There are many ways to let out stress: Punching a wall, scarfing Oreos in a dark broom closet, or my favorite—an old-school silent scream. How about something a little more upbeat and healthy?
I’m talking crafts.
Believe it or not, sprinkling frosted glitter on wet glue, doodling on paper, or sewing through layers of fabric can be very therapeutic when your nerves begin to fray. As a mom with two kids, a full-time job and a part-time art career, I’m here to tell you—it works. Even if it’s varnishing one magnet, I finish witha smile on my face and a fresh attitude. From teaching workshops to answering emails, I’ve met many other women who will vouch for the benefits of craft therapy.
“Making stuff allows me to focus on something other than everyday stress,” says Lizzy Hernandez, 36. “I think of the bright colors I like to work with, or using my hands on clay, or stringing jewelry… and my mind clears. It’s like I’m putting all my energy into making something beautiful right now, instead of the chores I have to do tomorrow.
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Hernandez, a mom from Whittier, California, should know. The name of her business is La Chillona Arte—it translates as The Crier. She may shed a few tears from daily drama at work or dinner table politics, but it’s her artful sessions that bring her peace of mind.
“When I’m creating, I’m in a good place,” she says. “I may not be thinking about my problems, but it’s always when I’m crafting that I come up with the best solutions.”
Hernandez isn’t alone. According to a consumer survey conducted by the Craft and Hobby Association, American households rang up a whopping $29 billion dollars of craft-related supplies in 2010. From scrapbooking and sewing to painting and beading, crafting, it seems, has become a peaceful time-passer and colorful rival to a pricey back massage or counseling session. There is even an entire website dedicated to the subject. Self-proclaimed craft practitioners, Kathy Peterson and Barb Dehn, promote a handmade lifestyle as a tool for healthy living on their site, Craft for Health.
But TV host and master DIYer, Mark Montano puts it in terms we all can appreciate.
“Being creative is proven to relieve stress, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that crafting is a guilty pleasure, think of it as something that will make your life better,” says the bestselling author. “For example, wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend a few hours one evening making a slew of birthday cards that will save you several trips to a card shop?”
He also understands what Lizzy Hernandez means about clearing one’s mind with a little glitter and glue.
“Creativity is active meditation and meditation is proven to relieve stress,” he says. “Creativity also teaches the brain to problem-solve. People who are stress-free think more clearly and make better decisions. When you factor in the benefits of crafting, doesn’t it seem necessary to a better way of life?”
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Now what are you waiting for? It’s time to make something fabulous! Even if you are juggling a full-time job and a busy household, there is still room in your life to exercise your creativity—as long as you plan. Here are some ideas to get you started so that you can craft away your stress:
- Set aside a regular block of time. I used to have “crafternoons” on Sundays. I let my family know that from 4-8 p.m. I was dedicated to crafting. I invited my kids and relatives to join me. It didn’t take long for everyone to respect my request—especially when it helped me start the week off in a happy state-of-mind.
- Start simple. Buy a kit at the craft store or sign up for a local class. If you feel daring, try a genre that is new to you; or start slow and take one that is comfortable to you.
- Take an online class. There are many work-at-your-own-pace e-courses available. Paper arts, rubber stamping, drawing, painting, beading, etc. They are very affordable and easy to follow.
- Buy a blank journal and a set of juicy colored markers. Every time you get stressed or have an awful day, open your journal and force yourself to write, draw or doodle the good things that happened. Even if it is a decent cup of coffee or a tasty cafeteria lunch, make note of it.
- Celebrate accomplishment. Choose a project that you know you can finish—and really finish it. Hang it up and show it off. This is proof that you are capable of making something wonderful.
- Make small gifts to share. Many times we have a hard time stepping away from our responsibilities—we feel guilty or selfish. If that is the case, use your time to make small collage affirmation cards to give to your friends and family (or nice strangers!). Think of it as your gift of love and positivity to others.
- Get messy! If you need to work out anger issues, get physical! Grrr. Take on a mosaics class where you get to smash tiles with a hammer, or buy a large canvas and throw paint at it. Take on a pottery class and allow yourself to get grit under your nails.
- Think Big. If you don’t feel like making something small and fast, take on a large project, like a T-shirt quilt; that will certainly keep you busy during your crafternoon sessions.
- Take pictures. Not feeling the glue, paper or scissors? Use your cell phone to take pictures of your week or day. Choose a theme, such as a color, and only take pictures of that theme. It will force you to look at the world in a new way.
- Start a blog. There are plenty of free blogging services out there. Start one up and use it to document funny quotes from your kids, photos you took, food you cooked, places you went, crazy things that happened during the week—or those craft projects you made!
- Volunteer. Look for sites like Quilts for Kids and use your crafty skills for a good cause.
- Throw a craft party. There is no better way to relax and let loose than to have a party. Gather your friends and meet at a restaurant and work on your projects and make things! Share ideas and cheer each other on!
Kathy Cano-Murillo is a mommy, wifey, left-handed middle-child Sagittarian. She is the founder of Crafty Chica, and the author of the novels Waking Up in the Land of Glitter and Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing.