Sunday, April 30, 2017

Self-Care Sunday: Repetitive Action

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
  • sudoku
  • 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?

For more great content like this, including fiction works and other exclusive rewards, support me on Patreon!

36 comments:

  1. I wish I knew how to knit. I tried to teach myself and failed. It's amazing how hard it is to find someone to actually teach you how to knit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a shame we don't live closer - I could teach you!

      Delete
    2. It really is I so want to learn

      Delete
    3. Maybe one day we'll get the chance to hang out and I'll show you.

      Delete
  2. Keeping my hands busy while not overworking my brain has always helped me with anxiety! These are some good suggestions to try!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I hope they work as well for you as they tend to for me.

      Delete
  3. Im still looking for that one thing that works best for me. great list

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Good luck finding the best thing to help you - I know it has been a huge relief to me to be able to find something that helps me deal.

      Delete
  4. Knitting is such a calming influence for me. I think that taking a step back to slow down has helped with stress and feelings of being overwhelmed lately. It isn't always possible, but it is certainly nice when it happens!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For sure! Taking time to relax makes a big difference to me too.

      Delete
  5. I had no idea crocheting could be so helpful, but I totally understand why it would be!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's just something about the rhythmic motion of it that's very soothing. I learned from my grandmother when I was little, and have loved it ever since.

      Delete
  6. People love repetition so repetitive action can be quite relaxing. You just have to make sure that repetition does not become a compulsion, which is in no way relaxing lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For sure! For me though, the repetition is sort of meditative - the movement keeps my hands busy so I can clear my head.

      Delete
  7. I never thought about the connection between tapping bilaterally and walking! Also, I like to do cross stitch. It's a great combo of repitition and thinking that helps me relax.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's my favorite thing about any repetitive hobby - the way the movement allows me to get into my head and clear out the garbage.

      Delete
  8. I love to crochet. I just started a year ago and it has really helped me deal with my anxiety. I feel proud of the work I am able to accomplish in just a short time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For sure, especially with small projects or projects that can be done in quick parts (like motifs or granny squares) that are pieced together later. Plus, you end up with great pieces for your home!

      Delete
  9. This is an interesting concept I've never heard of before. Doing repetitive action is always great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well it's the same even with simpler things like the most meditation concepts. "Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out." Repetition.

      Delete
  10. For me keeping myself busy and surrounded with whatever i like is to de stress.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love combing my daughter's hair and that relaxes me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too! My oldest won't let me play with her hair often anymore though, because too much fussing tends to make her curls frizz. But my little one has thick hair that's totally pin-straight, and she'll still let me brush it now and again, or play around with braiding it.

      Delete
  12. Bilateral tapping sounds like a very interesting means of dealing with anxiety. I can see how repetition can calm nerves and sooth anxiety . I think that activities such as word searches and Sudoku really help me. Great post!

    http://prettyfitfoodie.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It definitely works! And we (my daughters and I) like word searches and things like that as well. My oldest is sort of a math whiz, so she likes number puzzles and logic stuff, whereas my youngest daughter and I both tend to prefer word play and spelling challenges like anagrams and things like that. Glad you liked the post!

      Delete
  13. This is very interesting, I have never heard before about repetition easing anxiety. For me to relax, I enjoy cooking and crafts :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But look at those things, and see how repetitive they can be. You get into a routine, even if it isn't the exact same motions. Cooking, for example. Measuring the ingredients, adding them. Then what? Stir, check, wait. Stir, check, wait. Repetition.

      Delete
  14. I used to work on small electronics for many hours and I loved the repetitive movements. It was calming like meditation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! That's why it works so well, I think. You get into a sense of muscle memory after a while, where you don't have to pay quite as much attention to what your hands are doing. So you're still DOING something, but since it doesn't require concentration, it allows the mind to calm a bit, clear out, and rest.

      Delete
  15. I haven't tried repetition for self care. You put together a really good list. I need to try them out and get goof at them! I usually cook or lie down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I hope some of these things work for you.

      I can't go to bed or be too still when I'm anxious - that gives me too much space for thinking.

      Delete
  16. Repetitive movement is relaxing. I always do that with my feet. I don't know why, but it relaxes my body and sometime it promotes sleepiness at times when I can't sleep.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That works for me too - in the event that I can't get my hands busy, just fidgeting a little sometimes works. I've written a post about that, actually: Get The Fidgets

      Delete
  17. You know what, I think I'm the opposite. I find accomplishing things to be soothing, so, for me, doing the same thing over and over again doesn't work. It does for my husband, though, so I totally see where you're coming from!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I never really thought about repetitive action to help with anxiety. I know when i begin to get anxious about something I tend to try to do something proactive to take my mind off of it, such as knitting or sewing! You have some really great tips though, thanks!

    ReplyDelete

Like this post? Leave me a comment - and don't forget to check "notify me" so you'll get an alert when I reply!

REAL CHARACTERS. HONEST LOVE. BRANDI KENNEDY BOOKS.