This is an article that previews what is to come in the book that I’m writing about the mental and physical health benefits of crochet. If you feel that crochet has helped your health in any way and are interested in completing an email interview about this, please contact me.
Crochet is a wonderful craft that not only offers the crafter the chance at self-expression but can also provide numerous health benefits. At a basic level, crochet provides general stress relief and a soothing feeling. But don’t think that’s all that crochet can offer. People have used crochet to assist them in dealing with serious mental health issues such as PTSD.
What is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) refers to a combination of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors that occur in someone who has experienced a trauma. The trauma can range from war combat to car accidents to childhood abuse but there are patterns of behavior and stages of recovery that tend to be similar for all people that are suffering from PTSD. It is believed by some that crochet has the potential to assist the person suffering from PTSD in distracting the mind to deal with the stress and even the flashbacks that can significantly hinder the life of someone who has dealt with trauma.
Crochet as a form of Self-Kindness
In her book Healing from Post Traumatic Stress: A Workbook for Recovery, Monique Lang, LCSW emphasizes that one of the most important things that you can do for yourself if you are suffering from PTSD is to devote adequate time and attention to self-care. She explains that “trauma truncates our homeostasis, our normal way of being in the world” and that an environment of self-care is necessary for emotional repair after trauma.
Taking time to crochet is a great way to be kind to yourself. First of all, you are giving yourself the luxury of time to just sit and do something that is special for you. Second, you can make choices that enhance how special it is for you by spoiling yourself with the yarns that you love. Third you can make things for yourself that will continue to spoil you and to remind you of the value in taking care of yourself. If crochet is something you love then make time for it as a healing tool, whether you suffer from PTSD or not.
Crochet for Anxiety and Flashbacks
Being kind to yourself as you deal with PTSD is important but it’s not going to resolve the symptoms of PTSD alone. These symptoms include not only the flashbacks that we have all heard about but also feelings and even physical symptoms associated with fear, stress and anxiety. PTSD can manifest physically in many ways including sweating, shaking and even pain. In order to reduce all of these symptoms it is necessary to take actions that calm the mind and the body. Crochet, with its meditative features and its slow physical activity, can be one great tool for bringing calmness to your life when you are feeling the effects of PTSD.
The most prevalent symptom for many people is anxiety. When you experience a traumatic event, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. Adrenaline pumps, your heart races and your entire body goes into a state of hyper-arousal. What often happens for sufferers of PTSD is that the body ceases to realize that it is now safe. This can cause periodic or even persistent feelings of stress that keep the mind anxious.
Author Monique Lang offers numerous suggestions for quelling this anxiety, one of which is to “engage in an attention-demanding or engrossing project” (such as crochet!) Basically if an activity is taking up all of your focus then your mind can’t continue to focus on stress and the anxiety in the body decreases. Another valuable tip she offers is to become acutely aware of the times when you do not feel anxious so if your crochet time is one of those times then you can boost its benefit by realizing that and relishing it.
If you find that your anxiety doesn’t decrease when you crochet then you might want to ask yourself where your mind is going as you work. The meditative nature of crochet is a benefit but not if it allows rumination on things that cause anxiety. You may need to try a new technique that requires more focus if you’re going through this issue. One great tip is to bring yourself back to the present moment and ask yourself, “what danger am I in right now?” If you can realize that the greatest danger is that your crochet project won’t turn out right then you can get a little bit of perspective and reduce your anxiety levels.
This kind of “coming back to the moment” can also be a great tool for dealing with flashbacks. Flashbacks refer to when the PTSD person actually feels as if they are back in the exact same situation that caused them trauma in the first place. They really feel like they are there. However, with practice, the PTSD patient can learn to bring themselves back to the present, to say to themselves that this is just a flashback and that they are in a safe place. It may be a benefit to have a go-to thing like crochet that you always reach for when you know you’re experience a flashback, something that can ground you as you bring yourself back to the present moment. Being able to grab a soft ball of yarn and a smooth hook as you say, “look, I am here in the moment and things are soft and smooth” can be another tool for the sufferer of PTSD.
Obviously mental health conditions like PTSD are serious and should be diagnosed and treated by the proper health care professionals. I am not a medical professional and this advice should not take the place of advice from a qualified professional. That said, crochet can be one tool in your toolbox for helping yourself to heal!