USING MUSIC TO BEAT STRESS
Listening to music does wonder to alleviate stress. Everyone has different tastes in music. We should listen to the music that makes us feel comfortable. Sitting down and forcing yourself to listen to relaxation music that you don’t like may create stress, not alleviate it. Music is a significant mood-changer and reliever of stress, working on many levels at once.
The entire human energetic system is extremely influenced by sounds, the physical body and chakra centers respond specifically to certain tones and frequencies. Special consideration should be given to the positive effects of one actually playing or creating music themselves. Among the first stress-fighting changes that take place when we hear a tune is an increase in deep breathing. The body’s production of serotonin also accelerates.
Playing music in the background while we are working, seemingly unaware of the music itself, has been found to reduce the stress of the workplace. That’s why so many retail places play music while you shop – to take your mind off the high prices!
Music was found to reduce heart rates and to promote higher body temperature – an indication of the onset of relaxation. Combining music with relaxation therapy was more effective than doing relaxation therapy alone. Many experts suggest that it is the rhythm of the music or the beat that has the calming effect on us although we may not be very conscious about it. They point out that when we were a baby in our mother’s womb, we probably were influenced by the heart beat of our mother. We respond to the soothing music at later stages in life, perhaps associating it with the safe, relaxing, protective environment provided by our mother.
Music can be one of the most soothing or nerve wracking experiences available. Choosing what will work for any individual is difficult, most will choose something they ‘like’ instead of what might be beneficial. In doing extensive research on what any given piece of music produces in the physiological response system many unexpected things were found. Many of the so-called meditation and relaxation recordings actually produced adverse EEG patterns, just as bad as Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. The surprising thing was many selections of Celtic, Native American as well as various music containing loud drums or flute were extremely soothing. The most profound finding was any music performed live and even at moderately loud volumes even if it was somewhat discordant had very a beneficial response.
As we mentioned before, there is not a single music that is good for everyone. People have different tastes. It is important that you like the music being played. I recently picked up a rest and relaxation CD at Wal-Mart that has done wonders for me. It has the sounds of the ocean in the background while beautiful piano music plays. It’s very soothing.
One note here, it’s probably not a good idea to play certain types of ballads or songs that remind you of a sad time in your life when you’re trying to de-stress. The reason is obvious. You’re trying to relax and wash away the anxious thoughts. The last thing that you need is for a sad song to bring back memories you don’t need anyway.
Here are some general guidelines to follow when using music to de-stress.
• To wash away stress, try taking a 20-minute “sound bath.” Put some relaxing music on your stereo, and then lie in a comfortable position on a couch or on the floor near the speakers. For a deeper experience, you can wear headphones to focus your attention and to avoid distraction.
• Choose music with a slow rhythm – slower than the natural heart beat which is about 72 beats per minute. Music that has repeating or cyclical pattern is found to be effective in most people.
• As the music plays, allow it to wash over you, rinsing off the stress from the day. Focus on your breathing, letting it deepen, slow and become regular. Concentrate on the silence between the notes in the music; this keeps you from analyzing the music and makes relaxation more complete.
• If you need stimulation after a day of work, go for a faster music rather than slow calming music. Turn up the volume and DANCE! It doesn’t matter if you can actually dance or not. Just move along with the music and do what feels good. You’ll be shocked at the release you can feel!
• When going gets tough, go for a music you are familiar with – such as a childhood favorite or favorite oldies. Familiarity often breeds calmness.
• Take walks with your favorite music playing on the walkman. Inhale and exhale in tune with the music. Let the music takes you. This is a great stress reliever by combining exercise (brisk walk), imagery and music.
• Listening to the sounds of nature, such as ocean waves or the calm of a deep forest, can reduce stress. Try taking a 15- to 20-minute walk if you’re near the seashore or a quiet patch of woods. If not, you can buy tapes of these sounds in many music stores. This has been very calming for me – you should try it too!
There’s another great relaxation technique that I have found in coping with my own anxiety problems: self-hypnosis.