Around this time last year I started making my own soap. I was looking for some relief for eczema breakouts, which I suspect were a result of the Lupron shots I get every three months. The soap didn’t resolve my skin problems–they improved on their own over time–but making soap became a hobby that helps me relax and manage stress and anxiety.
Focus Deflects Anxiety
Although I try really hard not to think about having a recurrence, sometimes I can’t help it. I get tense and anxious when these thoughts creep into my head, so I look for ways to shoo them out. Making soap is one of my tactics! I like to wake up very early on Sunday mornings because my kids are asleep, and I can have some “me” time. This is when I like to make soap. Making soap requires some focus, and I believe that is what helps me relax. I have to think about the ingredients I will use. What qualities do I want the soap to have? Then I decide what technique I will use to form the soap’s appearance. Usually, these ideas stew in my mind for days prior to making the soap, but I write down the recipe and steps right before making it.
There is no room for error when making soap. You have to pay attention to your ingredients and measure carefully in order to create a mild bar. I make soap using the cold-process method, which also requires some safety precautions. All of this forces me to forget about everything else that might be going on in my life. For a little while, I can just focus on making something useful and beautiful. Then, I have something to look forward to — cutting the bars! I love this step because soap is full of surprises. You never know exactly what the bars will look like until you cut them. And then, there is more to look forward to — using and gifting the bars once they cure!
Here are some pictures of soaps I’ve made over the last year. I’ve experimented with different types of swirls and layering techniques. I’ve also tried using various essential oils, phthalate-free fragrance oils, and natural colorants.
Making Soap & Living Life
The more soap I make, the more I am convinced that making soap is a lot like living your life. You have control over some things but not others, and the outcome can be surprising at times. When you make soap, you control the ingredients. You select oils and additives that determine how moisturizing, creamy or bubbly the bars will be. But adding designs to the soap is less predictable. I always have an idea of what I want the soap to look like. I use ingredients and techniques that I believe will help accomplish that design. Sometimes, the end result closely approximates what I had in mind, and other times it is way off the mark. Most of the times, the soap turns out pretty anyway, but sometimes I get some ugly bars. No matter, I always learn from each soap making experience. The outcome gives me clues for what I could do differently next time.
This process reminds me a lot of my life, and I find that comforting. Some things are under my control. Some things happen unpredictably. Sometimes the outcome is great, and sometimes it sucks. No matter, I learn from each experience and chug along.
How do you manage stress and anxiety? Do you use any arts and crafts to relax your mind? Let me know it the comments!