Cross-stitch Exercises to Ease Anxiety

If you saw us on Start Up, you’ll know that one of the reasons our founder Lizzy first explored cross-stitching, was as an avenue to relieve anxiety through the college years.

Cross-stitching and needlework in general has long been used as a means to reduce stress, calm anxiety and aid in meditation. Something about the repetitive actions, the sound of the thread running through the fabric and being forced to slow down and concentrate on one thing is calming and turns out it’s good for you.

Cross-stitching is particularly great to use as a mindfulness tool because you only really need to use one type of stitch!

As this post is being written, the whole world is dealing with a pandemic – which as you can imagine is pretty stressful! Many people have turned to needlework to help cope, alleviate boredom and just to give themselves something to think about other than what’s going on in the world.

So once you’ve decided to try cross-stitching as a way to ease anxiety, where do you start? Well we’re big believers in keeping it simple and making it fun. Here are a few mini games/mindful practices that you can try when things get a bit too much:

1. Calming Character

Here’s one you can use your Stitch People books with. With this practice you stitch a person or character who brings you a sense of calm. This can be a real-life person who represents strength and comfort or it can be a made up person such as your favorite superhero. It can even be a self-portrait of you feeling good and calm and at ease.

There are no rules for this exercise but do try to keep it simple. Stick to just a single character and maybe one accessory or furry friend. Don’t worry about any fancy stitches or details. Just slowly cross-stitch this character into being.

The point of this exercise is to fill your thoughts with the characteristics of someone who gives you positive and stable feelings. As you they appear on your design and on the fabric, you will find it easier to manifest those feelings in yourself.

2. Breath and Stitch

For this exercise you need a really simple pattern like this heart:

For each stitch you make; you take a breath in or take a breath out.

This exercise is great when when things are particularly stressful. Firstly, it makes you breath. At stressful times, we have a tendency to hold our breath which just increases our body’s stress response. By merging your breath with the stitches you make, you start to breath deeply and slowly which in turn calms your nervous system. It also gives you something else to concentrate on, distracting your mind from the situation that is causing you anxiety.

By keeping the pattern small, you will find that you only need a 10 minute break. By the time you have finished the pattern, you will find that you are more calm and better able to deal with the aggravating situation.

3. Cross-stitch Bingo

This is a fun exercise that not only eases anxiety by focusing your thoughts, but also encourages you to be in a calm environment. It’s very easy you don’t even need a pattern to complete.

First choose your favorite movie or TV show, preferably one that is joyful and calming to you.

Second, choose your bingo word. It can be “cross” or “stitch” or “hello”, it really doesn’t matter what it is.

As you watch your show, listen out for your bingo word. As soon as you hear it, make a stitch.

As you hear the word again, make another stitch. Slowly stitch your bingo word on your fabric. It doesn’t need to be perfect or accurate, just the general shape.

By the end of your show, see how far you got with your word and compare how you feel now to when you started the first letter.

Of course you don’t need to make it an exercise to reap the benefits of cross-stitching. Just the act of creating something can help calm you down, focus your mind and give you something fun to do.

If you are looking for a specific pattern intended for mindfulness, try our chakra mandala patterns. Lizzy created these 7 mandalas with the intention of giving people a way to de-stress with a moment of peace.

How does cross-stitching help you cope with the stressors of daily life. Let us know in the comments below.

We hope you are staying safe and well and above all, looking after each other.

Happy stitching!

3 thoughts on “Cross-stitch Exercises to Ease Anxiety”

  1. “It can even be a self-portrait of you feeling good and calm and at ease” é exatamente isto que sinto quando bordo Stitch People, desde o projeto em mente e traçá-lo para o papel, bem como o recorte, desenho e bordado. Ah! o bordado! cada pontinho um amor!

  2. Thanks for your great article.
    I’ve ordered some simple X stitch kits and been researching X stitch and knitting etc for mental health.
    Having a big ole struggle at the minute.
    So good to know I’m not alone.

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