Sep 09, 2018
I haven't been posting any journals lately, but my stress level aka anxiety has been a little higher lately, so I thought I'd go ahead and post one just for kicks... :-)
We all know that when we're stressed, don't feel well or are in pain, we don't really feel like doing a whole lot; I tend to spend too much time at the computer when my anxiety level is high or if I'm in pain because it's easier than deciding what task to take on. Since I retired, it's easier to "do nothing" because I don't have that job to get up for anymore.
I know, for myself, the longer I don't do anything, the easier it gets to continue not doing things I, typically, enjoy. In the long run, not doing anything ends up putting more stress on me and I start feeling overwhelmed, sicker and in worse pain. It ends up being a vicious cycle and the longer it goes on the harder it is to break.
That's when I know it's time to shake it off and fall back on my list of hobbies. There are several that I enjoy, including gardening, reading, coloring, puzzles, crochet, sewing and my favorite - woodworking. I have hypothyroidism/Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Interstitial Cystitis and Peripheral Neuropathy caused by years of untreated Pernicious Anemia. Last year I got a frozen shoulder and I'm still struggling with that, plus there's often a lot of stress within my marriage as well, so I don't lack for stress/anxiety and pain.
When we work on a hobby, our brain releases "feel good" chemicals, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, that help balance pain signals and reduce anxiety. We also get a feeling of accomplishment, which produces more feel good chemicals.
"Hobbies can double as therapy
Artistic hobbies can make you more resilient, improve mental health, and develop a social support network, although there are some risks of repetitive injuries (which can be mitigated), according to a recent study in the British Medical Journal.
Art therapy is used a lot when dealing with PTSD and chronic pain, especially in the initial stages where anger and grief needs to be released and processed.
Even if you aren’t an artist, drawing, painting or scrapbooking can help release the anger at losing control of your body and your life."
As I said, my favorite hobby is woodworking. I have my own little shop and I spend a good share of time there working on projects. I make little items, do some refinishing, wood burning (pyrography). I've also learned to do some wood carving and I'm teaching myself leatherwork, as well. All of these things help take my mind off stress and pain and help relieve my anxiety. Once I get started on a project, I can, literally, feel the stress and anxiety leave my body; eventually, I'll realize I don't feel pain as great, either. I love the feeling of satisfaction when I've made something pretty from a piece of plain wood (fabric, skein of yarn, etc).
Lately, I've been learning how to make ink pens... it's pretty cool to be able to take a block of wood and end up with a working ink pen, or a box or something else that I've made with my own hands. (I've posted some photos of some of the things I've done)
A day spent working in the shop makes fatigue and pain easier to deal with and after I've spent the day doing something I enjoy, I know I have a reason to be tired and although I'll probably be in more pain than I was when I started, at least I'll have something to show for it. My sleep that night is, usually much better and more restful so it's easier to start the next day off on the right foot, even if I have to take it a bit easier for a day or so.
It doesn't matter what kind of hobby one takes up... I even find that writing helps because it helps move thoughts from my mind to paper or to my computer, so I'm not "storing" them so much.