Someone very near and dear to me struggles with severe anxiety. This post is not about that, though we should all speak up more for mental illness. This post is about a blanket I made to help my loved one transition away from pharmaceuticals. (This transition away from medication was guided by a physician and not something I would advocate without first talking with a medical professional/therapist before attempting. It was the right move for us, it is not the right move for everyone.)
When the decision was made that a natural approach was going to be attempted to battle somewhat severe, sometimes debilitating anxiety, we knew that it was going to be a difficult journey. However, tackling it together and finding different means to ease panic and anxiety has made all the difference. One of the things we discovered were weighted blankets. These blankets were originally conceived, I believe, to help children with autism. The weight of the blanket, which is significantly heavier than a normal blanket, helps your body release natural, calming chemicals...sort of like a hug...and assists a person who is feeling a large amount of stress and anxiety find their way back. Well, if that is what it does, it makes sense that even more people have found aid in a weighted blanket than just those with autism.
My sons and I decided to call our weighted blanket the "Feel Good Blanket." Seemed better than "Weighted Blanket." These blankets can help people with anxiety and depression as well as help people who have trouble sleeping at night. Really, something like a hug could probably help a whole lot of people with a whole lot of stuff. They are available commercially, but can be a little pricey when you get to the larger sizes. Because I was looking for a feel better blanket for an adult male, I was looking at upward of $100. With a little internet research, I figured I'd just make one myself.
This type of blanket should weigh 10% of the body weight of the person using it. (I believe it is 5% for small children.) That meant I needed to create a blanket that weighed 20 lbs. I wasn't kidding when I said it was heavier than a normal blanket. I might go so far as to say significantly heavier than a normal blanket. It is also narrower than a normal blanket, as it needs to fit just over the person. If it hangs down, it will likely keep slipping off because of the weight. Also, you want 20% of their weight on them, not swallowing them up all around them on a bed. I decided to add batting to my blanket, as well, just to help with the noise the beads filling the blanket make. Then, like the scattered, silly person I am, I sandwiched it together like a quilt when sewing the edge borders, meaning I could not simply flip the blanket like a pillow case and sew the channels, which is how most of these blankets are constructed. However, there were a lot of stitches that would have needed to be picked out, so I decided to trudge forward and just keep making it like a quilt. The only really significant difference was that I had a raw edge that I had to add a binding to after I finished the blanket. (This was harder than it might at first sound...try sewing on a 20lb blanket. It's intense.)
I used the recommended poly-beads, which were the most expensive part of the blanket, but I think worth it. I chose two fabric colors, a dark blue and a grey, one on the topside color the other for the under-side color. I wanted to keep it masculine looking, a little sleek, and still calming. There are a number of YouTube videos available that show how to construct the blanket- sewing the channels, filling, and seaming each column shut as you move up the blanket. I used a kitchen balance so that I had exactly the right amount of fill in each of my squares in the blanket's grid, though I have seen some people use a pre-measured mark on a cup. I will not go too much into the details of construction here, this post is already long enough, but I will say those little beads get everywhere- I recommend a funnel and patient hands.
The blanket was easy to construct, but did take a bit of time. (Some of the time came from my error in construction. In the end, I really liked the binding, though.) It has been a helpful tool in our arsenal of coping with anxiety.
*We do not let our children use this blanket. It is very heavy and not intended for little people. Every feel good blanket should be tailored to the individual who needs it.*