Today I want to talk about beading therapy. This is relevant to my November beading project. I would definitely argue that beading has helped me with CFS/ME. So, could it help you too?
I want to answer three questions today:
- what is beading therapy?
- can it help you?
- how do you get started?
Before I do that, I also want to remind you about my fund-raising campaign. So, I’m using my beading, (in a slightly obscure way!) to raise money for a clinical trial of a treatment for CFS/ME. I’ve also been using my blog to try and raise awareness about the illness.
So, I’ve been talking about what it is, treatments that are currently available and what it feels like to live with. If you’ve missed any of them, then start the sequence here.
If you want to help with the fund-raiser (please – I still have more than 50% of my target to reach in the next two weeks!), then click on the image below. And once again, a huge thank you to all the amazing people who have been supporting the campaign so far.
What is beading therapy?
So, let me answer that in two parts. Firstly, let’s talk about ‘therapy’. The dictionary definition of the term is, ‘treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.’
So, ‘beading therapy’ is simply using the act of beading as a form of therapy. Just to be clear, I’m not trying to claim that beading will ‘heal’ any disorder. But it certainly will provide relief.
How does beading therapy work?
Literally, you just sit and bead. So, that’s not a very helpful answer. What you really want to know is, why will it work?
Well, in my experience beading does two things. It frequently acts a bit like meditation. I find particular beading techniques are very meditative for me. Other people may find different techniques work for them.
Plus, creating something tangible is therapeutic in itself. With CFS/ME, and many other chronic illnesses, it feels like someone took away your life or your identity. Creativity gives you back a voice. It won’t replace the things you feel you have lost, but it does provide a really positive focus.
Getting out of Fight or Flight Paralysis
So, let me just take you back to the first post I wrote about CFS/ME. In that, I explained that we know that the Central Nervous System is affected by the illness. So, frequently patients find themselves in a permanent state of stress. I’m not talking about the kind of ‘stress’ that is brought on by actively worrying (although that is also common with this illness, for obvious reasons). I mean that the adrenal glands are malfunctioning, so the body gets stuck in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’.
Now, lots of the more psychologically-based ‘treatments’ for this illness and others are focused on trying to calm the central nervous system and get the body back into the opposite state. This would be a ‘maintenance’ state.
For some people, at some stages of the illness, just managing to achieve this is enough to kick start healing. The point is, in ‘maintenance’ state, the body will naturally try to heal whatever it detects as being wrong. Whereas in ‘fight or flight’, the body’s entire focus is on trying to avoid a danger. It doesn’t see ‘healing’ as paramount to avoiding ‘danger’. So, the constant maintenance and healing is temporarily put on hold until the danger has passed.
The problem with getting ‘stuck’ in this state is that the body never realises that the danger has gone. So, all those essential maintenance tasks remain permanently ‘on hold’. Over a period of time, this results in other system malfunctions. Think of it like your car. It needs regular servicing to keep things healthy.
Beading Therapy as Meditation
So, one of the keys to getting out of the ‘fight or flight’ state is meditation and relaxation. Guess what? Beading offers both. If you think that ‘meditation’ means chanting ohm or sitting in lotus pose and closing your eyes, think again. Yes, it can mean both of those things, but fundamentally, it is the process of concentrating on something in such a way that the mind clears. So, the thoughts that would normally be chasing around your head, causing you stress, are replaced with this pure concentration or focus.
Quite a few beading techniques involve counting, so these are great for meditation. If you can focus on watching the beads and counting as you add each one, you will achieve that serenity that clears your mind.
How beading helps me
So, when I started beading, I thought I was simply trying a new craft. I didn’t realise that the relaxation would actually work as a form of therapy. It still does.
For me, turning beading from a hobby into a career has also helped. I’m not going to lie. This can be stressful. I don’t know where my next ‘pay cheque’ is coming from. So, it can be hard to keep faith in myself and trust that I can support myself financially.
However, the plus is that I am doing something that I love, that happens to also be therapeutic (mostly!) and most of all, is distracting.
A positive distraction
Linked to the ‘stress state’ are the mental thought patterns that come with a chronic illness. How did this happen? Why did I do this to myself? Did I do this to myself or was I just unlucky? When will this stop? How can I heal? Why am I not healing? What am I doing wrong? What should I be doing or doing better? …I could go on.
So, you see, this ends up a bit like walking a tight rope. I need to tune into my body regularly to check that I’m getting the pacing right. But, in doing so, it’s very easy to get caught up in a cycle of thoughts like the one above. And guess what? That puts the body right back in a stress state.
So, having ‘Bead Flowers’ as a focus means I can literally walk away from the illness for part of my day. This is a ‘job’ that I can tailor around my recovery needs and use as a healthy distraction. Running this website is literally funding my treatment at the moment. So, it is just as essential as remembering to take my supplements, get proper rest and eat well. I see it as a positive distraction from the illness.
Can beading therapy help you?
If what you’ve already read sounds good, then is beading therapy something that can help you too?
Well, yes, if your health condition would benefit from you learning to relax. It can also be helpful if you have been advised to develop or exercise your fine motor skills.
But, let me offer a word of caution. As with anything, beading is good in moderation. I have taught people with arthritis and they find certain types of beading help and certain types can cause more pain. In any event, beading for a long time without rest can cause repetitive strain or exacerbate existing joint pain.
I would also add that if you are looking for relaxation, then most crafts offer this. So, perhaps beading will suit you, or perhaps you would find another craft more appealing.
The point about relaxation is that it also has to be fun. So, it’s not fun if you’re struggling with the process.
Where do I start beading?
Well, that’s a difficult question to answer. ‘Beading’ can mean so many different things.
You might be stitching beads together – we call this bead-weaving. So, if you already enjoying sewing or other needle crafts, this would be a good place to start beading.
Linked to this, you might enjoy bead embroidery or loom work.
Beading can also mean just stringing beads. Anyone can start here very easily. I think this focuses more on artistry. So, if you have a background in art, or you are fascinated by shapes, colours and textures, maybe this is the place to start.
Then, there is beading with wire, or wirework. Again, this can take a few different forms. I do a lot of French beading, which involves threading beads onto wire, then shaping them to create three-dimensional flowers. This type of work is great for anyone who enjoys using their hands.
Next steps for you
So, that might help to guide you towards the kind of beadwork style you want to try first. Next step is trying a project. You can get some free tutorials, so all you would need to do is buy beads and thread or wire to try something.
Another option might be to get a beading kit. This should contain everything you need for the particular project. So, it’s a great way to try something new. If you like it, you can then go on to find more patterns and start buying your own beads.
Again, if you need information about where to buy beads and how to buy beads, try this website.
I’ve dotted a few photos in this article. They are all good beginner level projects. So, if any of them take your fancy, just click on the image to find out more.
My last piece of advice
Be kind to yourself! No, seriously, as adults we tend to forget how hard it is to learn something new. Plus, we’ve been indoctrinated into the idea that there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way to do things.
So, whichever type of beading or craft you decide to try, it may feel difficult at first. This is normal. The question to ask yourself is, ‘do I enjoy this’? If the answer is yes, then persevere and it will get easier. If the answer is ‘no’, just move on and try something else.
Also, try and get back in touch with your ‘inner child’. This side of you doesn’t believe in ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, it just wants to explore and have fun. So, don’t get bogged down in what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do. Just try anything you want and see what happens.
So, I hope that bead therapy might be something you want to try. Or maybe you already do. Leave me a comment to share your experiences.
And, if you can help me out with the fund-raiser, that would be amazing too. Together we can get to understand CFS/ME and find an effective treatment for the millions that it affects.
Read the last post here >>