Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A bit more on coping

Since we first started discussing coping, I've read some interesting, related articles:

"But as she learned to knit and purl, hours melted away. She realized she was no longer focusing on the future, imagining catastrophic things happening to her loved ones." 
This is your brain on knitting via CNN

"Children like Luke, who experience neglect, severe stress or sudden separation at a young age can be traumatized. Without appropriate adult support, trauma can interfere with healthy brain development."
- Teaching kids to calm themselves via New York Times

Question - What did you think of this "recommended reading"?

I was struck by how the coping mechanisms were equally relevant in times of great trauma as well as daily stress. 


  1. Interesting reading. In both cases, they are looking at well known ideas in slightly different ways. I have always thought of knitting as of a somewhat meditative process--that is until the pattern gets complex and it takes a lot of concentration. Then it is not as much the repetitive, meditative process as a challenging mental exercise. Both are very good for distracting you from stressful thoughts. Sometimes when I am feeling stressed, I can go to work and lose myself in the details Dewy Decimal system. That seems to work in the same way as the repetitive knitting. Anything that makes you focus on the here and now is useful.

    I also find that when I am in the creative process, I am energized. For example, I can be very tired, but when I start designing a beaded object or poster, that tiredness melts away.

    I was very happy to read that in some places they are teaching self regulating skills to out-of-control children. There are a lot of them out there. There are children with the tragic backgrounds as mentioned in the article and there are another set of children who are born with a set of sensitivities that cause them to respond in the same way. These kids may have learning disabilities or be hypersensitive to the world around them. But they respond in the same way and all anyone around them wants to do is to make them stop. Learning to handle these frustrations for the both the child and the adult caring for them is key. And it's not easy for anyone. I know.

    We are all complex people no matter what our age and we all need to learn coping mechanisms for stressful times.I think there are two parts to this--the thinking part and the acting part. The thinking part is figuring out why you or another person is acting the way they do. The second part is retraining them/ourselves to respond differently to the situation whether that is with better self talk, meditative activities, or engaging our brain in an intellectual way. Throughout I time I have gotten better with these coping mechanisms. While I'm certainly not immune to stress, I react better to it now. Or at least I react better to it sometimes. I'm still a work in progress.

    1. I am certainly, certainly a work in progress, but as long as there is progress, then I'm okay with that. I too was glad to see some of these methods being taught to children. They would be extremely helpful regardless of a child's background. If widely implemented, what sort of amazing changes might we see in the next generation?

  2. Ah, you knew this would strike a chord with me, right? First of all, I have always thought there were several wonderful quotes in the Anne of GG series, so you brought me in right then and there. And then referencing articles which use OT-based techniques (I have mentioned that I'm an OT before, haven't I?), well, all I can say is a resounding yes! Everyone can benefit from learning to self-regulate. Everyone. Those of us from non-traumatic backgrounds as well as those who have survived difficult circumstances. What is so neat to me is to watch those theories I studied in college take on practical use both with my patients as well as with myself and my loved ones. Repetitive, quiet tasks slow down the brain ... creative tasks alert it. Activities like running/biking are an interesting combination--they are repetitive in nature but they engage the whole body and in that way they stimulate the central nervous system. Live and Learn's comments are so astute--it doesn't have to be *knitting*, but any repetitive task which you find engaging.

    I don't specialize in pediatrics, but OTs for years have addressed kids who are out of control--sadly, there are funding barriers (in volunteering in my daughter's classroom last year, I noted to the teacher that one of her pupils could benefit from OT services and she tried to pursue it with the school and his parents but he doesn't "qualify"--he doesn't have a definitive diagnosis) and there are attitudinal barriers--"There's nothing wrong with my child" or "my pupil just needs some good old-fashioned discipline". The younger they are, the easier it is to address these concerns and the more effective treatment can be.

    Isn't there an old saying about insanity is to continue doing something the same way and expecting different results? It can be so easy for us to fall into reacting the same way to the same problem, but if nothing is changing, well ... I try to remind myself of that quote when I find myself reacting the same way I always have, especially if that "same old way" is counter-productive. Now that I have kids who watch my every move, I'm more motivated to find healthier coping and calming methods.

    Thank you for some thought-provoking reading today!

    1. No, I didn't know your background is in OT. Now that I know, I'm not at all surprised that these topics resonate strongly with your experience.

      Let me ask you, do you feel like your OT background influences your parenting significantly?

      FYI - I made some demonstratable progress with my knitting this week. I've got a ways to go, but I may already be hooked. :)

    2. Ha! You should have seen me at church last week (yes, I was supposed to be in Sunday School, but I had a knitting problem!). I was struggling with a sweater for my niece's soon-to-be-born baby. My first knitting friend started to help me, she called over another knitting friend, and then my yarn was all tangled so she called over her husband to unravel it. How many adults does it take to knit one little baby sweater? :) There is always something new to learn with knitting. But the nice thing is, you can pick out something easy and mindless or something challenging. Do you know about Ravelry.com? It's an online knitting/crocheting community. It's kinda fun and you have access to free patterns.

      I think being an OT is such a part of who I am (I've been doing it for 26 years now) that I'm not always aware of it. I am greatly disturbed by the lack of traditional play that children do these days--while I understand that we live in a techie world, and kids need some of those skills, being constantly parked in front of a screen is not how human brains are supposed to develop. Gross motor and fine motor play, sensory play (sandboxes, leaves in the fall, finger paints ... ), imaginary play--all these things that come so naturally to little ones are also essential for brain development. They are all building blocks and when children miss out on them, they miss out on an important part of their development. It's been helpful as well to have an OT background when it comes to teaching them how to handle their emotions--learning to de-escalate their anger, for instance. OK, sometimes I need to tap into this knowledge as well! :) I have volunteered in my kid's classrooms for several years now. The reading program our school uses was developed by an RN but is very "OT-ish" and I love it--it really helps children, especially those who are struggling, develop their reading skills and confidence. I have had the parent-volunteer training in it and it feels very natural to me to use it with the children. So, in answer to your question, my OT background absolutely influences my parenting style.

      Good luck with your knitting. What are you making?

    3. One of the benefits of knitting that I only recently heard someone tout is how the activity fosters community. I've certainly seen that to be true. Even your motley crew at church was still unified by it. :)

      And now that I'm aware of your OT background, rest assured, I'll be mining your professional input. :) Because as you say, there seem to be so many societal issues emerging as a result of or drastically changing environment and activities. I've got you on speed dial. :)


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