Everyone deals with these conditions differently, of course. (And you should always consult your doctor if you feel you might be depressed or anxious!) Often a side effect can be that you don’t want to make so much as a piece of toast, let alone a painting or throw pillow, and that is in no way a sign of failure; but sometimes, using your hands to make a tiny corner of the universe look how you want it to is just what you need. These are some of the infinite ways to do so.
1. Tend to some plants.
“I usually sit outside with my dog and pot seedlings for hours, just taking my time relaxing and focusing on the little seedlings. After they’ve been outside growing for a while it’s like a proud parent moment — you’ve seen them since they were tiny seedlings and now they’ve grown up to full blossoming plants.” — ashleyc09
“Photography (particularly film) forces me to slow down, breathe, think about my surroundings, and focus on being present. Whenever I feel anxious or depressed, I go outside and start shooting. It calms me down, centres me, and I get to create something beautiful out of the monster that is my mental illness.” — yanaleigh
“I have had anxiety and depression for years. During a particularly rough bout of depression my junior year of college, my boyfriend and I collaborated on a photography project to visually depict our lives with these illnesses. It was a deeply cathartic experience for both of us; creating an honest depiction of a misunderstood part of myself enabled a shift in how we talked about it and managed it moving forward.” — amandam42
3. Turn the old into new.
“I take forgotten chairs off the side of the road and reupholster them into something new and beautiful. And it makes me feel amazing… I haven’t done this yet but I’ve always wanted to bring the chair back to where I found it so whoever threw it out could see that things that look like they’re on their last leg still have much life left in them, possibly a brighter one. Because it really helps me.” — beatrixk3
5. …And capture what you find there.
“Sometimes when I’m at work and depressed/having too many feelings I like to go outside, and draw things I see on the street. Drawing makes me feel like I’m in control, and it forces me to find some solace in the weird beauty of the physical world. Also, I’ve realized that ten minutes of sunshine actually legitimately kind of helps.” — avw
7. Work with makeup or body paint.
“I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. I used to be basically locked into my own world of despair. Three years ago, I volunteered at a local haunted house and started learning makeup. While I’m still far from the best, learning this new skill has helped improve EVERYTHING in my life, even my relationship with my boyfriend.
Now I refuse to hide from the world, and enjoy creating new characters that capture this. This is a bodypaint I did last April. I consider it my best turn so far. I look forward more to learning and improving my craft and it’s given me something to be proud of and live for.” — clharbert
8. Blend your own scented candles.
“Leaving university and being unemployed with no routine brought back my anxiety big time. I needed something to keep my mind and my hands busy one day, so I made soy wax candles and used essential oils to scent them. I found picking the essential oil blends really relaxing and watching the wax melt each time really therapeutic. I spent hours making them and a whole day had passed without me being worried/anxious/nervous/panicked. The candles are pretty gorgeous to light, too.” — ashro14.
9. Focus on a new buddy.
“Pepper is my three-year-old Belgian Malinois service dog that I rescued from a shelter and then trained with the help of a trainer. When I met her I was in deep depression, had anxiety, bipolar, and was suicidal. Pepper is the reason I am alive; she gave me a reason to live. Her training gave me a purpose when I had none and now gives me freedom. I actually want to leave my house more. I still have trouble every day but with her I can live again instead of just being there. She is everything to me, my best friend, my rock, my teacher, my savior, and my heart. The absolute greatest thing to ever happen to me is her.” — charlotteh43
10. Design your dream house.
“I have been battling both anxiety and depression for the past four years, probably longer. About two or three years ago I started designing rooms on RoomStyler and eventually moved on to making houses on Sketchup. I have had no training or anything, just stuff I have learned from the internet, but I am proud of my little designs.” — beanloser
11. And your dream outfits.
“I have severe depression and anxiety, self-harm tendencies, low self-esteem and terrible body image. With summer coming up, it becomes harder to hide my scars. Being a plus-size girl, I don’t have many options in stores that will fit, be flattering, fun, fashionable and cover what I need covered.
So I’ve started drawing clothes that I want to make and wear this summer. It gives me something creative to plan and look forward to, and I find colouring my sketches digitally to be pretty meditative. By drawing pictures of myself, I’m trying to work towards seeing my body in a different, more positive light, but that’s a long way off yet. I’m pretty happy with how this picture’s turned out, though, and I’m hopeful that I can find the motivation to make it real.” — lunarbluemoth
“I haven’t created a ‘thing’ as such, but I am in the process of creating a new, more educated me. I decided to use my struggle to help others like myself. Next year I’ll be a qualified counsellor, changing the lives of people with mental health issues, using my own terrible experience to help better the lives of others living through the same thing.” — katiejade.
“When my depression and anxiety was at its worse I discovered two things. The first was that I could draw, something I didn’t really realize till that point. And also that drawing took enough concentration that it would stop my anxious thoughts for at least a little while.” — sunshineabove
16. Crochet a blanket, for yourself or a beloved pal.
“I crocheted these harlequins and plan to make a blanket out of them. It’s not the perfect medicine but it helps with my anxiety and depression. It’s the sense of accomplishment that gets me going and made me feel a little bit better. Though I’m not sure if the blanket will be mine, since Kiwi is so eager to use it.” — Nadine
17. Sell what you’ve made.
“Everything in my Etsy shop is a product of my mental illness, whether directly or indirectly. I battled for years with depression and anxiety and I was diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder a few years ago. After having my son I felt useless, like I as a person has ceased to exist, that I was just a conduit for my son to receive food and care and comfort. Making things became my way of reassuring myself I still mattered and that, no matter how bad things got, I was still capable of making the world a little better with the things I created.” — laurenl4
19. Play with fire.
“I play with fire. Specifically, I do lampwork; I sit in front of a 2,000*F flame and melt glass. Destructive and creative at the same time. It puts me in a zone where I HAVE to focus (or risk getting burned) which banishes the depression demons for a short while. Did this vessel just before starting meds.” — allivymar
20. Make your tears work for you.
“After losing my kidney transplant and getting my heart broken by my cheating boyfriend, I went into a deep depression. I was so angry and sad I could barely get out of bed. The only thing I can credit to getting out of that dark hole was my tears….. my pillow tears. I thought instead of crying about it, I would instead make literal tears out of fabric and embroidery. Each one with a different message. After I would finish each one I felt liberated.” — marianaeloysad
21. Know the value of even the smallest, most temporary projects.
“I made this bracelet out of candy wrappers at a party to cope with my social anxiety. It ended up being a good idea, because people started giving me their spare wrappers because they thought it was cool, and I didn’t have to stress about coming up with topics of conversation.” — katelynj42.
23. Take up embroidery.
“I had a physically and emotionally devastating miscarriage and my life kinda fell apart. I embroidered cream and white tulips that mean purity, new life, and ‘I will love you forever’ in memory of my baby. During the hours I worked on it, I grieved, cried, let my mind go blank and my feelings go numb just to rest. I keep this folded up and every once in awhile I take it out and look at it and make myself remember that I’ve survived some awful times and there’s good in life and I can make it.” — hannahr4
24. Create your life.
“I created my life. Through everything I deal with I have used art in multiple manners such as painting and photography and created a career built on my passion for photo. However, even when I was wanting to end it all I was able to create a life. I wanted to die, to never see the light again; when the light came I went straight through it and came up with something brighter. I built relationships with my family and friends that helped me build my self again. I molded my path in a way that worked for me not having to bob and twist for others.
I created myself as I wanted to be. The outcome has been happiness, and although I still deal with my mental illness, I have been able to control it like an artist uses a brush to control paint. And even if your life is as messy and sporadic as a Jackson Pollock, it is still beautiful and someone out there is going to see the beauty in you as well.” — abbis4c