Stressful day at work? Do you come home and slip into your running shoes, put the beats in your ears and disappear into a world where the only thing that matters is the pounding of your feet on the pavement and the cold breath in your lungs? Maybe you prefer to turn the volume up loud, dance around in your pants and sing I Will Survive at the top of your lungs. Or maybe, it’s cracking open a bottle of something cold and inebriating, sticking your feet up and watching your favourite soap.
What ever your method, we all have a preferred way to unwind after a hard day. Sometimes that hard day lasts for more than 24 hours and you feel yourself becoming more wound up and disconnected with things. This, for me, is where making things comes in.
I have to be doing something with my hands. Not fiddling with something but doing something that has a purpose. It can be a task as simple and small as making a cup of tea. Holding a cup in my hands and then turning teabag and milk into the perfect brew.
Feeling something solid, like a cup, in my hand helps ground me and gets me out of the little world of lists and worries in my head. The act of making a cup of tea and drinking the final product is enough to allow me a little check off the list. I’ve managed to finish doing something I started. This may seem like a ridiculous thing to cheer about, but when you have eighty billion things to do and some of them take weeks or you keep getting interrupted, then it can be quite rewarding to take the small victories.
If I need more than a quick fix, I turn to crafting. There is something very therapeutic about putting pencil to paper or hook to yarn. The movements involved are soothing in themselves, the smooth application of paint to canvas or the repetitive click clack of knitting needles. You can’t really focus on anything else at the same time either, so it is a wonderful way of getting the mind to switch off and focus on just one thing. The end of your project could be hours, days or weeks away, but there is a huge feeling of achievement when you do finish. You can sit back and look at it and think “I did that and there isn’t another one anywhere.”.
Small person and I were chatting in the car the other day about things we like doing. I realised that nearly all of mine involve some kind of sensory experience and few of them were visual. Surprisingly (to me) they were nearly all touch based too, making things, baking things, walking on grass or paddling with my shoes off, hugs and a nice hot bath.
For me, a wind down/destressing activity should be something you enjoy. If you have to drag yourself to do it or feel grumpy once you’ve finished, maybe it isn’t the right choice for that particular moment. Make yourself a list of things you like doing and choose one off the list. Just ensure that you have some small, practical things on there as “jetting off to the Bahamas” when it’s Wednesday, you’re in the middle of a mammoth work project and it’s still a week until pay day is likely to just make you more grumpy.
Stick the kettle on, feel the weight of the mug in your hands and enjoy a little sit down. This too shall pass.