Using Crochet to Help Panic Attacks

In this blog post, I open up and share my struggle with PTSD and panic attacks and how I’ve learned to use crochet for managing my panic attacks.


Using Crochet to Help Panic Attacks

TRIGGER WARNING: I write openly about my PTSD and panic attacks in this blog post.

This is a very different blog post than I normally write. Usually, I am writing about a new pattern or my full-time tent life. But today, I am going to open up about something I don’t really talk about much: my struggle with PTSD and panic attacks.

My hope is that this blog post will help you if you’re struggling with PTSD, anxiety or panic disorder. I also want you to know you are not alone. Mental health is a big deal and should never be taken lightly.

So today, I’d like to tell you a little about my struggle with panic disorder and how I’ve been able to use crochet for managing my panic attacks.

I remember when I experienced my first panic attack. I had no idea what was happening – I was terrified. Truthfully, I thought I was dying. I was lightheaded, had chest pain and heart palpitations, couldn’t breathe, and felt like I had electricity coursing through my brain (which I now know are called ‘brain zaps’).

These ‘episodes’ kept happening and I really thought that the end of my life was near. In fact, I had even gotten all of my affairs in order because I truly thought I only had a few weeks left to live.

Each time I would experience another episode, I would immediately panic because I knew what was to come. I feared these episodes because I would remember how awful the last one was and I felt like I simply would not survive through another one.

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I finally realized I was actually having panic attacks

If you’ve never experienced an anxiety or panic attack before, I understand that this may sound dramatic and like an exaggeration, but I can promise you that it is not.

Thankfully, I came to learn that I was, in fact, NOT dying and these episodes were actually panic attacks. I felt such an immense amount of relief! Because now I KNEW what was happening and now I was able to educate myself on how to manage it.

Woman experiencing a panic attack

Finally on the (long) road to healing

The events that led me to experience these panic attacks are a whole other story – and one I will share in a separate blog post. But for today, I want to share with you how I learned to use crochet to help me through these terrifying (and yes, they are literally terrifying) episodes.

I do still struggle with PTSD, anxiety and panic disorder, however, I’ve come a long way and I’ve learned a lot about myself and am well on my healing journey. PTSD and panic disorder are not like a headache where you can pop some Tylenol and feel better in an hour. This takes TIME – and the desire to truly heal to not stay stuck in this cycle forever.

Using Crochet to Help with Panic Attacks

I began to use crochet to manage my panic attacks.

I have always crocheted simply for the love of crochet itself. I’m grateful for the ability to use my hands to create something beautiful – whether it’s for myself or to gift to others.

But I began to realize that I could use my crochet to help me through these terrifying episodes to keep my mind in the present moment. Additionally, crocheting helps keep me calm and relaxed. Remaining calm during a panic attack is so important but it’s a lot easier said than done. You can’t just tell someone, “Calm down.” (I wish it were that easy!)

Staying present and remaining calm takes a lot of mental strength – I don’t think people realize how hard it is to stay present when you feel like you’re gasping for air or you think you are dying.

Using Crochet to Help with Panic Attacks

Staying in the present moment

So I began to pick up my crochet hook and yarn each time I had even a hint of an anxiety or panic attack. As I crocheted, I focused on each thing that was happening. Watching the hook move through the stitches. Feeling the yarn move through my fingers. Counting silently to myself.

All of these things helped me to stay in the present moment so that my mind did not start reeling with thoughts of panic.

Small skein of yarn with a colorful wooden crochet hook

My go-to stitch

While some people may have a go-to song or meditation for their panic attacks, I actually have a go-to stitch: the almond ridges stitch.

Something about this particular stitch is so calming for me. It’s not a single stitch that you make over and over – my mind would still wander if I did something very redundant. But it’s not so complicated that I have to constantly check a pattern to make sure I am making the right stitch in the right place.

The almond ridges stitch requires the maker to crochet a four-stitch sequence throughout the row. This is just the right balance of repetitive motions and mindfulness to keep my mind present and calm.

Crochet project in the snow.

With anxiety/panic also comes depression.

It seems that anxiety and panic go hand-in-hand with depression. My mind will go from racing thoughts of me dying to a completely depressed state at the drop of a hat. All of a sudden, I’ll be in a very low place and just want to lay in my bed in the fetal position.

Although I’ve never been suicidal, I have lost the will to live many times.

Being able to pick up my crochet project and create something with my hands gives me a sense of purpose. It helps pull me out of those dark times when all I want to do is lay in bed and cry all day.

Crocheting has also helped my insomnia

Insomnia also seems to be a fun by-product of anxiety/panic. I struggle so much with sleepless nights simply because I cannot turn my mind off.

So when it’s time to go to bed, I’ll make my favorite cup of tea and pick up my hook and yarn and let them take me away. Once again, watching the repetitive motions of my crochet hook calms my mind and actually helps me to feel sleepy. After crocheting for a bit, I can then settle into bed with a quiet mind.

Crochet project with a cup a tea

Blankets are my favorite project

Crocheting a blanket is definitely my favorite calming project for anxiety. I like having long rows to crochet. I don’t have to crochet in a hurry. Blankets generally have lots of repetition. Lastly, I find the slight weight of the blanket on my lap to be relaxing as well.

Another reason I am drawn to making blankets for my anxiety is that they are a ‘constant’. What I mean by that is, a blanket is a larger time commitment which means I have it in my project bag for a while before it’s finished. So I know it’s always there for me to pick up when I need help staying calm or I need help coming out of a depressive episode. My blanket project is something I can look forward to during times of anxiety.

My Fireside Blanket is my all-time favorite blanket to make. It is a chunky blanket that uses my favorite calming stitch: the almond ridge stitch. I absolutely love getting cozy and sitting down to work on one of these blankets. So this is always a winner for me.

Another blanket that helps keep me relaxed is my Camper Blanket. I designed this last summer and enjoyed working on it so much. I was actually a little sad when I finished it. This pattern does use five different colors of yarn, but the color changes are in blocks and very simple to do.

The Fireside Blanket

You are not alone

I hope this blog post has given you some encouragement. I also hope that you know you’re not alone. Dealing with anxiety and panic disorder is much more common than people think, and honestly, it should be discussed more.

So if you’re struggling with anxiety, I’d like to encourage you to pick up a crochet hook and start crocheting! Pick out a yarn color and texture that you find calming and make a special project just for YOU.

Like I said above, keeping your mind present takes a lot of mental strength and it’s not an easy thing to do. But I’ve found that using crochet for my panic attacks has made this so much easier for me. And I hope you can find the same healing through crochet as well.

Small Crochet Heart

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27 Comments

  1. Lovely to hear your story and how strong you are . I crochet and read to stop my mind from racing and now normal sleep better. In this changing world we all need to be kinder to ourselves and others. Always look forward to seeing your post take care Ruth

  2. Thanks for this, it’s really important to raise the profile on this topic as Instagram always looks so perfect. I’m going through it with my 17 yr old daughter. She hasn’t left her bedroom in 4 months. Her anxiety is around OCD and sickness, called emetophobia. She’s not yet ready to accept help but I hope she wants to get better soon.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I also suffer with anxiety! I started to meditate and do breath work, this helps me tremendously. I do crochet, knit, cross stitch etc. Anything that keeps my mind on a creative path.
    Thank you again.
    Happy crocheting

    1. Hi Grace! My sister’s name is Grace also πŸ™‚ Meditation and breath work are also amazing for anxiety/panic. I use those methods as well πŸ™‚

  4. I don’t have panic attacks but I do major depression. Crochet helps me get through it too. I make amigurumi, mostly dolls. It’s nice to have a selection of toys for last-minute gifts. I have also lost the will to live but I’m on a regimen of drugs and therapy, which helps me. Bless you for sharing your struggle. It’s hard to discuss it openly.

  5. Thank you for sharing your journey with anxiety disorder. You are courageous, strong, creative, and lovely. I pray that your story helps others as much as reading this has helped me to understand. Sending hugs and blessings your way today.

  6. It is so good to know that someone else uses crochet for “medicinal purposes” LOL! I have RA and Anxiety , and am a self taught crocheter. I too have found it has a settling effect on my nerves when I am in high anxiety mode or having unusual pain from the RA. I have loved reading your posts and truly appreciate you sharing this today. Your work is so beautiful and I hope one day to be as skilled as you! Thank you again for your story.

  7. Thank you for this Christine. You are not alone either and there are many more like us.. I, too, experience depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I haven’t looked at crochet this way, but I will from now on.

  8. Thank you so much for this. I am a person who experiences panic attacks and who loves to crochet and finds it very therapeutic, I have yet to use it to calm myself or distract myself from what I am feeling in those moments so I will definitely give it a try, and the almond ridge stitch is new to me so bonus!

    1. It’s so hard! Especially when your mind is reeling from the panic. Staying mentally strong enough to be in the present moment is so so difficult. I hope you will find some calm amongst your anxiety now with your crochet πŸ™‚

  9. After living for more than 50 years with all the stressors of every day life, I truly understand what your post is about. It took me a long time to realize that what I was going through is depression and anxiety. I finally asked my doctor to prescribe something for my anxiety attacks and I’m slowly coming back around to the me I used to know. But it’s hard. I think everyone of us suffers from some form of anxiety or PTSD. With me, it comes in all forms – from putting a man in prison years ago for the rape of my 6 year old child, to the multiple suicides and murder in my family.

    Everyone who knows me says the same thing about me: “You’re so STRONG!!!” Maybe. But after 50 years of crocheting and finding comfort in the hook and yarn, I know that it’s therapeutic for me too. I spend some time with my yarn nearly every day. It is my constant companion. We never know what others go through and this is why I try to remain kind at all times.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I’m sure there are others out there who will be comforted knowing that they’re not alone in their struggles.

  11. Thank you for sharing your experience. The almond stitch is a wonderful stitch. I’ve just started the Fireside Blanket and I can tell it’s going to be a favorite!

  12. Thank you for telling us your story. I too have anxiety attacks and they can be very scary. I have not tried crocheting to calm myself down but I will definitely give it a try. /////thanks again for sharing.

    1. Yes, it’s definitely helped me πŸ™‚ Anxiety is awful and I’m sorry you have to experience anxiety attacks as well. Next time, try giving crochet a try and see if it works for you πŸ™‚