It’s the season for giving, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take some time to tend to ourselves, right? In fact, it’s vital that we do- especially for those in early recovery. Taking care of yourself enables you to be in a position to take care of others. Don’t run yourself ragged or stretch yourself so thin that you turn to old, unhealthy habits to cope with the stress!
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Self-care is different for everyone, but if you are the crafty, artistic type (or you want to try something new!) incorporating arts into your self-care regimen keeps it fun. To help you out, here’s a list of 15 DIY therapeutic craft projects!
Aromatherapy with Essential Oils
As a holistic treatment for addiction recovery, aromatherapy has been proven to promote relaxation and aid in meditation and self-reflection. While typically aromatics are blended by a professional or found in stores, you can create your own personal blends with a little research and practice. Be forewarned though: while you can ingest essential oils for things like headaches and stomachaches, do not attempt to do so unless you have done thorough research about the benefits and risks involved.
If you’re new to blending essential oils, try these:
Lavender oil to promote peace and tranquility.
Lemon oil acts as a mood booster
Chamomile oil for relaxation
Jasmine oil a mild antidepressant
Want to get into a unique crafting project that you can wear? Try wire wrapping! Go grab a few spools of soft metals and get creative! Rather you’re following a specific design or just allowing your artistic side take over, wire wrapping forces one to focus on a physical task, drawing attention away from negative thoughts and urges.
Incorporating jewels or stones into your designs makes them more interesting- wear them as jewelry or pin them to a bag or jacket. That unique statement piece can be a conversation starter, leading to new connections and friendships. Check out Pinterest and YouTube for ideas and inspiration for this DIY therapeutic craft project!
We all need a mood boost every now and again- so why fill a jar with happiness for your gloomy days? A happiness jar is a great little project for keeping your focus on the things you are happy about or grateful for. Leave yourself little reminders of your favorite memories, notes with your favorite uplifting quotes or song lyrics, or other trinkets. Add something to your happiness jar as often as possible; find something to be grateful for in everyday.
Keep your happiness jar at hand for the not-so great days. Use it to distract yourself and help alleviate negativity. While it may not be a magical cure, but it can help you navigate the deeper waters. You can do the same for your friends and family members! Create a happiness jar for each of them so they know they are appreciated!
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We’ve all see them in stores like Target or Wal-Mart: it a journal specifically meant to be destroyed. Each page has a different task to help you process your negative emotions in a healthy manner. However, you don’t have to go out and spend $15 just to destroy the product in the end- make your own! Personalize your wreck-it journal and keep it handy for when you need it.
How does a wreck-it journal work? Putting your negative thoughts and feelings on paper, then destroying it is cathartic. Tear the pages, cut them, burn them (safely), or otherwise destroy the representation of those unhealthy feelings. The physical aspects of this DIY therapeutic craft project helps you let go of things that may be holding back your recovery such as grudges, regret, and resentment. Getting past those outward feelings of distress or anger helps you get to addressing the roots of the emotional distress to prevent relapse.
This ancient Japanese poetry form focuses on expressing a single thought, concept, or emotion. Some people shy away from it because of the strict rules involved in writing a haiku: three lines restricted to a syllable count of 5, 7, and 5 respectively. But it’s those very restrictions that makes writing haiku poetry such a good therapy project! Limited down to your syllable count, you are forced to keep your expression as raw and simple as possible. It negates the complications of other forms of writing where sentences run away from you and the end product isn’t what you wanted.
Use haikus when your emotions are muddled and overwhelming; it forces you to focus and reflect on one feeling at a time, allowing for a systematic approach to dealing with them. This creative coping mechanism keeps the temptation to turn back to old habits at a minimum while still allowing you to release those pent up emotions.
One of the most spiritually and physically beautiful meditation practices to come from Japan is that of the Zen garden. By focuses all your physical and mental energy on the task of tending to a zen garden, you relax and enter a state of serenity. The repetitive, continuous motion of raking the gravel and placing the stones into precise patterns is satisfying and perfect for staving off anxiety and promoting peace within.
While a traditional zen garden is comparable in size to a traditional flower garden, if you don’t have the space to dedicate to such a thing it’s fine! You can build your own zen garden cheaply using a small, shallow box, pebbles, and a mini raking device. Get even more creative by adding soothing colors like cool blues and greens. As a DIY therapeutic craft project, creating a zen garden may take a bit more time, effort, and money, but the payoff of mental clarity is definitely worth it.
This is my favorite way to let off some steam or work through a bit of angst: free-form painting! All you need for this project is paint (I prefer watercolors), good canvas or paper (make sure it has enough tooth to hold the paint), and creativity! Free-form painting is much more about the emotion going into your work than creating a concrete image. Think Jackson Pollock and you get the general idea. Splatter, splash, flick, and slash the paint onto page in any way you see fit- it’s for you, after all!
Expounding you pent up energy and emotions through painting protects your ongoing sobriety by not allowing those negative things to fester in your mind and spirit. Deal with them before they become a threat to your recovery journey.
This is similar to the happiness jar with a twist- the goal of this DIY therapeutic craft project is to create a tool you can utilize if you have problems with anxiety and panic attacks. Calming jars are proven to help people cope with overwhelming situations or emotions, specifically those on the autism spectrum or diagnosed with anxiety disorders- but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful for everyone!
Making a calming jar is simple:
- Get a jar or tall water bottle and some glitter glue in your favorite color(s).
- Combine the glue and hot water in a disposable bowl and whisk with a plastic fork until the glue dissolves.
- Slowly pour the mixture into your container and allow the water to cool before fastening the top. For extra security, glue the cap shut with a bit of superglue.
Yet another ancient practice from Japan, origami promotes focus and self-reflection through the repetition- much like zen gardening. Focusing on the hands and the act of folding paper into the intended design serves as a distraction and a meditative practice. If you are new to origami, start simply: we all know how to do an airplane, right? Work your way up to more intricate designs through tutorials on YouTube or Pinterest.
Just like with wire wrapping, the things your create through origami also serve as gifts for loved ones! Show them your appreciation for their support through your art. They will appreciate the thought and effort that goes into your work. Otherwise, use your origami skills to make funky decorations for the holidays or everyday!
This DIY therapeutic craft project require just a bit more effort than the others, but it’s worth it. Rather you buy some simple molding clay from your local craft store or dedicate time to taking classes, sculpting as an art form is all about working with your hands and can provide a tactile comfort. When you are just starting out, focus on creation and expression, not perfectionism. But, if you do create something you like, preserve it by getting it professionally fired and painted.
Here are a few tips for working with clay:
- Keep up the moisture to prevent cracking and improve moldability
- Be patient and gentle- mistakes can easily be corrected
- If you intend to get your work fired, be sure the clay is properly kneaded and the end product is hollow enough to allow even cooking
- DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FIRE YOUR PIECE AT HOME!
Knitting is not just for grandmothers and hipsters, anymore. When it comes to dealing with mental health and supporting ongoing sobriety, knitting is actually quite popular among people in recovery. Why? It’s relaxing and meditative in its repetitive nature while also creative useful items like hats, mittens, and blankets. Once again, you can provide loved ones with the results as gifts or even sell them on Etsy.
If you are feeling extra generous this holiday season, donate the things you knit. Take them to homeless shelters, knit hats and blankets for newborn babies at your local hospital, or bring some festivity to a local retirement home. Kindness enriches your heart and soul.
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Self-Care Coupon Book
We’ve all seen coupon books between lovers for some frisky fun, and even coupons exchanged between children and their parents with promises of good grades and chore completion: why not make one for yourself?
We often forget ourselves when it comes to taking care of people; this self-care coupon book will rectify that. Fill your book with at least 30 things you enjoy doing for yourself, like a trip to the gym or giving yourself a lazy day. Need more suggestions? Try:
- A pedicure/manicure
- A bubble bath
- Go out dancing
- A mini vacation
- Your favorite dessert
- An extra therapy session/ group meeting
Whip out your self-care coupon book and cash one in when you’re starting to feel off, antsy, or vulnerable in your sobriety. Catching yourself before you fall into a pit trap is far better than having to claw your way back out.
What, another Asian meditative practice? Yep, and this one is from China! Feng shui is the practice of manipulating your mental and spiritual energy through your surroundings. By changing things like light levels, furniture positions, and paint colors in your home you can mitigate the effects of negative energy and mentality in your life, thus safeguarding yourself against relapse.
Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered with our free-to-download eBook: Feng Shui for Recovery. Even if you can’t afford to completely change your home around, small changes will go a long way. Taking on a DIY therapeutic craft project like feng shui is perfect for getting out of a funk or overcoming mental roadblocks, not only because of the spiritual impact of it but because it changes your focus.
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Addiction does a number on your self-esteem. Recovering that is important to your new sober lifestyle. While we work on that through counseling and therapy, having an in-home reminder that those negative thoughts and emotions aren’t true is also beneficial. It can be hard to mentally remind ourselves of our self-worth, so why not create a physical reminder?
Making a self-esteem mirror is easy. You can either use a full-length mirror you already have or buy a cheap one from Target or Wal-Mart. Then, using multicolored post-it notes or tabs, write down all the positive things about yourself. They don’t have to be physical, but by all means, include your most beautiful features, too! Don’t forget things like your kindness, resourcefulness, adaptability, intelligence, and other positive characteristics.
Post-its allow you to add or change your attributes at will- just don’t surround your mirror with negativity! If you want something more permanent, use a paint marker that will show on the mirror’s frame. Now every time you look at yourself in that mirror, read at least five of those positive attributes and know that those characteristics are the most important.
Free Word Association
This one is especially helpful for when you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling to cope with your emotions. Free word associations allow you to work your way through your thoughts and reach the core of the problem. This is a tool often used in trauma-informed therapy sessions, but it also works as a DIY therapeutic craft project. Be careful, though: if you need the guidance of a licensed professional to work through your emotions, do this one with their help.
Begin with your overarching emotion: sadness, anger, hurt, etc. Then ask yourself why and answer it with one word: betrayal, regret, disappointment. Continue answering the who, what, and whys with a single word or phrase to help you see exactly what is happening so you can handle it properly. You never know, you may find your results inspiring for a new goal.