Knitting for Anxiety
How to find sweet inner peace through knitting (and share it with your community)
Anxiety sucks really bad.
I used to have a really hard time being alone. My mind would spin around in cycles of self-deprecating, fearful fantasies that usually weren’t even grounded in reality. Sometimes those thoughts were specific, but most of the time they were aimed at nothing. It seemed that if I sat still by myself long enough, my brain would find a way to paralyze me in an anxious stir. But it was a pretty easy problem to solve in the short term. Just call up some friends! Go out for drinks! Do yoga! Do literally anything with other humans until it’s time to pass out! It was a fine band-aid to my anxiety problem for a little while.
I would go so long without isolation that I thought I was healed, until those random Sundays where I’d wake up without brunch/hike/climbing plans and it felt like a death sentence. I’d text every human I knew within a 5 mile radius BUT THEY ALREADY HAD BRUNCH PLANS WITH THEIR BOO or whatever and nobody else is texting me and what if this is it FOREVER and now I’m the LOSER who doesn’t have anyone to hang out with on a Sunday and and AND! That feeling was the worst. And it was a totally pointless and unproductive way to spend my own energy against my own self.
Apparently hiking is really awesome for anxiety.
Then one day I was supposed to go on a hike with a friend. They bailed on me. I was going to just stay at home and find someone else to hang out with, but then I was like “Fuck it! I’ll just go hike alone.” It ended up being super amazing, and I even started kind of dancing a little bit at one point because I felt so happy and empowered and free.
My mind wasn’t getting stuck in negative loops…it was actually doing the opposite! I was working through some old stuff from my past, thinking through plans for my future, even just fantasizing about how awesome my year could be if I did X, Y, Z. It was weird, because I was just as “alone” as I was when I was in my apartment on a Sad Sunday, but the context of my alone-ness seemed to change everything about how I spent that time with myself internally.
But then when I got back home and was all alone again, the darkness returned. I thought I was cured, dammit, but I guess not. I started to think about the repetitive task of walking and how it changed my inner conversation—how could I bring that same vibe into my every day life without having to go into the woods for hours and hours?
Meditation can be awesome for the same reasons.
I realized it’s kinda what people are doing when they meditate. They isolate themselves, and focus on each breath, one by one. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. So when I felt that anxiety returning, I started to meditate on the hiking trail. I’d close my eyes and think of each step. Step, step, step, step, step, step…I’d imagine the crunchy sound of the leaves or sunbeams coming in through the leaves and warming up parts of my legs like little soft tender laser beams.
It was working! I was learning how to manage my inner voice and get more comfortable with aloneness. It took a lot of practice, as anything does, but eventually I found myself saying no to things in favor of a night in by myself. Weird! Who is this new Linda?! I like her! Let’s she what else she’s got!
Creating the first ever Feminists of all genders Ueno knitting party
I started searching for other hobbies that could imitate the long hike or meditation. What’s repetitive and simple (enough) and rewarding? Oh yeah, knitting! I’ve heard of that.
I got myself a starter kit from WATG and spent an evening teaching myself some basic yarn stuff. Holy shit! There it was! It was the perfect hobby to mimic the long hike. I spent a whole night all by myself and didn’t have a single negative thought that wasn’t yarn related.
I started knitting every night before bed and was getting really excited to share this new thing with other people. I had not only learned how to do stuff with yarn, but I was becoming an expert at enjoying my own company. I got so into it that I had to start using it as a reward for doing chores. “Ok I’ll let myself knit tonight ONLY if I get all the dishes done and laundry put away…” Wow. I’m realizing how cool I sound right now (in case you didn’t put it together yet, I was definitely the horse-drawing nerd in elementary school). But yeah, I was pretty stoked to share this new hobby with other people.
I started bringing it up with other people, because sometimes we validate our interests by finding others who are also interested and that’s O.K., and they were like “Yeah totally I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit, too.” Sweet.
And the more I thought about it the more I wanted to create a group activity. I wanted to invite people from our community to come and learn with me. And since I work at the super duper Ueno I figured I should obviously just host it there.
So blam! We organized our event and opened it to the community. People actually showed up! And we had a really great time together. Everyone was figuring it out and taking turns helping one another. It made me so happy ❤
And I think the other people were happy too, at least they look happy in the photos we took last night.
We will probably continue knitting at Ueno, where you are all more than welcome to join us (stay tuned on the Twitter). And in the meantime, I strongly recommend doing Yarn Stuff on your own or with friends as a way to combat anxiety.
Oh, and by the way. We are looking for amazing people to join us at Ueno. We have a lot of cool job openings, like this one, heading up our Brand department, how cool is that? Ok, maybe you’re not in to that, maybe you want to be the best senior feminist developer in the world! Or maybe you want to move to Iceland? Anyway, whatever it is you want to do, I’m sure you’ll find a cool job if you browse through our openings.