
    I loved the photo of Buttermere, it instantly gives you a sense of calm.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on this subject and everything else, I love seeing Very Berry in my in-box it’s like hearing from a friend.

    1. Lynne, thanks so much for your thoughts and kind words. I think there are lots of us out there who are too hard on ourselves. 😦 I’m trying to work on that for myself, and hope you can too. xxx

  2. Hmmmm, the visualization practice that you referenced brought to mind one that I used to use to calm myself as I tried to go to sleep. I may need to revisit that practice. And a way to meditate briefly in noisy or crowded situations? That would be a wonderful thing to learn how to do as noise, movement, people are all things that will defeat my efforts to zone out and tube in, lol! I’ll check this book out, thanks!

    I find that when the Black Dog of depression, anxiety and despair has me in it’s jaws, crafting of any sort becomes an excersize in frustration and aggravation and is quite likely to bring on anger and/or tears. I simply cannot be creative with the Black Dog breathing down my neck.

    1. That is such a great phrase (for an awful situation..) ‘the Black Dog breathing down my neck’. That is so exactly what it feels like, and I have a similar reaction when I’m trying to be creative. The great thing about this little book is that the practices are very short, so very attainable.

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