Keisharial Thompson, 26, had no clue sewing would be the hobby to rescue her from work stress when she rekindled her love for the craft back in 2017. 

She dusted off her sewing machine with plans to make and sell homemade totes and cosmetic bags as a side hustle, but found peace instead. 

“The focus of it helps to calm my brain, calm my mind,” she says. 

Thompson’s first job after attending college was at a call center where she resolved people’s health insurance issues — all while her own health declined on the other end of the phone.

“I would say the stress was due to the volume of calls — the amount of calls being taken per hour,” she recalls. “Just back-to-back calls. Just kind of always being on.”

Her body began raising red flags shortly after starting the job. Mental fatigue in the evening. Anxiety while getting ready in the morning. Occasional tears.

“I needed to find a way to decompress away from all of the high stress of the [work] environment,” she says. 

The Health Benefits of Sewing

Sewing became Thompson’s superpower because of its surprising health benefits. 

Thompson [right] with her great-grandmother [left] who gifted her a sewing machine for Christmas when she was a child. Photo courtesy of Keisharial Thompson

The hobby requires absolute concentration to ensure success. A moment’s look away from the needle could result in a poor product or, worse, injury. But when it’s done right, the attention to detail pays off. 

Jackets get hidden pockets. Pants get fancy zippers and hems. And the sewer becomes less stressed and anxious with a meditative focus.

This is when dopamine — known as the “feel-good” hormone — increases in the brain, causing positive feelings to flow throughout the body.

Sewing also improves hand and eye coordination and protects against dementia. A study published in 2015 found that middle and older-aged people who participated in sewing and other crafts were 45% less likely to develop memory or thinking problems.

How Sewing Remedies Work Stress

As she moves up in the ranks of her career, Thompson hasn’t put the needle and thread down. She now works as a call center supervisor for a government health agency.

“I’ve been able to continue sewing, which has allowed me to put boundaries between work and home,”  she says. 

Earlier this year, she also launched virtual teaching classes for other “high-performing” women who want to learn to sew to create a work-life balance. She offers one-on-one support for beginners and experienced enthusiasts. Her TikTok, where she shares the basics, also gained some interest.

“[High-performing women] typically focus on work and neglect other areas in life,” Thompson says. “That’s why I feel that with sewing, it can bring attention to something [else] in life.”

Sewing could be especially helpful for Black women who experience high levels of burnout, microaggressions, and other unique workplace stressors.

Thompson is but one case study. 

“[Sewing] is actually something that helps with the job because it takes my mind off of things. I’m able to have something to essentially look forward to…something that I deem as fun and that I deem as joyful.”

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