I get very nervous about pretty much anything. When I was performing in New York City on Broadway, I was a swing (an offstage understudy for multiple roles) in one of my shows. This meant that I literally sat backstage for the whole show and waited for the sh!t to hit the fan.
Who is going to go out? What track am I going to have to do? How long will I have to get into hair and makeup? The list of stressors was endless and I didn’t have much of an outlet into which to channel my frenetic mental activity.
For months, I sat backstage trying to distract myself with books, puzzles, searching out new things to do in New York City, and watching episodes of Game of Thrones on my laptop. None of that worked.
Eventually, I decided to crochet my friend a scarf for the upcoming holiday season. I brought my yarn and hook backstage and got to work when everyone else went onstage. Halfway through the first act, I realized I was significantly less stressed. As my fingers methodically looped the yarn around the hook and pulled, I found that I had just enough mental stimulation to keep myself from running a negative loop of “what if’s” through my brain.
Calming repetitive movement
It turns out, crochet is used as a therapy to ease anxiety. According to the Anxiety Resource Center, “More serotonin is released with repetitive movement, which improves mood and sense of calmness. After you’ve learned knitting or crochet, it can also reduce blood levels of cortisol — the stress hormone.”
Crochet is a repetitive movement that acted, for me, in a similar way as yoga or mindfully stretching. It helped focus some of my nervous energy and provided a repetitive rhythm that lulled my brain out of its agitated state.
Additionally, the Anxiety Resource Center says crochet (and knitting) are calming because, “Holding the hands together in front of the body creates the sensation of having a protective “bubble” of personal space and comfort and is especially helpful in threatening or anxiety-producing situations.” Not only was my brain distracted, but my body was in a position that felt safe.
I decided to crochet a lot more. I chose more colors and got faster at crafting my creations. Eventually, I could finish a scarf or a hat in a show or two (we had eight shows per week). A dressing roommate pointed out that I could potentially sell the fruits of my anxiety-calming labors.
How it made me money
So, I decided to sell my crocheted goods at a friend’s table at a local winter fair for crafters and holiday shoppers in New York City's Bryant Park. I realized I could purchase the materials to make a scarf for about $12-$14 and I could sell them for $35-$45. That was a $23-$31 profit for each crocheted good.
At the rate of 8 pieces per week, I figured I could earn a little under $250 per week. My friend brokered all deals with customers for a 10% cut of my profits, so I ended up with $200-$225/week for no extra time out of my schedule.
That extra $1,000 per month was nice to have in my bank account but remember that this activity was calming me backstage at my job, so whether I made money or not, it was worth it for my happiness.
Eventually, I paired up with my friend to sell my crafts every week at different locations in the New York City area. She graciously allowed me to sell at her tables, took 10% of my profits, and I never had to go anywhere (she sold jewelry, so my crocheted goods weren’t any competition and they also filled up her otherwise empty-looking table).
The fact that I was generating income with my calming repetitive movement helped me stick with it rather than attempting to be “more productive” and do something else that would inevitably be more stressful.
There is limitless opportunity for income generation if you look for it. The most important thing, though, is that you work to take care of yourself and your emotional wellbeing first.
Like me, once you find a way to get yourself to a place where you can come up for air, where you are in a peaceful and happy place, you just might be able to find a way to generate an additional source of income. Money is awesome. Extra money is more awesome. Being happy and healthy is way more important than both of those.