5 reasons why knitting a sweater can boost your resilience

Recently I finished knitting my first sweater.

It all started 2 years ago (those of you who have been here for a while, might remember…)
It started with crocheting 150 little red hearts for Christmas.
My second project was a scarf .
My third one was a bag for my mother and then it was time for more ‘serious stuff’…
From crocheting to knitting and … why not go for a sweater?

Luckily, I have ‘PAND ZESTIEN’ right around the corner.
It’s a place where Veerle sells beautiful yarn, and … where she passes on her passion for knitting (and being creative in general?).

When you buy the yarn, you can get started yourself or … you can pay something extra and have personalized help to bring your project to a good end: it means you can stop by as often as you want/need to, with any question you might have…
I went for the ‘something extra’ ;-D

Let’s go back to the combination ‘knitting a sweater’ and ‘boosting your resilience’. What are some of the factors I believe really contribute to boosting your resilience?

You create something beautiful from scratch.
The day after I finished it, I took my sweater out on a walk.
I couldn’t believe how warm and soft it was!
I am really proud of it. Already while I was knitting it, I enjoyed feeling the fabric in my hands.
When people are feeling stressed, they often start to think a bit negatively, sometimes even about themselves.
Creating something beautiful and feeling proud of yourself can help breaking that cycle and … boost your resilience.

Of course, this can also be applied to other things. Cooking a delicious dish, working with wood, finishing a DIY-project… All of these can have the same effect.

I had to deal with my perfectionism.
In a previous article I already talked about our ‘drivers’ (link article). And while ‘be perfect’ is not my strongest driver, I do admit that not having all the same stitches (as opposed to a store-bought sweater) did bother me a bit at the beginning.
But… there are several reasons for the ‘unevenness’: the specific characteristics of the yarn, the fact that I was using 3 strands at the time, … next to my…  lack of experience…
So I quite quickly decided that I would only start over when there was an actual mistake and not for every imperfect stitch… (and trust me, there were some mistakes…)
I even started to call my project ‘rustic’.
At first it was a little bit apologetically, but then it became more lovingly.
I admit that the ‘informal’ model of the current sweater might have made it a bit easier to accept the ‘flaws’. Let’s see if I can keep the same approach when I make something more ‘formal’…

Working on your drivers is key for boosting your resilience. Because they are often the reason why you overdo it…
More resources can be found in this article.

Knitting = repetitive movement
Many of us use repetitive, rhythmic movement like pacing, rocking, tapping… to calm our minds/ourselves when being stressed.
Knitting can have the same function.
More serotonin is released, and it can even reduce the blood levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Less stress = more resilience.

Learning something new
I had learned how to knit in primary school, I don’t remember if we still continued a bit in secondary school but… that was that. Also, now it was a different technique (=different needles).
But with the help of Veerle, I did it.
And sometimes I was knitting at home, something went wrong and … I tried and I tried until I found the solution. And when I did, there was this sense of accomplishment.

Studies show that learning something new helps us develop feelings of competence and self-efficacy. It also helps us to connect to an underlying purpose of growth and development. These psychological resources enable us to build resilience in the face of stressors.

During opening hours, you can go and sit at PAND ZESTIEN to work on your project.
You can even have a lovely coffee or tea, accompanied by a pastry.
There is some nice music in the background, you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to, if you have a question you can ask, … precious me-time!
Once a week, however, there is the ‘Knitting cafe’: from 7 to 10 pm, (mostly) women join to knit together. For a small contribution, a drink is included.
At this moment, Veerle is not the ‘teacher’, everybody helps each other. There are very experienced people who knit/crochet a lot. They sometimes have several projects going on at the same time.
And there is this nice feeling of companionship. Again, no talking is needed, a lot is taking place. There is a lot of laughing but there is also room for serious conversations. People admire each other’s progress, they encourage each other. All of this to the sound of clicking needles.
Sometimes there are 4 of us, other times more than 20. But each time I leave with a smile on my face (and… I made progress on my project).

Having a social network reduces stress and increases resilience…


These are the 5 reasons why I believe knitting a sweater can boost your resilience.
And while I’m convinced it’s just 1 of the tools in the toolbox (also in my own), I’m currently having a lot of fun with it!

Have I inspired you?

If you liked the above, you can sign up for more Tips & Tricks by signing-up here.
Looking forward to hearing from you!


Why do I always need to make the effort and the other one can keep on behaving badly?

I’m the eldest of 4 and I have 3 younger brothers. When I was a kid, I sometimes got frustrated with the behaviour of (one or more of) them and then my mother said: you are the eldest, you need to be the smartest… I always thought it was so unfair! (And fairness is a very important value to me). 

However, I now find myself saying ‘similar’ things to the participants of my courses…

Let’s look at the working environment (it can also apply to your family, of course ;-D)
We all have a colleague we find a bit ‘challenging’… and often, when that is the case, communication is not optimal.
Have you noticed that whatever they say triggers you? (Possibly also the other way around…)
And sometimes they don’t even have to open their mouth… Just seeing them creates a reaction in your body… ‘Oh no, what is he doing now? OMG, it’s always the same thing with her! How is this possible?’

Sounds familiar? It can be a peer, a boss, a team member… And if you don’t work in a company but you are self-employed, it can be a client, a colleague, a service provider, …
Just take a pick!

Newsflash: if you focus long enough on bad behaviour, it will just get worse.
Your mind will only notice the bad behaviour (because the mind likes to be right and therefore looks for ‘proof’) and after a while it’s not about the behaviour anymore but… the ‘badness’ will expand to ‘the whole person’ …
HE is impossible…
And every time you see him, and you get triggered, YOU get all the stress hormones rushing through your body… Not him…
So where is the damage taking place? Indeed… in YOUR body!

Furthermore, have you noticed that when you communicate with him in that ‘state’, you often don’t achieve what you want, he reacts quite defensively and … you both end up feeling upset? Again… does this sound familiar?

Would you agree that NOT having the stress reaction in your body, having a better relationship and (possibly) getting what you want, beats what I just described above?

This is why I recommend that you make the effort … 
You can only control your own behaviour… not the other person’s. 
And you changing yours might lead to him changing his…

Now how do we go about? This is where assertiveness and stress management come in and… they are very complimentary.

This is a possible strategy:

  1. I remind myself of the theory of ‘my business, your business, God’s business’…
  2. I try to focus on the ‘OK-ness’ of the person (coming up with some ‘fish’ might help here…
  3. I check what I can do about my own situation (apart from my relationship with the person concerned): how come I’m so easily triggered? Am I tired? Is there too much on my plate? Can I take some of my stressors off my plate? Can I look at certain things differently? Usually, by doing some stress management for myself, I become a bit more ‘zen’ and I can better deal with things.
  4. I carefully think about what message I would like to pass. I make sure it’s as factual as possible. I keep a ‘win-win’ situation in mind: me ‘winning’ and him ‘loosing’ is not going to be helpful in the long run.
  5. I look for a moment that suits the both of us. I make sure I am in the right frame of mind for the conversation: calm, ok-ok, win-win…
  6. During the conversation I try and remain calm. (In order to do this, I might need techniques I need to practice beforehand ;-D)
  7. While I come prepared, I also remain flexible. It’s important to truly listen to the other one and by doing so, it’s possible that I might change my mind and/or strategy. So it’s important to keep on open mind.
  8. I ensure that we both are clear on what has been decided.
  9. I follow-up: if things do not go as we planned, we need another conversation. However, I make sure not to have the exact same conversation as the first one (although I can refer to it, of course). But I focus on what happened between then and now.

This is, more or less, what I do.

Does it always turn out, perfectly? No…

Do I then start again? If the relationship is ‘important’ enough to me, yes.

What do I mean by that? The person is important to me or …. the fact of having a good (working) relationship is important to me. Maybe somebody is not my favourite person but … we need to work together a lot so … it’s in my own interest that these interactions are as stress-free and efficient as possible…

If you think this could be helpful, feel free to use my ‘strategy’ or tweak it!

If you want more information: a lot can be found in the articles and videos I created in the past. Check out the website and YouTube.

If you prefer to do it in a more structured way: I have 2 online courses: ‘Boost your resilience’ and ‘Say the right thing, at the right time, in the right way’. They are self-study (but should you want to, you can book an extra coaching session).

I’m curious… which step will help you make progress?

If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no…

In September 2020, I participated in ‘Start to golf’: a 1,5-hour introduction to playing golf.

On the one hand, several women I knew where doing and loving it. 
On the other hand, it was one of the things we were ‘allowed’ to do during the pandemic… 
So, I thought: why not?

I went to the session.
It was a beautiful day. It was in the village I originally come from. People were nice.
At the end of the session, we were offered a slightly longer formula of the same ‘Start to golf’: 4 weeks, 1 hour/week, in groups of 4 to 6 people.
I thought: why not?

After that, another offer came: a ‘winter package’. 
We would again meet once a week, in small groups (different ones) and there would also be some social events. 
It would be until the end of March, and if we liked it, in April we could become ‘real’ members of the club. 
Unfortunately, because of lockdown (number 2, if I’m not mistaken …), the social events were cancelled. 
We were, however, still allowed to have our lessons, because it was outside and there was enough distance.
I went to all the lessons, even when it was dark and cold (and even snowing on a couple of occasions). And I practiced once or twice a week on top of that.

Mid-March 2021, I listened to a podcast, where I was reminded that there are 168 hours in a week. 
I did trigger me a bit and I decided to further explore this.
As a coach, I have a lot of exercises to choose from and I decided to take the balance wheel and to write down, for every category (8), my absolute ‘musts’. 
Then I wrote down how much time these ‘musts’ would take.
It will not surprise you that when I started to add them up, the sum was higher than 168. Clearly there were not enough hours in my week?!
Because I couldn’t add any hours to the week, I was forced to examine the current situation.
I realised that, because of covid and some other reasons, I couldn’t ‘group’ some of my ‘musts’ and that was part of the problem.
I also noticed that golf took a lot of hours.
There was the lesson and the practice, there was the one-hour commute, the total was more or less 10 hours/week. 
Those were valuable hours and… all of a sudden, I wasn’t sure anymore if I wanted to give them to golf. The ‘why not’ had just become a ‘do I really really want to do this?’.

And then I just knew. No, I don’t… 

Let’s be clear: I had nothing against golf… but there were other things I would rather do…
I liked combining walking with seeing my friends, for instance…
And if I had to choose between seeing my friends and going to practice golf on my own … I knew what I would go for.

This clarity gave me a sense of relief. 

I knew I was not going to become a member in April. 

And it felt like the right decision.

There were still 2 events. 
A last lesson with the group and then a closing event of the winter package.

During the last lesson with the group, I told the others (all men) that I was going to stop. They all tried to convince me not to do it. 
I shouldn’t quit. 
I needed more time. 
If I got better, I would like it more, etc… 
I just let them talk.

The day of the closing event was also a beautiful, sunny day. 
And again… everybody who heard of my ‘decision’ tried to convince me to stay…
And to cut a long story short: I went for ‘why not?’ again…

Not only did I become a member, I also took 10 private lessons.

And during summer, I hardly went… 
I did feel a bit ‘guilty’ for having spent so much money and then not ‘using’ it.
Also, some family members and friends kept on insisting I should go more… ‘It’s such a nice sport…’

You’d think that by now I would have learned my lesson…


In September 2021, I was again invited to join the winter package.
And while I already knew I was not going to renew my membership… guess what… I talked myself into it!?
My motive? 
‘If I do the winter package, and it allows me to pass the practical test, I didn’t ‘waste’ the money I paid for the membership… ‘
I paid for the winter package, I went 4 – 5 times and then … I didn’t. 
There were valid reasons: I had to work, I had to travel… 
But I also noticed that, when I was at home, and the sun was shining, I was never thinking: how about going to the club to practice a bit?

And it dawned on me that I had to take a decision.

I’m happy to tell you that last week I gave my golf bag to somebody from my group. And it felt good.
On Wednesday I gave some other stuff (balls, tees, … ) to somebody else. And again, it felt like the right thing to do.

What’s the moral of the story?

No, it’s not that I don’t like golf. I liked it but I like other things more.
No, I’m not upset with the people who tried to convince me to keep on playing. They were meaning well.
I am a bit upset with myself for going with the ‘why not’ for so long.
For being so easily convinced and for not respecting my gut feeling from March 2021.

But I also learned a valuable lesson: if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.

That’s going to become a new motto to live by.
There are so many things I still want to do, and so little time. 

How about you? Are you still doing something which deep down you are no longer that excited about? And you keep on doing it because…
… that’s what you do?
… you must finish what you’ve started?
… that’s what people in your family do?
… you’ve paid for it?
… it makes sense (even though it doesn’t feel right anymore…)?

Maybe it’s time for an evaluation?

PS: I’ve learned that having a spontaneous smile on my face when I’m doing an activity is a pretty good indicator.

PPS: I’ve kept a couple of balls and tees to put in prominent places to serve as a reminder … ;-D