Self-Care Through Creativity

We caught up with Christina Dashko who is a Spiritual Care Practitioner at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto to talk about how creativity plays a role in self-care in both her personal and professional life while she took a look at some of our crafting books. Read what she had to say below!

My name is Christina Dashko, and I was born and raised in Toronto. By day I am a Spiritual Care Practitioner, providing spiritual and religious care to patients, families, and staff at Mount Sinai Hospital. By night, I love to craft.

Some of my crafting includes knitting, embroidery, cross stitch, weaving, and spinning on a drop spindle. Working with patients in a clinical environment where life is stark and the space is bare drives me to create things in my spare time. I take the energy and emotion from the day and transform it into something beautiful. Also, in my clinical work, I have been co-running an art-based group on our inpatient psychiatry unit since 2006.

Why is creating something with your own hands so important? Well, anything we make is an extension of who we are. For some people, this is a way to express themselves without having to use words. For others, the act of simply holding a pair of needles and yarn or a paintbrush can be very grounding, focusing them in the moment when life is swirling around them.

Occasionally I teach patients how to knit or crochet or spin yarn as a form of meditation. When someone is suffering from depression, any milestone is a big deal. To be able to say "I did something today," even if that something is as simple as knitting a single row, gives patients a sense of accomplishment. It feels good to teach someone this tool that they can use for the rest of their lives. I find it rewarding to share with my patients the joy that I have found in creating!

The Knitting Book

This is a gorgeous, thorough compendium of stitches, techniques, and patterns. I particularly liked the suggestions of how to knit with unusual yarns, including twine. I think people forget that yarn is just "fancy string" and you can try all kinds of things out if you are feeling creative!

Often the patients I have in the hospital have limited access to fancy yarn. Sometimes, the only materials available are whatever people have donated. The Knitting Book has some patterns that would be ideal for a new knitter with limited supplies, such as the "Men’s Striped Sweater" that could be made as plain or as fancy as one might want, depending on the number of colours available. There is also the "Checkered Pillow" that a novice knitter could make without becoming overwhelmed with new techniques.


This is a beautiful book which illustrates over 200 stitches that range from the straightforward (such as running stitch and satin stitch) to the more complex drawn stitches and couching work. It is THE very handy reference guide that every needlewoman (or man) should have!

In my own crafting life, I often have different embroidery pieces on the go at the same time. I am working on antique linen to make an heirloom Ukrainian folk blouse using mostly cross-stitch. When I don’t feel like counting, I also have two "stitch meditations." One is a fabric collage; the second is a series of circles made from simple running stitches and backstitch. The point of this piece is to "stay in the moment," relishing the process rather than the finished product. These pieces are examples of mindfulness made into art.


I got very excited when I first took a look at Crochet. It is the size of a coffee table book! The first section has clear photographs of how to make various stitches, and there are patterns at the back for all skill levels. The patterns that made me very happy were some of the small ones (like the "Desktop Storage Pots") that could be someone’s second project.

I have often encouraged patients in hospital to use craft as a meditation. The repetitive action of crochet or knitting helps to calm the mind and hands, and provides a bit of distance from our troubles. When working on any piece, a crafter will tell you that he or she "lost track of the time." This is perfect for patients who have lots of time on their hands. Some of the patients that I have taught to crochet or knit in our Creative Expressions group decide later that they want to give something back to the hospital. Occasionally, we get lap blankets for wheelchair-bound patients that are made by former patients. It feels good for the soul to give back to the community!

My Art Book

This is a fabulous resource for anyone who runs any kind of art expressions group! The photographs are lush and filled with colour, and even though it's a children's book, there are lots of creative ideas that can be enjoyed by adults. As a bonus, the materials required are inexpensive!

In the Creative Expressions group that we run, we are always on the lookout for new ideas for art projects that can inspire patients to talk a little bit about themselves and the struggles and triumphs of their lives. We tried the "Dreaming Dots" rock-decorating project, which is a tribute to the creativity of the Balgo community of Western Australia. The group was a success as the participants found the painting of the dots to be quite meditative.