Hobbies to Reduce Stress

Stress. Anxiety. Depression. These are killers. Surveys show they are increasing, spreading like a virus. Our growing sense of overwhelm and uncertainty is driven by world events, social isolation, and our increasingly complex world.

With all the tumult in the world these days more and more of us are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, uncertainty, confusion and the numbing mental fog that results from endless stress.

Now our patrons have been sharing strategies that they use to reduce or even eliminate stress and some are familiar you know, regular sleep, better diet, exercise, being out in nature is a big one. The one that really surprised me was the number of people who use a hobby to manage their stress, they found a pastime that provides relief and perspective on the world, it’s it’s recharging.

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What Hobbies Help With Stress?

Some of the hobbies that can reduce stress are:

  • Jewelry Making
  • Weaving
  • Spinning
  • Making soap
  • Needle point
  • Painting
  • Online games
  • Tinkering in a workshop
  • Baking
  • Pottery
  • Candle making
  • Lego
  • Model Railroading
A model railroad Texaco station

When I mentioned my go-to stress buster is model railroading a number of patrons asked to see it, all right since all of my videos are answers to patrons requests here we go.

Welcome to 1958, this is a small city, a place with lots of industry and lots of rail traffic. Now this might seem like an odd hobby for someone who has trouble with attention, follow-through, impatience, and distraction, and yes this may seem trivial or frivolous to you but for me for half a century it’s been a kind of meditative touchstone and it’s a different kind of hyperfocus than when I’m writing or performing, in fact when I’m writing comedy my mind is busy imagining scenes and dialogue and complications, it’s all happening up here. I actually look like I’m hypnotized. If it’s really funny, okay if I think it’s really funny, I have this slightly manic grin.

Model Railroading To Reduce Stress

This is different, this demands I be here, be present, focused on every brush stroke, over and over and over, each knife cut, it may sound paradoxical, how can a hobby that requires precision and patience be relaxing? In fact it doesn’t so much require patience rather it draws me into a state of patience, being very present, focused on exactly what I’m doing, it absorbs me, I suppose a bit like a candle providing focus for a meditating monk, maybe that’s stretching it.

You may shudder at the thought of model railroading as I shudder at the thought of golf but for me it’s a kind of relaxation therapy and it’s not unlike yin yoga which I adore, gardening, which I help out with or walking in nature it’s almost the antithesis of writing for television, here there’s no deadline, no delivery date whereas if I want to revise and improve a script with a great new gag and a way better punchline, too late it’s been shot, edited, broadcast.

Model Railroad Layout of Rick Green

There’s no audience here except me, although friends visit and everyone’s gobsmacked, there’s no cast and crew to coordinate and work with and I’m constantly able to edit, to improve, to add, the mistakes are correctable and this is full of mistakes but I work at my own speed, as I say no deadlines. It’s quiet, no calls, no requests, no push notifications, the silence is lovely and yet I find having something playing in the background helps me with focus. Usually I just put on a documentary that i’ve seen before and I half listen, well quarter listen, well a 20th listen.

Another difference is that unlike writing this is physical and it’s slow but it’s instantly rewarding, I mean I write a funny skit and it’ll be weeks or months before an audience sees it in the studio and then weeks or months before it’s broadcast, here the positive feedback is instant, unlike the laughter it’s always here.

Busy Street Model Railroad

As well I’m in charge so I can express my own vision, no studio executive saying you should make the husband more likeable, or ah don’t worry about it it’s good enough, people won’t know the difference between an outside brace box car with arch bar trucks and a steel box car with Andrew’s trucks, i’ll know, i’ll know.

So I get to set my own standard, I may not be hyper focused when I retreat to down here but it doesn’t take me long to slow down, to relax and slip into the zone, zoned in rather than zoned out. Zoned out for me is an endless spiral of random irrelevant, inappropriate, useless and even anxiety inducing hubbub, or lost in time wasters the ones that just put my life on pause, scrolling lost in a passive state of semi-amusement by things I’m never going to remember.

Nothing wrong in moderation but somedays I am shocked at how much time I spend online and that’s time I realized that I could be actively de-stressing, actually doing nothing, or unwinding by doing some exercise, doing some chores, going for a walk with my wife, sitting outdoors in the yard watching the birds and the wild rabbits, or here doing this.

Downtown Cigar shop Model Railroad

What I love is that there’s always something to show for the time I spend here, something tangible, but hyper focus is tricky because I’m not always in charge of it, I can become engrossed for way too long on something simple, shiny, odd, or fun, I’m,almost hypnotized by a trivial task never getting to what’s important or urgent. Even here I will spend a lot of time on little details but then rush through the track work and that leads to endless derailments.

I’ve come to understand why I can become riveted on one activity but not another, actually loathe another activity the difference is it’s interesting, interesting and interesting like beauty is in the eye and the brain of the beholder. What’s interesting to my brain what stimulates and engages and draws me in might leave you semi-comatose, I know I get it, don’t need to apologize. Now it could be that I’m focused on something worth doing but just as easily something trivial, a puzzle game or like this morning where I spent 15 minutes trying to eliminate a water stain on the sink forgetting that David our customer support wizard had scheduled an online call.

Street Corner Model Railroad

My point is that when I am hyperfocused on something useful or important the hyper focus can be a huge asset. Now when I started out making scenery at age 10 the hobby was extremely primitive, grass was bright Kelly green’s sawdust, the trees were fluorescent green balls of lichen moss on brown stick,s and roads jet black asphalt, it looked so toy like. How come? Why? Well I started noticing the actual real world I was more present, more observant actually looking at the world and seeing it as it is, roads aren’t black they’re fifty shades of grey, on a sunny day a new sidewalk is almost white and concrete is gray and then it turns kind of a tan color and eventually after years it even turns yellow.

Kissing in forest of model railroad

Tree trunks? Brown right? No they’re gray except birch trees okay so how do I create birch trees let me see what shape are they? I think they’re… I better look, and my favorite of course are all of the structures, I love building the structures and then there are all the people the figures what a great way to keep my fine motor skills sharp and then arranging the figures into little scenes, moments in time, little dramas that bring things to life. The warehouse workers out back drinking and talking when they shouldn’t be, the work crew clearing the dead trees, gusts of wind blowing through the city, uh oh traffic jam at the lumber yard, come on guys move the board, oh there’s an argument at the dairy [Music] finally operations, that’s when this becomes a big game the scenery fades into the background , it becomes kind of the set and the trains become the players acting out on the set each with its own character, the lazy local freight, the express train with the perishable goods.

So many people find a hobby like this it becomes a passion a touchstone one of our patreon chat rooms is dedicated to hobbies and it’s amazing what folks do, jewelry, weaving, spinning, making soap, needle point, painting, online games, tinkering in a workshop, baking, pottery, candle making, did I say candle making… I don’t know even Lego. Some patrons have facebook pages or etsy pages where they sell their creations, one is a very talented comic book artist the hobby can become a passion for us.

I hope you enjoyed the tour and heard something useful for yourself, if you’re one of our patrons who asked to see the model railroad and explain how I managed to stick with it thanks I kind of do like showing it off.