This has been a pretty chill week here on the blog, hasn't it? Wish lists and Mother's Day shopping ideas aren't the most serious of my content, I know - so I thought today I'd get back to my mental wellness roots and share one of the things I've recently realized is most helpful to me when I'm stressed, anxious, or just needing something to do to keep myself from ruminating - or panicking, depending on the situation.
Actually, I realized it accidentally - I was just hanging out in the quiet, and I realized how totally relaxed I was, doing what I was doing (knitting). Then I looked around and started to really notice how many of my favorite coping methods utilize this one thing: Repetitive action.
When I went into therapy, the first thing my therapist recommended to me was bilateral tapping - a method for dealing with anxiety that involves literally tapping in a left-right-left pattern. So it can be as simple as tapping your left toe on the floor, then your right, and so on - or your fists on your thighs, etc. This is probably part of why taking a walk works so well for anxiety/depression issues - why we "walk it off." It works in more subtle ways too; if anxiety hits me while I'm driving and I don't have my fidget cube on me, then I can just squeeze my left hand on the steering wheel, followed by the right, back and forth. I don't know why it works but it does. This works in stores too, when I'm feeling overcrowded - only using the cart handle instead of the steering wheel.
There's definitely something to the bilateral nature of it, too; just tapping my left (or right) hand over and over doesn't work nearly as well, which is probably why my favorite side of my fidget cube is the light-switch side; I hold the cube between both hands, turning it "on" with my left finger and "off" with the right. (NOTE: For the sake of not passing my anxiety on to others, I don't click the light-switch unless I'm alone because it does make an audible clicking sound - when I'm with other people, I tend to use more subtle coping mechanisms, which is where tapping comes in. It works when other methods don't or can't be accessed.)
HONESTY ALERT: While I'm trying to write this post about dealing with anxiety, my youngest ADHDer is currently bouncing all over the room, chattering nonstop - which is one of the things that seriously triggers me. Sometimes I end up so jazzed from trying to keep myself together that I literally end up shaking - or crying. Sometimes she can manage to settle herself with some guidance - other times, her motor runs until she exhausts herself and everyone else around her. So if this post makes pretty much no sense and isn't nearly as well-written as the ones I write while she's at school, forgive me. In the meantime, please don't waste your time telling me about my options - she's very closely monitored and is on multiple medications to manage her issues, and they work as well as they can. If you'd like to tell me how all she needs is a good spanking, let me go ahead and be clear - I am a strong mother who totally believes in the power of corporal punishment. My daughter does not lack either gentle guidance or stern discipline. She is familiar with the word "no," and is fully cognizant of what a spanking is. If you'd like to argue the validity of ADHD as a diagnosis, feel free to meet me in a back alley somewhere, because this Mama Bear don't play.
Anyway, repetitive action.
I like to knit and I enjoy hand sewing - even though I'm AWFUL at it and everything I ever sew always comes apart for some reason - and I even like to cross stitch. I love beading when my eyes cooperate with me, handwriting, coloring, woodworking. Sanding. I like painting.
While most of these things are not really bilateral, ALL of these things are meditative in their repetitive action. Knitting is simple - there are literally only two basic stitches and you just work them one after the other until you're done. Sewing is the same - the needle just goes into the fabric over and over again until you've got something you can hold up and shake out and be proud of.
Even the video games I tend to play are repetitive like this: Fashion Story, Farm Story. MahJong, Cross Stitch World. JetPack JoyRide.
Lately, Cross Stitch World is my favorite - it's meant to be digitized cross-stitching, but for me it feels more like a digital color-by-number sort of thing, not terribly engaging but relaxing all the same. I like it quite a lot; you're just filling in blocks of color, bit by bit, over and over, and it's very relaxing. Eden has fallen in love with it also.
And once I got to thinking about all that, it wasn't much of a stretch for me to realize that even the more mentally engaging activities I like are also heavily repetitive:
- crochet - like knitting but with more stitch variety
- word search
- twirling my rings
- surfing the web (click, scroll, read, repeat)
The really interesting bit is that when I'm not anxious/stressed, these things tend to bore me.
Do you find repetitive action to be soothing or relaxing? If so, what works best for you?
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