January 30, 2013

Busy Hands Relieve Anxiety

Many times, when addicts are anxious, I encourage them to do something constructive with their hands. This may be knitting, needlepoint, doodling, drawing – literally anything that will keep their hands busy. Busy hands relieve anxiety and create a quiet mind.

When I was early in my recovery, I had a terrible time sitting still. I was anxious and fidgeted, and I didn’t really get a lot out of interactions I had with others because I was too nervous and upset to pay much attention to what was being said. I noticed, in the support groups I attended, that many of the women present would crochet, knit, or cross-stich while others spoke. By the way they joined in the conversation, it was clear that they were paying attention, even as they worked. I decided that I would try what worked for them. I began to take a needlepoint class once a week. At the class, I would work on a project and then do my “homework” while I was out and about. I would take my needlework everywhere I might sit for a little while – from the doctor’s office to my support group. And you know what, it worked! I found myself much more able to focus on what was being said when my hands were busy than when they were not.

I found that needlework was both healing and calming. It was a sort of meditation that I could do to get my mind quiet, so that I could pay attention to what was going on around me. It also gave me a safe way to connect with others. Those around me were always interested in my work and the progress I was making on my projects. In all these ways, doing something constructive with my hands was not only a pleasure, but a tool for recovery.

There are other strategies we use to deal with anxiety.

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