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Having Hobbies Can Help Control Stress and Pain

Sep 09, 2018 - 6 comments

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.  

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242912 tn?1402543492
by Jade59, Sep 10, 2018
That is exactly the reason I began journaling, Barb.  Once I get what are usually negative thoughts typed out, I always feel better.  Before MH, I hated writing and rarely did it.  It was a chore transferring my thoughts into writing, but the more I did it, the more I liked it, and the better I became (at least I think! lol).  

Wow, your pens are beautiful!!  I was looking at your photo attached (and the others in your album), and wondered how you did it?  Like was it a kit you put together?  I'm glad you explained, I am really impressed.  How long does it take you to make one?  Do you sell them?  I just went out and told my husband what you're doing.  He's in bed so he can't just get up and come in here and look, but he will tomorrow, I know he'll be impressed.  He's got a full on machine shop in our garage and works mainly with metal, but also with wood.  He made lots of things for me during our early courtship (40 yrs ago now).  He made an oak frame for a poster I love which was a gift from my mother when I was a late teen (it currently hangs on one of my living room walls).  He made me a jewelry box.  A salt/pepper/napkin holder (one for my parents too since they liked it so much), a few hanging plant holders, a plant stand, and many other things.  He made our wrought iron security doors, and one of our gates.  The other gate he made out of redwood as well as the fence at the very back of our yard.  A few months ago he made me a stainless steel silverware holder to attach to our dish drainer so I could stop using the cup I'd been using the last 20 yrs. He didn't tell me he was making it, just designed it, then made it and surprised me.  

Anyway, great journal, Barb.  Excellent message too.    

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by Barb135, Sep 10, 2018
Hi Jade... I've read some of your journals; even commented on some I think.  It's helpful to put down those negative thoughts - kind of like "getting rid of them" and I agree - the more it's done the easier it gets.  It's like anything else; practice makes perfect.  

I tend to be a little claustrophobic and staying inside for long periods makes me feel worse, which is why I try to limit my time on the computer.  Working in the shop gets me out of the house and into different surroundings and when I'm finished with my project, I have the added satisfaction of having created something.

It takes me several hours to make one of the pens because I'm just learning how to do it, but some of the guys in our woodworking club can make them in a couple of hours. They make pens in the shape of guns and all types of things.  As for how to do it - the metal parts are purchased in a kit.  The outer wood part is simply a block of wood about 3/4" - 1" square that's put on a lathe and turned into a circle using special knives/chisels.  Your husband will know what I'm talking about - if he has a full machine shop, he probably has a lathe (or 2).  My husband has 3 different types of lathes that he can use for both metal and wood.  I just have a little cheapie wood lathe that I'm using.  The pen kits can be purchased from different places and any kind of wood can be used.  The ones I've made so far, are exotic wood, but I have some pieces of oak, walnut, maple and other woods that I'll use also.  

As for whether I sell my stuff or not - yes, I do.  One of the cities near me has what they call an "Art Walk" once/week during the fall/winter that's all local artists.  I'm trying to get enough stuff made up to have a table there.  I've sold some things other places, but a lot of it I give away as gifts as well.  

Retirement hasn't been the best thing for me, so having my hobbies gives me things to research, design, plan and work on.

It sounds like your husband does a lot of neat things as well.  My husband prefers working with metal also, but he does woodworking, too.

Off to the dentist - which is "not" one of my hobbies... lol

517872 tn?1623105664
by real_jimmy, Sep 10, 2018
Thank you for sharing this. I love it !

649848 tn?1534633700
by Barb135, Sep 10, 2018
I'm glad, Jimmy - do you have hobbies?

495284 tn?1333894042
by dominosarah, Sep 12, 2018
I used to journal as it made me feel better too but after i found out those of us on the SA forum were lab rats i no longer journal.  It was such a deceitful thing to do and i shared personal things about my family.  To this day i still wonder who was real and who were just looking for info and really didnt give a rat's butt about any of us, just what we could add to their research paper.  Well, it appears i am still angry about this.,..I need to practice what i preach about forgiveness!!

I had no idea those pens started out just a block of wood.  I thought maybe it was a kit and the barrels were already made.  I looked at your pics and i love the looks of them.  Since i like blue ink you are using that color right?!!  They must be refillable correct?

Hubby and i used to do alot of things but once he got sick with Lyme our activities came to a screeching halt.  We used to go out on the motorcycle alot but on bad days it isnt a good idea to take a bike out!  He has improved greatly but gets worn out much quicker now.  We spend alot of time at home with music blaring, playing with the dogs, tending to house repairs etc.  Concerts are still a must!!

649848 tn?1534633700
by Barb135, Sep 13, 2018
Hi dominosarah...

I'll have to take a photo of the parts and pieces that go into making a pen. There is a metal barrel inside the wooden, but I make the wooden one look however I want it to - basically, my imagination and skill with the lathe is the limit.  The material doesn't even have to be wood.  Some people use acrylic, which I may try once I get better at it; I've even seen some use spent bullets and other items they've "recycled".  

Sorry, they come with black ink, but it's easy enough to replace the black with blue; I'm kind of partial to blue, myself ... yes, the pens are refillable.  I'm actually including a refill with each of mine...

I didn't know your husband had Lyme; that can be pretty devastating, especially if it's not treated right away.  I'm glad he's improved now.  No, it's not good to be out on a motorcycle when one isn't feeling well.  It's good that you have home projects, your dogs and music/concerts to enjoy though. Music is also considered a hobby and is good for you... some is relaxing, some is energizing.

Last summer, I got a frozen (encapsulated) shoulder - not sure if most people know what that is, but it's when you can't move the shoulder joint.  It's extremely painful and can last for several years.  My doctor gave me a cortisone shot in the shoulder and prescribed physical therapy.   They helped, but didn't completely take away the pain.  I'm still struggling with it, even though I do the exercises at home as much as I can, without the equipment they have at PT.  I'm currently struggling to prevent the same thing from happening to the other shoulder as well. From my research, I've learned that frozen shoulder is associated with hypothyroidism, but my doctor denies that there's a connection because my thyroid levels are in the so-called "normal" ranges.  I also have peripheral neuropathy pretty bad, which makes standing for long periods quite difficult.  

Since I have the problem with my shoulders "and" have trouble standing for long periods, I find that I, sometimes have to stop and rest quite often while working on a project or sometimes, I just have to stop and let it go till the next day.  That's why I wanted to learn how to make the pens because they only take a few hours to begin with so I don't have to leave them "in process" for very long.  I do have one here on my desk, that I started the other day, on which the finish didn't turn out well so I have to redo it.  I haven't had time to get back to it and figure out what I'm going to do with it yet.  It's a beautiful purple wood, so it has to retain its original color...

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