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Crafting for Mental Health and Stress Management During Lockdown

Crafting for Mental Health and Stress Management During Lockdown

Over the 21st century, the discourse surrounding mental health and stress has vastly improved. The fact that there is an open dialogue at all is an essential milestone for humanity.

But there is still progress to make regarding our understanding of mental health as something applicable to every individual. So what is mental health? We all have physical health. Equally, everyone has mental health too.

A mental health quote from the World Health Organization describing ‘what is mental health?’

If we understand that like physical health, we all have mental health; we also appreciate it requires maintenance. Just like eating well and regular exercise helps us stay physically healthy, there are accessible ways to stay mentally healthy.

Creativity, Stress & Mental Health 

Stress levels continue to rise globally, making mental health maintenance even more critical.

People consciously or unconsciously respond to this need by seeking ways to kick-back, unwind, and recover from stressful situations. Yoga, mindfulness, exercise, and laughter are all brilliant ways to achieve this.

But have you also considered accessing your creative side? Studies show an art-making activity like crafting reduces stress and improves mental wellbeing: an area we explore below. We also share a case study highlighting how crafting helped many to cope during the global lockdown.

How Prolonged Stress Affects Mental Health 

According to the Mental Health Foundation’s study, in 2018, 74% of people “felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.” This trend is mirrored (or exacerbated) globally, and the recent pandemic has compounded global stress.

While short bursts of stress are natural and easily handled by our mind/body system, prolonged stress isn’t good for our mental or physical wellbeing. When left unmanaged, stress can cause physical symptoms like:

  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

And can intensify existing mental health conditions or increase the likelihood of:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

With that in mind, one of the most valuable learning opportunities for modern humans is understanding how to manage and build a tolerance to stress.

By doing this, we improve our mental and physical health and increase our resilience in these areas. Meaning our mental health is better prepared for excessively stressful times arising from unpredictable or planned significant life changes such as bereavement, parenthood, redundancy, or a global pandemic.

[Although even the most stress-resilient among us require help and support: in the pursuit of building resilience, remember that asking for help is not failure.]

How Crafting Reduces Stress & Improves Mental Health 

The creatively inclined among us have benefitted first-hand from the positive mental health effects of crafting and creative activities. We just ‘feel’ better for having been creative. The good news is it isn’t just experiential knowledge; science suggests what we are feeling is an empirical reality.

Studies found an art-making activity like crafting can lower cortisol levels, indicating stress reduction/relief in response to creative self-expression. A prescription art scheme in the UK also found “a significant increase in wellbeing” and reduced levels of anxiety and depression in their participants.

An infographic showing how to improve your mental health by crafting

Crafting also helps us access the ‘flow state’ because, much like mindfulness, it requires our total concentration: reminding us to be in the present moment.

When we are in the ‘flow,’ our brain releases mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, reducing stress and improving depression.

Plus, when we are so focused on one thing, it is harder for our minds to engage in negative self-talk-- providing a much-needed break from our inner critic.

Lockdown Case Study: Mental Health Quotes About Crafting 

When lockdown hit (aka an unpredictable and significant life change) in 2020, for many, crafting became a way to maintain positive mental health and reduce stress.

Here’s what some of our blogging partners had to say about crafting for mental health during the lockdown.

Lavania Olewa Oluban:

“During lockdown, I ended up spending a lot more time on my phone, using social media to stay connected with other people and constantly check the news for updates, and so I made a conscious effort to distract myself. Immersing my energy into crafts and projects forced me to put my phone to one side, and I was using my hands to hold crochet hooks or a paintbrush. 
This gave me the pause I needed to refocus and re-energize. Plus, it helped to have all sorts of bright and colourful craft projects decorate whilst staying at home.” 

A mental health quote from a blogger describing how crafting helped them cope during the lockdown.

Jennifer Royle:

“Crafting really stopped me going stir crazy during lockdown because it’s one of the few ways to occupy yourself without leaving the house! All you need are a few supplies and a bit of inspiration. I taught myself to knit during the first lockdown, and since then, I’ve really enjoyed developing this skill to make all sorts of knitted toys for my nephews. It’s been great for them as well as me!”

Shyla Elza:

“Crafting has helped me stay busy and feel purposeful during the lockdown. I especially love making candles because the aromas calm my nerves.”

Data-Driven Craft Project Inspiration to Improve Your Mental Health

On the data front, when the lockdown first hit in March 2020, we began to notice a surge in crafting-related product sales. This ultimately translated to a 113% increase in unique product purchases between March 19, 2019 - March 25, 2020, and March 19, 2020 - March 25, 2021.

The five most popular products sold during lockdown (by a significant margin) were:

  1. The Christmas Mega Craft Bundle 2
  2. The Christmas Craft Bundle Volume 4
  3. The Mega Craft Bundle XIII
  4. The Mega Craft Bundle XV
  5. The Best Sellers Craft Bundle 3

These products are all variants of our craft bundles, suggesting that crafting was a go-to creative activity for people during the lockdown. If we take The Mega Craft Bundle XIII as an example of general crafting, some of the items included were:

  • Various SVG files
  • Backgrounds and paint swatches to pair with SVG's (for sublimation)
  • Single line designs
  • Sticker sets
  • Embroidery sets

So people who bought this product had an interest in crafting with digital cutting devices, sublimation, scrapbooking, and embroidery. Which are great ways to reduce anxiety and access the ‘flow state.’

Final Thoughts: Crafting Campaigns With Consciousness 

Inspired by the lockdown data on loneliness, hearing first-hand accounts from the crafting community, and after experiencing an increase in unique product sales, we wanted to give back. We aimed to produce a series of campaigns with consciousness to help facilitate crafting for mental health during this unprecedented time.

A mental health quote about loneliness from the Office for National Statistics

A particular favorite was our February mission to “share the love” and promote positive mental health by combating loneliness through crafting and acts of kindness. We shared boxes full of charity resources, SVGs, files, templates, and ideas to help spread joy around Valentine’s and onwards.

Promoting positive mental health by combating loneliness through crafting and acts of kindness

The intention was to help combat loneliness and encourage people to spread some smiles by sharing the love. We encouraged people to get creative by making decorations, cards, and baking.

We thank the masses of people who took inspiration from the campaign and shared the love: whether that was getting crafty with the kids and dropping off their creations at a family member’s doorstep, decorating your front door to spread cheer in the community, or sending a homemade card to a neighbor.

Together we Shared. The. Love.

P.s. If you are interested in learning more about crafting techniques to help manage stress or anxiety, check out our blog for helpful tips and tricks.

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