Anyone who is artistic or crafty knows first hand that being creative is beneficial. The challenge of designing and creating the project builds self-esteem. Creative projects increase learning, brain development, and provide safe and healthy stimulation of feel-good dopamine receptors. Studies have shown that creative activity offers similar benefits as meditation. Crafting has benefited prison inmates, and has even been shown to improve performance at work.
But while creative activity may be good for our minds, our enthusiasm can cause us to overlook the effect the medium has on our bodies, particularly if our practice involves tight or repetitive motions. Many dancers, writers, musicians and knitters alike know the pain of carpel tunnel or repetitive stress. Injury from creative work is especially frustrating when that activity that gives us so much joy.
I have struggled with repetitive stress off and on for years. At first the pain was so crippling, I could hardly use my hands. Even gentle activity such as watercolor painting wasn’t possible. Fortunately, my interest in health and nutrition greatly reduced my symptoms. I can now engage in intense activities such as knitting, crochet, linoleum cut and gardening if I respect the following guidelines:
Correct posture, stretching and exercise are critical for prevention and recovery. Little adjustments like proper back support and dropping your shoulders back and down as you work can prevent problems from developing in the first place. Consult a yoga instructor or physical therapist for stretches that are best for you.
Allow time for rest and recovery. Your body must heal from intense activity before it can handle more. This means getting at least 8 hours of sleep at night, and scheduling rest days to prevent burn out. It may be frustrating to not being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, but it sure beats not being able to do anything at all. Your body is the boss of how much you can do, not your desire to do more.
Diet makes a huge difference in how prone we are to inflammation. Drink plenty of water, eat your vegetables and consider introducing ginger and omega-3 fatty acids if you find your body is irritated. In addition to obvious junk foods like soda and sugar, plants in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are common irritants, as are mangos and cashews which are related to poison oak. Talk a professional about ways to identify triggering foods, and consider tracking what you eat to see if there is a relationship between specific foods and how you feel.