One of the things that’s been getting me through the long months of COVID isolation has been needlepoint (you can read my thoughts about my favourite craft here). Books are, of course, one of the other things. I doubt I’ve ever been so grateful to be an introvert. I’m not sure whether needle crafts have been catching on during this awful time, like baking and gardening have, but stitching is an excellent way to calm your mind while making something lasting. Another great aspect of needlepoint is that it lends itself to any subject matter. Anything from simple quotes to intricate scenes can be rendered with needle and thread, and you can really get creative with it. No surprise I’m partial to bookish designs, so I decided to share some links to patterns. If you’re already a stitcher, I hope you’ll find something you like. If you’ve never stitched before, maybe you’ll be inspired to give it a try (you don’t even need to be isolating!) Which pattern is your favourite? Share in the comments…
Perhaps this sentiment isn’t as relatable under current circumstances, but you can’t deny that Austen has a point. Free pattern.
Louisa May Alcott gets the credit for this somewhat negative take on book lovers. I wouldn’t change a thing, even if my brain is turned. Pattern.
I have a fondness for fairy tales, and Sleeping Beauty was always one of my favourites. Fairy tales tend to have an appealing aesthetic, as well– perfect for needlepoint. Have fun with this free pattern.
From fairy tales to something a little more adult. Cross-stitch (curse-stitch?) for when you’re really f@#*!%g into books 😉 Pattern.
A sweeter sentiment we can all get behind. Pattern.
Throw out those old scraps of paper and make yourself a bookmark worthy of keeping your place. Free pattern.
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It turns out the book I mentioned in my last Currently Reading post isn’t meant to be read straight through. The author actually instructs not to read more than a chapter a week, to make sure you thoroughly understand the subject matter (makes sense). This, however, is not a satisfying situation for any reader, especially since a book on anxiety and phobias isn’t exactly one you can lose yourself in, even when you’re not limited to perusing small chunks very slowly. So I’m picking up a book on the side. Something fun and distracting (which I think is as much therapy as any self-evaluation or visualization exercise). I don’t usually read mysteries, but it’s hard to resist one with witches and vampires.
What are you reading these days?
Aspasía S. Bissas
(P.S. If you’d like to see what else I’ve read, check out my Goodreads page.)
You might remember that I’ve shared some of my experiences with anxiety and phobias (here and here, for example). Although I’m not generally a fan of self-help books (which I rarely find helpful), I’ve had this one taking up shelf space for a while and thought it was time to give it a go. Maybe it’ll help (or maybe I’ll end up wishing I’d read a good novel instead).
Speaking of good novels…
(See what I did there?)
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(If you prefer paperback to ebook, you can order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥
Like so many people (especially those of us in creative fields), I struggle with anxiety and depression. Usually it’s manageable (I’ve actually found that some mild anxiety helps me write). Every so often, though, for reasons that aren’t always clear, the scale tips from manageable to overwhelming. If you’ve ever had severe anxiety or depression you know the feeling of deep despair that leaves you searching for a reason to get up in the morning. If you haven’t experienced that kind of bleakness, then consider yourself lucky (and also please don’t give advice on something you don’t understand– it’s never helpful).
The last while has been difficult for me, both on a personal level and because of events in the wider world. It’s no secret that Covid is having a negative effect on many people’s mental health. Just the anxiety of going through a pandemic is enough to cause widespread distress. Add to that economic insecurity; the stresses of quarantine and isolation (or going to work or school when you don’t feel safe); people spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories while displaying zero empathy or intelligence; certain so-called leaders and governments content to let the virus run rampant; and countless other things that are making life scarier and more difficult than it needs to be– and the stage is set for more people than ever struggling mentally and emotionally.
I wish I knew how to break the cycle of depression and anxiety. I do my best to deal by working on it when I can and trying to work around it the rest of the time (with varying levels of success). If you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness or distress, the first thing you should do is see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed– there is help, from support groups to therapeutic techniques to medications, and more.
If you’re in crisis, you can get help right now (always keep your local hotline number nearby).
If you’re not in crisis but are having a hard time and need something to help you through it, here are some things that work for me. It’s a good idea to experiment to find what works best for you.
Read a Book: I know, I suggest this a lot. But a book can help distract you, and provides a feeling of accomplishment when you finish it. Make sure to pick one that interests you, preferably something lighthearted or uplifting. If you’re feeling up to it, try a book designed to help people cope with mental illness (there are many to choose from, but Mind Over Mood is one that’s highly praised by mental health professionals.)
Shower and Get Dressed: It might not seem like much but it can make a noticeable difference to your mood. And if nothing else, you can say you got up and faced the day. On bad days, that’s a major accomplishment.
Leave the House: Many people (myself included) withdraw when they’re depressed, which isn’t helpful. If you’re isolating due to COVID (or feel like you can’t deal with other humans at the moment), go for a walk on your own. Somewhere green and peaceful is ideal.
Get Something Done: Pick a task to complete, no matter how small, and do it. It can be anything that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. To avoid being overwhelmed, keep a short and easy to-do list handy for times like these.
Indulge Yourself: Do something you enjoy (as long as it’s nothing harmful). If you have a tendency to feel guilty about “doing nothing,” then try interspersing the fun with simple, but productive, tasks (see above).
Spend Time with Pets: You’ll both feel better. If you don’t have a pet, try hugging a plushie. Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of a soft doll or pillow.
Avoid Things (and People) that Make You Feel Worse: This won’t work long term, but for a day when you’re already feeling crappy, it’s a necessity.
Write a Letter: Sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to someone you like but haven’t spoken to in a while. Think of some positive things you can share (they can be as simple as a great movie you saw or your thriving houseplant). Or, if you prefer talking to writing, give them a call.
Find the Humour: Being depressed, down, or anxious doesn’t exactly lend itself to laughter, but a bit of dark humour can actually help lighten the mood. Try looking up memes about anxiety or depression, or chatting with a funny friend who gets it. Darkly humorous shows and movies can also be good (I like the 1964 Addams Family TV series, as well as the movies from the early 1990s, and the “Adult Wednesday Addams” series on YouTube.)
Create Coping Cards: This is an idea I got from Unf#ck Your Brain. When you find a technique that works for you, write it down on an index card. When you’re struggling, you’ll have a handy set of coping techniques ready to go. You can even put the cards on a key-ring and keep them with you.
Have you tried any of these? What works for you when you’re having a hard time? Share in the comments…
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: Apologies for the spacing issues–they’re thanks to WordPress’s fabulous new editor that no one asked for. Hopefully such issues will be ironed out over time.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that literally everyone is stressed right now. Most of us are worried about ourselves and our loved ones getting sick or dying. There’s also the not insignificant stress over losing jobs, paying bills, shortages of necessities, keeping kids happy and educated, and being stuck inside for long periods of time (even the introverts are getting stir crazy). Meanwhile, a very special group of people aren’t bothered about any of that because they’re too busy stressing over their stock portfolios. Priorities.
I’ve always been a worrier. I have anxiety and a tendency to get emotionally invested in the world’s problems, even when I can’t do anything about them and they don’t necessarily affect me. Being stressed all the time isn’t fun. In fact, it’s incredibly bad for your health. I’ve tried all the usual suggestions for lowering stress levels: meditation, deep breathing, exercise, yoga, relaxation techniques… Did any of them help? Meh. Some of them actually stress me more (how is being bored supposed to relax anyone?) I’ve also found that things like reading, TV, or hobbies are a good distraction, but aren’t very effective once I stop doing them. I got to the point where I gave up trying to de-stress (which actually helped a little in and of itself).
Then I found something that actually helps. It wasn’t intentional– I started doing it because I had to, kept doing it because I enjoyed it, and then eventually realized it was making me feel better. I don’t remember ever seeing “make plans for the future” as a suggestion for relieving stress, and maybe it’s not something that works for most people, but it’s exactly what I needed.
Because my life’s been in a holding pattern for a while now, I’d stopped planning anything. I figured there was no point until something definite was in motion. That was a mistake. Even though I don’t know where I’ll end up or when I’ll get there (especially with the way things are now, thanks to a certain pandemic), it’s important to think about what might happen, what I’d like to happen, and what I can do to make it happen. Maybe it’s even more important when everything is up in the air. Although there are no rules on how to make plans, this is what’s been working for me…
Figure out what to plan for
Since my SO and I had been intending to move before real estate shut down in Toronto, I’d spent weeks packing (now regretting being so quick to put away most of the books and all the DVDs). From there I naturally started taking stock of things that needed to be repaired/replaced and what we’d need to buy for a new home. And as we started getting an idea of the kind of place we’ll likely end up in, I also started thinking about decorating, something I love doing. I have no idea what kind of space I’ll have to work with, but I’m enjoying thinking about what I might do with it once we’re there. Thinking about decorating has also led me to think about a future garden and just generally what I’d like my life to be like once we move. Maybe it’ll all work out, maybe it won’t– but it’s so much better than not thinking about it at all.
Pick something you can do right away
Because we’ve been in limbo, I’ve put a lot of things off until “after the move.” That’s a good idea to a point, but planning without doing can get frustrating after a while. One of the things I’d planned to do later was take classes. Once self isolating began I decided to go ahead and start taking them right away. So now I’m enrolled in a free online class at The Open University, with plans to take more. Being able to act on some of my plans right away makes me feel like I’m living my life and not just passing time.
Pick something you’ll probably never do
Being practical all the time kills joy, as well as imagination. But if you’re a fairly practical person like I am (no, seriously), making plans for something that can’t or won’t ever happen is a good outlet. I love thinking about the farm I’ll (probably) never have, future home of rescue animals and a huge garden. But as a city person with allergies to everything from hay to sheep and most of what would be in that garden, I’m pretty sure this is a dream that won’t make the transition to reality. And that’s okay. I still find it relaxing to name the donkeys and plan the flower garden and debate whether I should get guard geese.
Lists not only help me organize my thoughts, but I enjoy writing them (and all the people who say lists are bad can mind their business). I add a visual component to my planning by saving pictures and making Pinterest boards. Talking about plans can be fun too, when my SO is feeling cooperative. Anything that keeps my enthusiasm up and helps me refine my ideas becomes part of the process.
The best part about making plans is that a large component of it is daydreaming. You can do it anywhere, even while you’re busy with other things. I think part of the problem with other stress relieving techniques is that they require you to take time out especially for them and focus just on them. Who has time for that? Or more accurately, who wants to spend time on that? I need something I enjoy doing in order to actually de-stress; something that’s easy to do, that I want to do, and is also productive in some way. For me, making plans is all those things.
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