Finding a Hobby as an Adult

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A few weekends ago, I decided that I was going to try my hand at sewing dresses for my two girls. After watching a few YouTube videos and drinking too much coffee, I thought to myself: “Yeah, I can totally do this. I borrowed my step-mom’s sewing machine and set off for our local fabric store.

Once there, I immediately felt overwhelmed. But I kept going! I ended up buying way too much fabric and some overpriced fabric scissors, decided I didn’t need a pattern (yes, really), and went merrily on my way.

I am happy to report that after a bit of trial and error, I actually created some really cute pieces! Though I wouldn’t advise anyone to look too closely at the stitching, I’d consider this new adventure in sewing a grand success.

What I realized is: (1) It feels good to try something new; (2) It also feels good to be challenged; and (3) I needed a new hobby more than I’d realized.

Like many out there, I have come to rely too heavily on a COVID-19 routine of binge watching and social media scrolling during my down time. Even though I don’t have a lot of down time to speak of with two young children, I will waste it all on unproductive—and sometimes mentally draining—habits.

So, let’s talk about the importance of finding hobbies during this time.

Why are hobbies particularly important right now?

De-stress: Research has shown that having a hobby can help you cope with stress and anxiety. Doing something you love can actually improve your mental and physical health, making you more resilient during difficult times.

Take focus off of the negative: When you are busy doing a hobby, you have less time to focus on the negative. For example: having too much down time without focus can lead to doom-scrolling on social media, which can negatively affect your mood.

Give motivation or meaning: Finding something you love and that brings you joy can give you a sense of purpose in life. During times like these, when routines have been uprooted, it is important to redefine what meaning can look like.

Sense of accomplishment/sense of control: COVID-19 has challenged many people’s feelings about what they have control over in life. And this can feel really unsettling. When you may feel like there is nothing you can do right, or nothing you can control, a hobby can be a really helpful thing to put your energy into.

Create connection: Many times, we can find connection to others through our hobbies. While it may not be physical connection right now, having a shared hobby with someone can be a really powerful thing, and can strengthen your relationships.

How do I find a new hobby?

  1. Something you’ve always wanted to do: Start by asking yourself this: “If I won the lottery tomorrow and never needed to work again, what would I do?” There will probably be some clues based on your answer. And even if the answer is “nothing,” try to dig a little deeper.
  2. Look to your childhood: Remember back to when you were a child. What were some things that you loved to do? Did you like dancing, playing the recorder, or building Legos? What about swimming or writing short stories? All of these things can be turned into an adult hobby.
  3. Shop around: If you can’t think of anything right off the bat, try a handful of activities. Keep trying hobbies on for size until one fits! Walk around a craft or outdoor sports store until something piques your interest. Just keep in mind that shopping around can be a costly exercise, so try something out before investing too much money. There is nothing worse than buying a drum set, just to find out that you lack rhythm (true story).
  4. Take a class: Right now is the best time to try something because there are so many virtual options! Cooking lessons, yoga classes, and painting courses can all be found online—and many times, for free! Find some links to classes here
  5. Find something useful: It is always a major bonus when you can find a hobby that serves multiple purposes. In my case, I can save a bit of money by making clothing at home, while also challenging myself and having some fun. If I get good enough, I could even begin gifting my creations to family and friends!
  6. FUN!: This is the most important part; a hobby needs to make you happy. Don’t take it—or yourself—too seriously. Just give something new a try, and try not to overthink it.

How to incorporate a hobby into your schedule

  • Evaluate your use of free time: If you are thinking, “I have no time for a hobby,” then I urge you to reevaluate your down-time. I was guilty of thinking this, too, but then realized that I think nothing of wasting an hour or two per night scrolling through my phone or sitting on the couch. Finding a hobby that you want to do will help to break these habits.
  • Schedule time: You don’t need to make time for your hobby every day, or even every week. But when you are feeling extra stressed or down, make sure to use your hobby as a go-to coping strategy, and find some time for it. Consider it an essential part of your self-care routine.

Helpful Tools

There are some interesting tools online that you can use to find a new hobby. DiscoveraHobby.com is especially helpful, and has activities broken up into categories.

Feeling daring? Take an online quiz to help guide you to the hobby that you should try next. I got Computer Programming though, so maybe take this quiz with a grain of salt!



Take Time to Invest in You

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Guest post by Kari Pendray at Brigid Collins Family Support Center

As we find ourselves well into our sixth month of living with Covid-19, many parents have one thing in common – we are all juggling multiple demands in a time that leaves us feeling more uncertain. The idea of being at home for some is isolating and for others it feels more like a safe haven. No matter which side of the aisle you are on, the role of a parent has suddenly become more demanding. That’s because stressful events, like being in the midst of a global pandemic, adds a layer of unpredictability in our lives.

Whether you are feeling stressed out, burned out, or just plain tired, you are not alone. Stress is sometimes defined as when the need to respond exceeds our capacity to respond. How can you recognize stress and burnout? Stress comes in three forms. Acute stress is healthy stress, like when you have a deadline for work or school. Episodic stress is short episodes of high stress, such as taking on too much work, then, being unable to get the stress out of your system. Finally, chronic stress is one that has been linked to chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Chronic stress is very serious and needs to be managed with care and helping professionals. Burnout is a complete feeling of exhaustion and can make you withdraw from other people. Burnout can lead to cynicism and can cause you to delay tasks.

During our Coping with Stress virtual seminars at the Parenting Academy, we talk to parents and caregivers about managing stress and building our capacity, as parents, for emotional well-being, which centers around three main strategies:

  • Awareness of unhealthy thinking
  • Shifting negative self-talk and automatic thoughts
  • Challenging unhelpful thoughts
Focus on the things that you can control, and let the other things go.

First, ask yourself, “What evidence do I have for this thought or idea?” Then, ask, “What could be another explanation?” Finally, ask yourself, “What can I do to change or shift my thinking that would lead to a positive outcome?

To prevent stress and burnout, it’s important to plan daily activities that alleviate stress, just like you would plan to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks or watch your favorite show on Netflix. It’s important to invest in yourself in ways that add years to your life.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Invest in your heart – Eating heart healthy foods such as leafy green vegetables, lean fish and meat, and minimizing sugar, can contribute to having a good nutritional balance. (See My Plate.gov or Harvard Healthy Eating Plate). You can use cooking as a way to learn math, science, experiment with food and enjoy eating new foods.
  2. Invest in your body – Pumping oxygen into your blood is not only good for your heart it is also good for your mind. Studies show that exercising can release positive “happy” hormones into your body and relieve stress. Children love to exercise with their parents. Families are taking more walks, riding bikes, playing soccer and making the most of their own backyards.
  3. Invest in your brain – Has anyone ever given you a prescription to laugh? Well, if not, consider this your first one. Laughing soothes tension, stimulates organs, re-wires new neural pathways in your brain and alleviates stress. When parents take time to play with their children, this can involve 5-10 minutes of mutual enjoyment, laughter and a break from your day. Children learn from play and play can be a great way to co-regulate.

When you invest in yourself, you will not only improve your own health, you will also be modeling health and wellness for your children; you will be more present for your child, and you will be having fun in the process. That’s a gift that will last a lifetime.

If you would like more information on the Parenting Academy or wish to register for parenting coaching or virtual seminars, please go to www.parenting-academy.org.

Resources:
www.choosemyplate.gov
www.hsph.harvard.edu
www.hhs.gov/fitness/beactive/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html
www.parenting-academy.org


Expecting

Safe at Home – Pregnancy during COVID-19

Reading Time: 4 minutes

An expecting mom anticipates the joy of her new baby in her arms while managing the anxiety of pregnancy and birth in the time of COVID-19.

It takes a village.

I’ve always heard that it takes a village to raise a child. From my own experience, I know that this is definitely true. During my first pregnancy, I woke up in the middle of the night wondering if I was ready to take on this huge new responsibility. During my second pregnancy, I nervously asked my husband if we were ready for two. There are still many days where I wonder if I’m doing this mothering thing right. But I can tell you there is one thing I know for certain: I am so glad I have a village.

When I interviewed my pregnant coworker Amber for our “Safe at Home” series, I had a lot of questions. For one, how is she handling the late stages of pregnancy during social distancing? She shared many of the same worries I had when pregnant.  But she is also facing a whole new set of daunting anxieties resulting from COVID-19.


Amber’s Story

Amber has the unusual challenge of both being pregnant and serving as an Epidemiologist performing COVID-19 case investigations for the Public Health Department. Strictly following social distancing, she works from home.  She spends the bulk of her days investigating the spread COVID-19 and taking actions to prevent further local transmission. This work is crucial to the wellbeing of Skagit. If anyone understands the importance of social distancing, it’s Amber! She sees how easily this virus can spread. So she and her husband are taking extra precautions to stay home and stay healthy.

Many people are worried about themselves and their loved ones getting sick from COVID-19. Amber also is concerned that her and her husband’s health could affect the birth experience of their child. She wondered out loud:

“If my husband shows any signs of infection when I go into labor, would he be able to be in the delivery room with me? What if I contract COVID-19? Would I be forced to isolate from my newly born child?”

NOTE: According to the World Health Organization, we don’t yet know if a sick mom can pass the virus to her unborn child or to the baby during delivery. Pregnant women who have tested positive for COVID-19, or who have coronavirus-like symptoms, should consult with their doctor. Together, they can make a birth and delivery plan to ensure safety for everyone. Medical professionals know the benefits of skin-to-skin between mothers and babies and encourage breastfeeding. Even moms diagnosed with COVID-19 or having symptoms can breastfeed and hold their baby if they practice good hygiene and wears a face mask.

The thought of being alone during labor is incredibly scary. Hospitals have a temporary restricted visitor policy. This policy allows one healthy labor companion in the delivery room of a healthy mom.  It is heartbreaking to think that so many families are having to deal with these concerns, but this what is needed to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

So Amber’s mom won’t be able to visit her in the hospital. Family and friends won’t be able to drop to see her new baby once she comes home in order. They will need to keep everyone safe through social distancing. Thinking back to when I brought my own babies home from the hospital, it makes me sad to know Amber won’t have the same supports that eased me into motherhood—the village of family, friends, and community.  Before COVID-19, I and other moms routinely took these supports for granted.

To deal with these added stressors, Amber tries to focus on the things she has control over. She joked that she was eating lots of healthy foods because she isn’t able to go buy all the treats she’s craving. When the weather allows, she likes to take long walks. At the same time, she’s a bit weirded out by how people cross the street when they see her. But Amber is grateful people are taking the Governor’s orders seriously.

Amber finds hope and comfort knowing she will soon have her baby in her arms. She tries to remember that “there’s always something to look forward to…for the rest of her life.” Even though things are crazy right now, “there’s guaranteed joy on the way.”


Are you a pregnant or new mom?

There are many new (and free!) support services available to you during this time! Websites like WhattoExpect.com have compiled fantastic resources to help pregnant and new moms navigate this difficult time. Some of my favorites include virtual doula and lactation services, online childbirth classes through Lamaze International, and meditation apps to be used during labor.

Get connected with your local village!

Skagit County’s Welcome Baby program is unable to meet new parents at the birth centers at this time, but they are hoping to connect with Skagit families in their third trimester or those who have recently delivered. Call or text 360.922.2644 or send an email to welcomebaby@unitedwayskagit.org  For more information visit www.skagitwelcomebaby.com

Want other support services? Check out these March of Dimes resources below:

NOTE: Wonderful news! Since this interview, Amber and her husband Drew welcomed their baby daughter Isla to their family. They are all healthy and happy!

Amber – Skagit County Epidemiologist, COVID-19 Investigator, and mom to be!
Baby Isla – Born 4/13/2020!