We need to stop making our hobbies stressful

Stop Making Your Hobby Stressful by thisblogisnotforyou.comWhen I’m not sitting behind the sewing machine, I work full-time as a psychologist. This is why I every once in a while share a mental health-related post on this blog.
Have you read “6 Reasons why sewing benefits your mental health”? – I think you might enjoy it!

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Lately I’ve noticed the sewing blogs quieten down a little. All life seems to take place on Instagram nowadays, which also seems to apply to sewing blogs.

I admit it wholeheartedly – I love Instagram. And there’s nothing wrong about loving Instagram,¬†spending time on Instagram and sharing posts with others.

But the new habit of swipe, swipe, double-tap for a heart and then quickly continuing to swipe really changes the way we absorb information. In just a few minutes we can look at hundreds of projects, ideas, inspiration and quickly tap to show appreciation. Sitting down with a coffee, reading a handful of detailed project posts on your favourite blogs and then taking the time to type up a comment in the end – almost sounds like an inconvenience compared to scrolling through a conveniently condensed feed of pretty photographs.

Stop Making Your Hobby Stressful by thisblogisnotforyou.com

The result-oriented, ever so efficient way of the world with its clean, neatly arranged flat-lay look has reached Handmade Land.

As I said, I’m not trying to throw shade on Instagram – I love it myself. It’s just a reflection of a far greater process. But I do mourn the slow-pace of the pre-micro-blog era. Not just as a blogger myself, but also as a reader. The result-oriented, ever so efficient way of the world with its clean, neatly arranged flat-lay look has reached Handmade Land. Not a big surprise, but it¬†seems to defeat the purpose in a way, don’t you think?

Stop Making Your Hobby Stressful by thisblogisnotforyou.com

Last year I’ve written a long article about how sewing can really benefit our mental health. Because, essentially, it’s about being mindful. Being mindful is very important in today’s ever-accelerating world in order to keep your balance and peace of mind. It gives a sense of achievement and helps increase self-esteem.

But what happens when we cut out the process and only focus on the final product? When handmade things must look store-bought (because you can buy things that look handmade, vintage and shabby chic in stores)?

Stop Making Your Hobby Stressful by thisblogisnotforyou.com

A lot is lost when we squeeze a major project into a micro blog.

Hobbies are super important. Hobbies are there to balance out our stressful working lives. It’s where we find peace and quiet and sense of self. When we start to set the same standards on our hobbies as we are required to do at work, it becomes work. And your work-life-balance tips towards more of a work-work-balance. Once that happens, the stability of our mental health is at risk. Exhaustion, discontent, high stress levels etc. can quickly lead to more severe problems if we do not have something to balance these out.

And not just for mental health reasons  Рas a psychologist I keep going on about them Рbut also for the love of the slow-paced manual work that gets completely lost behind a shiny picture of the finished product. A lot is lost when we squeeze a major project into a micro blog, sadly.

We do not see the work involved any more. The hours and hours spent on the smallest little project. The nerves and sweat it sometimes takes. Or even the big-time fails. I have a big heart for big-time fails. We most often do not see those on Instagram. All we get is the shiny end product. It can make us feel pressured and sometimes sets unachievable expectations on ourselves.

Stop Making Your Hobby Stressful by thisblogisnotforyou.com

I sometimes get overwhelmed by all that content and then lose my sewing mojo completely for a few weeks. What helps me get it back is shutting out the outside (or rather social media) world completely. I sit down in my sewing corner and as slow as can be start sorting out my table, tidying things, looking through boxes, touching and moving about fabrics. I take my time with my projects now. If there’s a couple of weeks (and sometimes months) without a blog post, then so be it. When I feel like it, we go and shoot some pictures of finished garments. Only then it’s fun and I enjoy looking at the images when I edit them for the post.

Do you sometimes get the feeling you “have to sew because you haven’t in such a long time”? You have a sense of fear of losing your productivity or even getting¬† increasingly estranged from your hobby? I get that all the time and then feel really pressured. It’s quite silly, I know, but it happens often.

I now have a rule: hobbies are fun and you only do it when you enjoy doing it. If you don’t feel like it and don’t enjoy it, stop! It’s not work and this is why you are in control and allowed to do whatever pleases you. Don’t worry about losing your sewing mojo permanently. You just need a break, so take it and enjoy it doing other things you love.

Stop Making Your Hobby Stressful by thisblogisnotforyou.com

A few years ago, sewing and knitting was more or less reserved for the elderly and it seemed an extraordinary thing when someone walked around in their own handmade clothes. With technology taking up more and more of your lives, there’s been a trend of finding a way back to our roots. Of filling the gap of manual skills and manual labour technology left us with. It only seems natural that we found our way back to sewing and knitting and making things, creating things with our own bare hands. We just need to learn to block out all the other things technology left us, too, from time to time. We need to ignore social media looking over our shoulders while we sew or blog or do whatever we love. Sewing is such a big resource of calm, quietness, sense of self and mindfulness. It’s a great way of connecting with others in a meaningful way. It’s our happy place. Let’s not get something in the way of that.

So for the love of blogs (and sewing), take some time to slow down again every once in a while. Don’t let yourself get rushed, pressured to keep up or overwhelmed by content.

Stop Making Your Hobby Stressful by thisblogisnotforyou.com

What do you think? I would love to know your thoughts and views on the matter! Please share them and leave a comment below.

Now grab a coffee and enjoy your very own Handmade Land.

xx

Charlie


Happy sewing!
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6 Reasons Why Sewing Benefits Your Mental Health

Mental Health Benefits of Sewing by thisblogisnotforyou.com

This week was world mental health day. What have sewing and mental health to do with each other, you might ask?

I asked myself the same question quite a few times. Why?¬†Some of you might know that when¬†I’m not sitting behind the sewing machine,¬†I work full-time as a psychologist. So naturally I’ve thought about how these two very different passions of mine might go together. Not just in theory, but also in practice. I’ve lead some sewing groups for patients in a psychiatric hospital and witnessed the¬†wonderful effects it has on some people.

Sewing not only is a great coping strategy for some people suffering from mental health issues.¬†It’s a really great way of preventing our mental health from getting out of balance in the first place. Most of the time we might not think¬†about it consciously, but we certainly feel the effects of it. Ever asked yourself why you are so addicted to and passionate about your hobby? Why you feel so much better after squeezing in some sewing during a busy day?

I have listed a couple of reasons why sewing makes us feel better and why it might be a great hobby to try if you are struggling to keep a balanced mind.

 

1. Allowing yourself¬†some “selfish” me-time

Do you feel guilty when you’re spending your free time with sewing for yourself? You shouldn’t be! Sewing is a great way to not only spend some time with yourself, but also do something for yourself. Everyone of us needs some pampering every now and then. Especially if you work in a helping profession or spend your day caring for your family and others.

Taking time for yourself is important. We all need to focus on ourselves every once in a while to prevent ourselves from burning out. Did you know that one of the main causes for burnout is measuring your self-worth by the things you do for others and the appreciation you get (or might not get)? If your sense of self and self-worth is solely dependent on making others happy your self-esteem is a very fragile thing.

In allowing yourself to be immersed in something you simply do for your own pleasure you can spend some quality time with yourself, simply because you’re worth it.

 

2. Spending time away from your smart devices to prevent sensory overload

This is a more important point than you might think. Smart phones/laptops/tablets etc. have become such a major part of our lives. Think about how much time – just how many hours – you spend on any of these three plus your TV during the day. Spending the evening watching TV, or lying on the sofa with your laptop might seem to be a very relaxing thing to do at first glance. What you’re actually doing is exposing your mind¬†to a massive sensory input. This is why we sometimes feel just too fatigued and tired to do anything BUT sit in front of our laptop watching yet another meaningless video or scrolling through posts skimming through texts instead of properly reading them. Social media (Instagram and Bloglovin’, anyone?) might seem like a very low-key, undemanding thing to do to relax in the evening, but essentially it can lead to sensory overload. And if you don’t break away every once in a while you get stuck in a vicious cycle, being glued in front of a screen feeling unable to do anything else than that.

This¬†seemingly effective and very easy way of distraction¬†and ‘relaxation’ sometimes is nothing more than white noise in our lives. It can lead to feelings of unrest, dissatisfaction and¬†exhaustion¬†in some people, especially if you’re a results-oriented person. Ever felt like you haven’t accomplished anything during the day? Can’t remember what you actually did the last weekend? Going to work on Monday feeling exhausted despite having had two days off?

When you are sewing, you are¬†doing something purposeful with your free time while you are giving your mind a proper chance to relax and reset. You’re in a happy, healthy little bubble that you leave with a feeling of relaxation and accomplishment.

 

3. Being mindful

This very much ties in with the topic above. Sensory overload also happens when we multi-task too much. And we cannot stay relaxed and¬†balanced when we constantly do more than one thing at a time. It’s possible to eat your dinner in front of the TV, while texting on your phone and simultaneously making a to-do list for the next day in your head. Partners and kids not even included in this scenario. Our minds can do wonderful things. And¬†multi-tasking has become¬†some sort of a¬†standard requirement in our time.

Don’t underestimate how incredibly important and healthy it is to focus on just a single thing. You might have heard about the concept of mindfulness, which is becoming more and more popular as a self-help and coping strategy. It means doing one thing at a time. Being concentrated on one thing alone and experiencing it with all our senses. Being in-the-moment.

It is very meditative and helps you to stay or become calm and relaxed. It helps to reduce stress and ruminating thoughts.

When you are sewing, you are basically forced to concentrate on one thing alone. You are fully immersed in your project. You have to go step-by-step. It’s not possible to multi-task, because you only have two hands and you need them both for every single step. There’s a certain order of things that you cannot evade if you want your project to be successful. A lot of sewing projects are demanding enough to keep our minds occupied and in-the-moment, without being stressful (hopefully!). And if your thoughts still keep running all over the place, try to consciously perceive your senses: Focus on the sound of your sewing machine, the scissors cutting through fabric or the feeling of a fabric between your fingers. Take everything in and enjoy the moment as much as possible.

Mental Health Benefits of Sewing by thisblogisnotforyou.com

4. Accomplishing something

Finishing a project feels like a major accomplishment. Holding or even wearing something you’ve made yourself, with your hands, from scratch, is an ineffably satisfying feeling. A sense of accomplishment is invaluable for our self-esteem.

And it’s not just about finishing a project and ticking off to-do lists. While you are working on a project you are learning new skills. You keep improving. You are developing effective problem-solving strategies. You have an opportunity to come up with amazing creativity.

Sewing gives you all sorts of reasons to feel proud of yourself and like yourself better.

 

5. Improving Body Image & Increasing Self-confidence

Since I started to sew, I’ve struggled less with my body image. I have often wondered how this is possible while I run around with a measuring tape, taking notes of my far-from-perfect measurements. This should be depressing. But somehow it is not.

Why does sewing help us get to grips better with our body image?

First of all, no more frustrating shopping trips! Shopping for trousers used to be a dreadful¬†experience, always reminding myself that everything about my legs and bum was terribly wrong. Now, that I make my own clothes – including trousers – I do not have to go through depressing shopping trips anymore. I have learned more about sizing and that it’s simply unrealistic to fit in some average size.

Once you start sewing and get to know others who sew, ¬†you notice that almost no one has a perfect body. Everyone has to make adjustments. It’s a very rare thing to fit into the average size.

Also, sewing helps you to develop your own individual style and sense of identity. You can make something no one else has. Something special and very individual.

Furthermore, if you sew something that fits well, you’ll start wearing your clothes with more confidence.

Oh, and let’s not forget: Compliments!

 

6. Effective coping strategy

If you are struggling with stress and an unbalanced lifestyle or you are suffering from a lack of drive or depression, sewing might be a very helpful coping strategy for you. It’s the overall package of a sense of accomplishment, self-confidence, of being in-the-moment. It’s a healthy way of distraction and most importantly, you can make it as easy or complicated as you like or are able to manage at the time.

Sewing is a very structured process which allows you to work on a project piecemeal and set your own speed. It helps you to¬†work on your concentration. As it’s a step-by-step process, you can pause anytime without the frustrating feeling of having¬†failed completely.

Socialising is important to keep a healthy balance in your life, especially if you are suffering from depression and anxiety. The sewing community is a wonderful way to connect with people. You can even talk to other sewists online if you don’t feel like going out or find it difficult to meet new people. Whatever your needs are, there is a way to share your passion with others. Talking to like-minded people can be very motivating and fulfilling.

Mental Health Benefits of Sewing by thisblogisnotforyou.com

What are your personal favourite benefits of sewing? Please join the discussion and leave a comment below.

I hope you enjoyed reading this somewhat special post. I certainly enjoyed writing it! I would love some feedback! Please let me know if you found this article interesting or helpful, and would like to read similar ones in the future.

xx

Charlie


Happy sewing!
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