Crafting for Wellbeing at the One Team Gov #WellbeingCamp

Jackie Bryan from the Digital Group at DWP is also a part of HASSRA Leeds Craft Club. The team recently ran some crafting sessions at the #WellbeingCamp so we asked her to share her thoughts about the day…

One Team Gov lanyards at the Wellbeing Camp

When we were asked to run a session at the One Team Gov Wellbeing Camp on 6 June, I don’t think we really knew what we were letting ourselves in for! I belong to the HASSRA Craft Club in Quarry House Leeds, a group of like-minded crafty people who meet at lunchtime to help relieve everyday stress by doing something crafty.

Hassra Leeds Craft Club Logo

We’re passionate about wellbeing and the benefits that crafting can have. We’re proud of our diverse interests and the range of opportunities we offer — from knitting, crochet and sewing to the more unusual Zentangle, felting and glass fusion.

We also use our crafting to support events such as Time to Talk Day, McMillan Coffee Morning and Mental Health Awareness Week, raising money for charity. Earlier this year, we were awarded team of the year in the HASSRA Regional awards in recognition of our efforts.

During last month’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we ran a daily lunchtime drop-in session, each with a different crafting activity. Monday was Zentangle, Tuesday we did Inspirational Quote Art Tags, Wednesday we painted pebble frogs for our #frogonarock, Thursday we made lavender bags (everyone knows the stress-relieving properties of lavender) and Friday we made paper flowers. Over 100 people came and crafted with us, taking time to stop and take a lunchbreak.

After a busy week of events, Joanne asked if we would like to be involved in the #WellbeingCamp.

After a little bit of panicking, we decided we could and set about deciding what crafts we should bring!

Frog on a rock

The #frogonarock pebbles stem from a story I told last year of a bad period in my life. A friend had been ringing and texting, but I couldn’t cope with answering and switched off my phone. When she saw me a few days later, she said she’d been really worried about me — I explained why.

She told me:

“I’m going to give you a phrase that helped me. It might sound silly, but you’ll never use it anywhere else. If you’re okay but can’t cope with talking, just text me back ‘Frog on a rock’ and I’ll know why.”

And that’s where our #Frogonarock began. We decided to paint pebbles to look like frogs — putting a frog on your desk signalled to colleagues that you were ‘just about coping’ with work, but couldn’t deal with talking about how you were feeling at the moment.

We had to bring #Frogonarock — it’s fun but with an important message behind it. Zentangle (organised doodling) chose itself too, and we transported a lot of kit to make Inspirational Quote Art Tags too.

About the day

We bagged a space in a corner of the main room and then went to investigate some of the morning sessions and stalls.

It was the first time for all of us at one of these kind of events, so none of us knew quite what to expect but it was a hugely positive atmosphere!

There were some amazing sessions — and it was hard to pick which to do.

One of my favourite conversations was one I fell into by mistake when we gatecrashed the ‘You Always Matter’ session while looking for the beautiful Inspiration Tree we’d seen on Twitter.

The inspiration tree.

We had a lovely chat with Suzy and her daughter, Megan, and brought away some great ideas to try back at work.

Then it was our turn. Even before we’d managed to set up the tables, we’d got people waiting eager to have a go. And it didn’t stop all lunchtime! I lost count of how many people came and crafted, painting frogs, getting inky fingers or ‘trying’ to zone out with the zentangle.

What happened next?

The afternoon passed in a blur and I got home around 5:30pm, still buzzing form such an amazing day and spent the next 6 hours on Twitter continuing the conversation!

It was the first time I’d really used Twitter, but I’d set up a ‘work’ account and took the plunge. Oh my word, the hashtag was buzzing with tweets, photos and video clips. After liking or commenting on a few, I’d increased my followers from just my immediate team mates to people all round the country and from different departments.

Nour Sidawi and attendees practice some mindful colouring

We’ve made contact with people in other government departments who want to set up a Craft Club, others who want to share #Frogonarock with their colleagues, people like Suzy who posts uplifting messages on her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

So it wasn’t just a day focusing on wellbeing, it’s become a support network, a source of inspiration, knowledge and sharing.

I hope there’s a WellbeingCamp Mark 2!

Shout-outs to our group of willing volunteers, who mucked in and helped out, even if some of them were outside their comfort zone:

  • Lou Murphy-Shaw
  • Mavis Cook
  • Kirsty White
  • Sue Oldfield
  • Jo Hindmarsh
  • Poppy Eldred, and,
  • Susanne Gee.

You were fab!

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