Anxiety, Depression and How Knitting Helped Me Slow Down
Anxiety, Depression and How Knitting Helped Me Slow Down
an article written by Josephine Brooks
Discovering knitting has played a huge role in slowing down my entire lifestyle. Sitting down in the evenings to work on a knitting project became a place of solace when I started struggling with anxiety and depression, a place where I started to repair my mental health and see the huge benefits of slowing down my pace of life.
Over the summer and autumn of 2018, I went through a dark patch of anxiety and depression. I had worked myself so hard, juggling my side-hustle and my 9–5 whilst constantly trying to do more, more, more, that my body reached its limit. I was having regular panic attacks, onset by the sorts of things I would usually take in my stride, catching a train, driving into work, going to a friend’s wedding.
My symptoms got worse until, eventually I got signed off work for a month. I decided that If I was signed off work with a mental health problem, I needed to take a month off my business too.
Suddenly, I had a lot of time on my hands and what felt like a large expanse of time to fill. This was a very new feeling, as I had always been trying to find ways to make my time as efficient as possible, I had never taken a moment to read a book or just sit in the garden and appreciate a late summer evening.
I gently started to fill my time with things I enjoyed and that helped me slow down. I took my dogs on long walks, I meditated, I went horse riding, I spent time gardening and I would spend my evenings getting to grips with how knitting works.
I had tried knitting before, when I was younger. My mum is a talented knitter and had encouraged me to make some socks. I ended up with one very laddered sock which she thought was hilarious. And there, my interest in knitting ended abruptly, until recently.
It was watching Lauren Aston’s stories on Instagram that encouraged me to pick up some knitting needles again. I bought a jumper knit kit from Lauren Aston Designs and slowly learned (with much help from YouTube) how to knit again. This time the soft chunky merino wool and chunky needles made the whole process a little easier to get to grips with. Not only that but I found support and encouragement in Facebook groups where I could go and ask questions and share my finished projects. My love for knitting started to grow, from my first jumper to the cosy slipper socks I knitted for all of my family at Christmas.
Learning to knit has given me a pastime that not only slows down my heart but also my head. With all the concentration that knitting takes for me to remember what row I am on and what stitch I am doing, there is no more room for any other noise in my head. It has been a way of slowing down my pace of life that has helped me manage my anxiety and the pressures of growing a business.
Until this experience with my mental health struggles, I was always trying to fit more, more, more into my lifestyle, looking for endless ways to be more productive and pack more into every 24 hours. Now it is the complete opposite. I have become a lifestyle minimalist, taking away all of the commitments and time-sucks I was doing because I felt obliged to, even though I had no interest in them and they sparked no joy at all for me. The rule now is; if it is not a hell yes, it is a hell no. This helps me make time for the things I do love doing, like taking a long hot bath, going for a walk or spending a whole evening working on my next knitting project.
This discovery, that less really is more, stretched into my work too. I realised that productivity was not about doing more and packing in as much work as possible into each day. It is in fact about doing less and focussing on the few tasks and projects that have the biggest, most positive impact. For me, building my business from a side-hustle to my full-time gig has always been to create the freedom to do more of what I love and create the lifestyle I longed for. And right now, that is the slower lifestyle I now couldn’t be without.
My tips on making more time to work on your knitting projects
Say no to the commitments you do not enjoy
Run an audit on your lifestyle, what are you doing with your time? Are you going to dinners or after-work drinks you do not actually enjoy? Are you giving so much of your time to others that you are left with no time for yourself? Set yourself some new boundaries and the next time that after-works drink invitation comes up, just say you cannot make it and enjoy that evening of knitting you have created for yourself.
Create a routine around your knitting
Us humans are habitual creatures, when something becomes habit, a part of your routine, it is so much easier to make it happen each day or each week.
Outsource something you do not enjoy
If, like me, you are almost allergic to cleaning and are in a position where you can get a cleaner in once a week, do it! Perhaps you dread mowing the lawn or ironing, find someone who can do it for you so that you can free up an evening a week to knit rather than doing those tasks you hate.
Set yourself a challenge
This works well for those of us who are competitive with ourselves or hate the idea of ending a consistent streak of knitting each day for the last 30 days. Perhaps you have a jumper you want to knit before a certain event. Perhaps you’re going to commit to knitting 20 rows a day until your next project is finished. Set yourself a challenge and see if that adds to your motivation to make that all-important time for you.
text & photos Josephine Brooks
Josephine Brooks is a Make it Happen mentor for side-hustlers whose philosophy is all about doing less and focussing on the tasks that really matter, rather than being busy and trying to get lots done. Her mission is to help Side-Hustlers who are building a business alongside other commitments to create a business that gives them the freedom to do more of what they love and create the slower, more meaningful lifestyle they long for.
Podcast: Make a Plan Make it Happen https://www.josephinebrooks.co.uk/podcast/
1:1 Mentoring for Side-Hustlers: https://www.josephinebrooks.co.uk/mentoring
My course Make a Plan > Make it Happen: https://www.josephinebrooks.co.uk/make-a-plan-make-it-happen