Self-Care Corner: Knitting
By Kimberly Grimaldi, RN, BS, BScN, NSWOC, WOCC(C)
All around us the importance of self-care and mental health are spoken about, but as we all know, nurses are much better at giving advice than following it.
This little spot in the newsletter is to try and look at the different forms of self-care NSWOCC members engage in to make sure we can keep caring for others. Remember, sometimes taking care of yourself is doing nothing at all, and that is okay too.
In this issue I am going to speak about knitting. A quick search of the terms knitting and anxiety brings up many articles discussing the role of knitting in decreasing anxiety, stress and pain. It is used as part of therapy, to help with coping and grief. A favourite memory of mine is getting together with a small group from my job at the time to work on our knitting (or other crafty projects). The beginning of our sessions were generally used to vent about work, before we just naturally drifted to other more pleasant topics, and if for some reason you were not feeling particularly chatty it was okay to just sit and work on your project, sip your tea, and listen to everyone else around you talking. In this way we could discuss what was bothering us with other nurses who understood where we were coming from, have some company, and when we finished a project we had something we could physically take away from the experience. Also, since it was always on a particular day at a particular time, we purposefully set aside time for ourselves and checked on each other if someone missed a lot of sessions to make sure they were okay. I was living alone and far from family at the time, and these sessions helped me so much with the feeling of isolation and burnout I was experiencing.
That is the beauty of something like knitting, you can do it by yourself at home, carry it around with you to have something to do if you commute via public transport, or join a group if you are seeking a group activity, and meet with people in person or online to talk about something you have in common.
Knitting is a hobby that can take as much time and financial investments as you are willing to provide. Yarn and knitting needles can be picked up everywhere from the local dollar or thrift stores to specialty yarn and craft stores, online or in person, or you can makeshift with things around the house, such as two similarly sized pencils and some string, if you really do not want to invest anything more than time at the moment.
I suggest if you are just starting to get a thicker yarn and try to avoid black or white yarn as it is harder to see the stitches with those colours or smaller sizes of yarn. Using a larger yarn, also allows for the use of larger knitting needles, which will also make it easier to see what you are doing when you first start out.
From there, a plethora of YouTube videos or online (paid) courses are available for those who prefer to teach themselves, or most independent yarn stores and some libraries have nights where people get together to knit and are more than happy to assist a new knitter with learning the difference between knit and purl stitches. Some yarn stores will also offer classes to teach you how to knit either privately or in a small group setting.
Don’t worry about your first pieces being perfect, it takes a while to figure out tension and not picking up or dropping random stitches, and you will frog many projects when you first start (so go for the cheaper yarns at first, because you will end up throwing some out when getting ripped out multiple times causes it to fray).
Once you learn how to cast on and off, you can stop at learning how to just do the knit and purl stitches and make many things out of just those two stitches (scarves for everyone) or you can keep exploring different patterns of different difficulties, as everything else is pretty much based on those four skills.
Well, that’s my little blurb about knitting, I am hoping that some of you will feel comfortable to send in some information about what you do to help decrease your stress and provide some self-care, and send us pictures, or recommend something for the membership group to try out. I’d love to see other people’s knitting and craft projects, especially if you have a furry helper.
For those of you who are looking for ways to reduce stress and increase wellness, the NSWOCC website has a page dedicated to wellness resources, it can be found at https://www.nswoc.ca/wellness.