Ordinarily (and as is totally my instinct) I would begin this post with an apology for the fact that there was no post on Monday. Although one day of a missed post definitely isn’t a big deal – and nobody’s wellbeing is dependent on my posting – I’ve made real efforts to work toward my 2018 goal of posting on a reliable three day per week schedule. For me, deciding to miss a day was tough. I’ve been feeling very much on top of game for most of January and have definitely enjoyed the structure that I’ve given my attention to Sew for Victory. That said, my choice not to post was precisely that – a choice. And it very much provided the inspiration for today’s post.
*An important side-note: sewing is definitely not a cure for mental illness and this post is totally reflective of my personal experiences. I got better through a whole range of things, including help from doctors and therapists. But, for me, the holistic approach always works best. Sewing is a huge component of how I maintain my happiness and positivity and I definitely recommend creative endeavours to anyone struggling. But I absolutely see this as a companion to other kinds of intervention. Please make sure to pay a visit to your doctor or call a helpline if you are in a bad way.*
I’ve been working really hard to stay true to my initial goal when writing about self-care, mental health, and sewing, which was that I try to be as honest as possible. It’s difficult to have helpful conversations about these topics while holding things back or presenting life to be something different from reality. I’m definitely acquainted with how easily the internet – social media and blogging, in particular – offers a warped and very selective version of what our lives are actually like. When I decided to start writing posts dedicated to self-care, it was incredibly important to me that I avoid falling into these traps. Not only am I sure that any insincerity on my part would be pretty obvious to you all, it would also be less than helpful in starting a conversation about creativity and self-care that I believe is sorely needed. I’ve spent a lot of January thinking about these things and one significant benefit has been a greater degree of honesty in my relationship with myself.
Part of developing a comprehensive and helpful self-care regime is learning to be honest about your needs. After all, being in denial about how you’re feeling or what you need is always going to be a big obstacle to practicing effective self-care. This is where therapy, and even yoga and meditation practices, can be particularly useful. It’s important to cultivate a good amount of self-awareness if you want to live as your best and happiest self, and these sorts of resources are so helpful for getting to a place of self-knowledge. Although I’ve worked hard to become more self-aware, I still go through periods of some denial about what I need. I tend to be very all or nothing in my approach to life – I throw myself 100% at a project or hobby until I eventually burn out to a point of being unable to act. Balance is something I struggle with. Recently, this problem has started to impact my sewing.
A couple of months back, I decided that I wanted to spend a while looking at ways to make sewing a full-time occupation. Although I’m still relatively early in the planning stages, this decision totally reinvigorated me in my attention to personal sewing projects and blogging. I’ve spent much of January juggling the various aspects of sewing for myself, developing content for the blog, and moving future plans along. As I got more and more into this, I started shedding my weekends in favour of working. Even though I was still careful to set aside evenings to be with my husband, do yoga, and relax, I found that my mind was never far from my work. I’d lost sight of my off switch. Had I stepped back for a minute, I would’ve realised that this was unsustainable – I have enough experience of these cycles to know that cracks will always inevitably appear. This past weekend, things broke down. Although this happened no way near as dramatically as used to be the case, I felt very low and completely physically exhausted. Fortunately, having a lot of knowledge about the self-care practices that work best for me, I was able to work my way back up to a better place. In doing this, I decided that I needed to take a designated self-care day (hence my lack of post on Monday) and focus completely on myself.
This kind of dedicated self-care practice will look different for everyone. In my case, it meant lots of cups of tea and reading a good book whilst tucked up under a ridiculous number of blankets. I ate good food, listened to music, worked on my bullet journal, and totally relaxed. I also unplugged from the internet – meaning no social media checking, no blog activities, and no time wasters. When you feel burnt out, this kind of designated self-care time is vital. Whether only for an hour or an afternoon, setting aside some ‘you time’ can be the most effective method for putting a stopper in feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
As you all know from my previous posts on the topic, sewing is typically one of my main go-to methods of self-care. But, now that I’m working to step-up my activities in a more full-time capacity, I’m aware that my relationship with sewing is undergoing a transition. I believe that I can continue to make it a vital aspect of my mental health maintenance and I still feel so incredibly fulfilled every day that I get to sit down at my sewing table. That said, it will inevitably become a source of stress. Blogging, in and of itself, can invite these issues. Even if you’re blogging as a hobby, entering the world of social media and online communities can invite negative comparisons with others and a sense of failure. There are very concrete and measurable barometers for success online – numbers of followers, numbers of page views etc. This can make it very easy to fall into a place of stress or melancholy. However, it can also be an opportunity for us to revisit our relationships with ourselves and our self-care outlets. Sewing will continue to be a method of self-care for me but it will require a reappraisal of my approach. Balancing my sewing time with dedicated attention to other things – bullet journalling, reading, cross stitching, yoga – will become increasingly important. I’m also planning on stepping up my meditation game to ensure that I’m able to stay present in what I’m doing when I’m not sewing – hopefully helping me to avoid my propensity to have my mind on sewing while I’m doing other things.
We must never take for granted that our self-care practices are always practiced as self-care. Our relationships with the different components of our life will inevitably change as our circumstances shift. It’s important to check in with yourself often to re-evaluate, making sure that you are properly aware of your needs and addressing them. This will always require a degree of honesty. Sometimes we’re blinkered by distractions. This was exactly my problem when I was so deep in my sewing activities that I didn’t even think to step back and consider the possibility of burn out. I hadn’t anticipated that my approach was turning an incredibly valuable self-care practice into a source of stress. Had I checked in with myself earlier, I would have noticed the warning signs (less sleep, more tension, more irritability etc) and taken some much needed time out.
So remember that a good self-care practice is one that remains attentive to your current situation. To know what this looks like means having an honest conversation with yourself about habits, thought patterns, and behaviours that might affect how and why you practice self-care. One of the most helpful things for me is keeping an ongoing list of my favourite self-care activities – this includes things like snuggling with my dog, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race (YAAASSSS!), and having a cup of my favourite herbal tea. Every so often, some things on the list get crossed out or changed. I also categorise some practices as especially helpful when I’m feeling certain ways (for example, herbal tea is especially great when I’m feeling stressed, watching RPDR works amazingly well when I’m anxious or panicking). This list should be a total reflection of you – although looking around online can give some amazing ideas for things to try. Just remember to remain true to yourself and open to what you need in any given moment. As this past month has proved, I’m still learning about the best ways to be kind to myself. While I’m very sure the learning won’t stop, I really do believe that the process can only take us on to better and brighter things.
Thank you so much to everyone who got in touch or gave feedback about my Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story post. I’ve had some incredible people reach out to me and they should be providing some amazing insights into their own use of sewing for self-care over the coming weeks.
If you use sewing as a self-care practice – whether to combat daily stresses or to help manage your mental health in any capacity – and would like to add your voice to the conversation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – or message me via Instagram or Twitter – @sewforvictoryuk You can also check out the blog post for more details!