Something cool to worry over?
February 15, 2018 7:14 PM   Subscribe

Like everyone, my anxiety has been harder to manage lately. I realize that having something productive to work on or puzzle out with my hands has been really helpful. I am not really into crocheting or knitting... any ideas for things I could try out?

I've been doing all the things you're supposed to do and they kind of work:

- regular exercise
- healthy diet
- regulated/minimized social media and internet
- meditation
- drinking water

So, I'm doing my best. But I woke up all anxious in the middle of the night last night, and I decided to try to listen to a podcast to quiet my mind without waking my partner up. I picked up a pair of horribly tangled headphones and found to my surprise, that focusing on untangling them calmed me down and I went right to sleep without even needing them!

This made me think that something fun to focus on in this way might really help me sleep or just work out some of my anxiety. My first thought was crocheting or knitting, but to be honest, that doesn't particularly appeal to me. I have a few "adult coloring books for anxiety" which have been nice, but I feel kind of dorky using them. I have thought about sketching, but I don't really have drawing skills and I have that irritating "what should I draw?" problem.

Ideally it would be:

But I'm also wondering if there's a whole world of things I could try that I'm not thinking of. So, I come to you for some hive mind realness. I'm also open to sketching and knitting but am not sure where to even begin, so suggestions for where to start with those would also be welcome.
posted by pazazygeek to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (28 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
English Paper Piecing! The link is to a blogspot page with a good overview. It is perfectly portable, quiet and productive and really really satisifying watching your project grow.

I am super obsessed myself now and have various projects in different stages, depending how I feel and how portable I want to be.
posted by kitten magic at 7:18 PM on February 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

I play silly games on my phone for this purpose. Solitaire, Farmville, nothing too strategic...and usually start nodding off while playing....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:20 PM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

How about finding a few little crafts and making gifts. I love making gifts - even WAY ahead of time. It's super satisfying and it feels awesome to have a homemade gift for someone instead of worrying about when birthday/christmas/other holiday comes along.

I like these.

I also love little felt ornaments.

I am also in love with these kinds of things.
posted by beccaj at 7:25 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Embroidering. It's like coloring with thread.
posted by ilovewinter at 7:26 PM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Cross stitching is lots of fun and serves that exact purpose for me.
posted by cholly at 8:02 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Definitely try knitting. Get some chunky yarn and size 7 or larger needles and watch a you tube video on casting on, knitting, and purling. So addictive but meditative. Seconding embroidery. Not at all quiet but Magnus organ by numbers uses the hands in a musical way without requiring skill.
posted by red chip blue chip at 8:04 PM on February 15, 2018

I will continue to recommend unit/modular origami. Some can get quite complicated but there are simple models. Mostly, you fold several of the same "unit" and then combine them together. (I like Tomoko Fuse's Unit Origami, but I think it's out of print, but there are others).

Origami in general is great, but I've found the repetitive nature of this to be helpful. And for me, combining the units into one form helps release my stress (although it is its own kind of stress).
posted by darksong at 8:09 PM on February 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

Riffing on hand work/puzzle:

Coin manipulation tricks
Pen manipulation tricks
String tricks
Knot tying
Throwing cards
Coin stacking
Cup stacking
Plaiting and braiding
Artistic fruit cutting
Bread making

Really, there’s a zillion things to do with your hands, my advice is work on finding what’s fun and relaxing first, fiddle with ‘productive’ once you’ve found a conceptual or practical space you like. Given the headphone anecdote, I bet you would enjoy some of the arts and crafts involving cordage especially. Finger knitting, decorative knots, decorate lashings, etc. Or just get some nice cord, cut it into chunks, tumble, untangle, repeat :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:36 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

This may sound like an odd suggestion, but you could join the yarn detangling group on Ravelry. Knitters mail masses of knotted yarn balls to those who hate to knit but love to untangle yarn. Sometimes you get paid, sometimes detanglers do it out of the kindness of their hearts.
posted by xyzzy at 8:40 PM on February 15, 2018 [28 favorites]

I like to take online classes from my local (awesome!!) community college. The syllabus structure is soothing, you can work on it anytime, it’s portable, and such a great diversion for the mind! I took an online biology class with a lab last semester while traveling and there were a lot of interesting hands on labs too!
posted by cakebatter at 8:41 PM on February 15, 2018

Thanks to a previous similar question here, I bought a fairly intricate, meant-for-adults paint-by-numbers kit. It's been awesome. It's something mindless I can do while listening to podcasts. It feels "productive" in the sense that you can see your progress. It doesn't require any real skill, besides staying in the lines (and if you don't, no big deal), and it didn't require me to learn anything or become dextrous in way I'm not. (Non-dexterity would frustrate me and defeat the point).

I've intended to buy more of them, but I still haven't finished the first one I bought in November or December. And I've raced through a bunch of podcasts. It's been a really sustaining, fun, quiet thing that's calmed me down.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:45 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Came to suggest origami and saw that it has already been done. I agree, the modular origami is perfect for this kind of thing - I learnt so much patience and calmness from doing these! Here are some examples with links to the sources. I have her books on floral globes (which I have used so much) and unit polyhedra (which I really should actually attempt) and they're amazing, but there's lots of modular origamists out there. Also came to suggest cross-stitch, but that too has been done.

Jigsaw puzzles are satisfying as well in the sense of taking a jumbled set of things and straightening them out into a beautiful and well-ordered whole. I like the colours and the tactile aspects of sifting through the pieces, plunking pieces into place. Much better than online jigsaw puzzles which are just nowhere near as good.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:59 PM on February 15, 2018

I think you should make those embroidery floss friendship bracelets that were all the rage among summer campers in the ‘80s. I’m not sure it’s actually productive, but I remember it being repetitive and relaxing, plus picking out color combinations is fun.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:09 PM on February 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

Along the lines of friendship bracelets, lanyard braiding is similarly absorbing - you can do it with brightly-colored plastic lace or leather lace of various colors if you want something subtler. (For added challenge, make a lanyard stitch with embroidery floss - you get a very densely-woven cord with an interesting pattern, and it feels nicer to the hand than plastic.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:44 PM on February 15, 2018

a Rubiks cube and a book on how to do them
I can do half of it by muscle memory now and it's v satisfying
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 9:51 PM on February 15, 2018

Adult coloring books and really nice fine-point markers or colored pencils. Bonus points for storytelling type coloring books (I have a few of these and they're great).
posted by erst at 10:38 PM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you make small pieces, paper mosaic art might fill this need (one artist's cool examples here). I used to make these and would just carry a folder with my piece, some colorful magazine pages, sharp scissors and a glue stick and work on it wherever. It's absorbing and stress relieving, or was for me.
posted by centrifugal at 11:12 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I took my mandala coloring book a step further and made stop-motion videos of coloring.

It was fun to figure out which colored pencils worked the best, which (inexpensive) camera was the best, how to do the lighting, etc.
posted by bendy at 11:20 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I made a quilt out of worn-out cotton shirts and am working on a sequel.

You take something like a saucer and draw circles and cut them out. You sew around the edge of the circles and pull, creating a "Suffolk puff." You sew the yoyos together. Then you have a hideous, but warm if you layered it under something, because full of air pockets, or summery cool if you used it alone, yoyo quilt. Consult YouTube for better explanation.

The quilt doesn't necessarily have to be hideous; you could buy fabric and plan a pattern. I don't have the patience for that, though, so I aim for hideous, and so far I have not been disappointed. Your stitches are concealed, so you don't have to be particularly good at handsewing, which is a definite bonus.

My yoyos are all different sizes. I use a dessert plate, a highball glass, and a juice glass and sew the resulting different-sized yoyos together in different combos. It's highly absorbing, very portable, and, if you don't buy special fabric, pretty cheap. The only purchase I've made has been handquilting thread.
posted by Don Pepino at 3:48 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

This may not be as physically involved and productive as you'd like, but I find that doing crossword puzzles is great for my anxiety.
posted by ferret branca at 5:08 AM on February 16, 2018

A Nintendo switch with Zelda Breath Of The Wild?
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:12 AM on February 16, 2018

I love quilling! Haven’t done it in years, but enjoyed it when I had the time.

Also love the idea above about yarn detangling! I’ve never heard of that before, and I’m tempted to check it out myself!
posted by amro at 5:46 AM on February 16, 2018

Paper models! Inexpensive (you need paper, access to a printer, a craft knife, and glue), as simple or difficult as you want them to be, and you can make a wide variety of things. You can display the finished product for a while and then, when you want to make more, just recycle the original ones.
posted by darchildre at 8:21 AM on February 16, 2018

If you like drawing-type stuff, you might enjoy Zentangle. If you Google or go on Pinterest, you'll find tons of info on how to do different, cool patterns. You can also just do your own thing if you don't feel like expending the mental energy to learn someone else's pattern.

In a similar vein something I like to do when I can't think of anything to draw is to divide my paper into random shapes using a loose scribble like this and then using colored pencil to fill in the little shapes with color, patterns, etc. Sometimes the shape of one of the spaces will suggest an object, for example I might turn an oval into a leaf, or a fish, or there might be a shape that looks like a tree. It's a lot lower pressure than trying to get an idea up-front of what to draw.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Braided t-shirt rugs! As for productive, you could call around to local animal shelters or rescues and see if they could use them for sleeping mats for the animals.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 10:50 AM on February 16, 2018

I came in to say crosswords...they work wonders for me.

Also, though not productive per se, sometimes I like to just get out a pack of cards and shuffle them over and. I can do it without thinking about it (until they somehow all end up on the floor). Somehow it's very satisfying, and very low stakes. Also, you can sort them by suit, etc, or play solitaire.

Do you have any pets that need/like being brushed?

Oh, there's also beading of various kind or making beads or other items out of sculpey clay.

And now I'm thinking about Legos.
posted by Archipelago at 11:57 AM on February 16, 2018

Well it's not exactly productive but... Words With Friends is a good way to concentrate on something in order to take your mind off of other stuff. I currently have 23 games going.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:26 PM on February 16, 2018

Tiny magnetic beads.
posted by mcbeth at 3:53 PM on February 16, 2018

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