When you feel stressed-out about the economy or a job loss friendship, quilting and charity work can lift you up.(This quilt block is ca. 1845. I bought 4 different ones at the Quilt Festival in Long Beach 2008. All of the Art Quilts were shown at Pacific International Quilt Show, October 2008)
The effect of bonding through friendship on a female's natural response to stress was recently studied in a prestigious university's landmark study. They found that in the female brain different chemicals are released during stress than in male brains. Females release oxytocin.
Oxytocin is the natural occurring chemical released in a woman's brain when she gives birth, breastfeeds and cares for children. Oxytocin soothes and buffers the automatic "flight or flight" response. Quilters know meaningful conversations and sharing of feelings happen during a girl's night out, a quilting retreat or class, meeting for dinner, or talking on the phone.
Other studies show when you give to a charity you believe in and know your donation will be used the way you want, you experiences physical and mental benefits that come from that act of doing good for someone else. Making donation quilts for children, elders, soldiers and others in times of need is nothing new to quilters. You give the gift of quilts as a symbol of their love in the form of a cozy fabric hug.
Women who are adept at machine work talk about "the zone" they get into. This is a mindless state of relaxation which is productive and relaxes the body and reduces stress responses that may follow.
Dealing with stress was a common theme when I was practicing as a psychologist and it is frequently the topic as I coach creative solo-preneurs today. Sewing and quilting are not always available when stress is high at work or when you're tired, or your eyes need a rest from close work, but paper and pencil are always handy. Journaling or writing out how you feel about your situation is another powerful stress reducer. Writing a detailed narrative of the upsetting events, past or present, that occurred in your life and most importantly your feelings about them, has been shown to be very effective in relieving depression. Sometimes it can be as effective as therapy or anti-depressants.
Seeking friendships, quilting, giving, tackling solutions in chunks of time and focusing most of your thoughts on what is good about your life and gratitude for it will help to sooth your mind and body. Without further effort on your part, chemicals will be released to help you cope until inevitably things will turn around and point you in an exciting new direction.
I hope this was helpful info. Or you can say it just gives more reasons to be glad we are quilters!
Piece to you and those YOU quilt with,