In the battle against stress and anxiety, there are a number of great tricks and skills that can be used to help us feel safer and more comfortable.  While many may immediately come to mind (breathing, exercise, a good night’s sleep, etc.), the use of music as a de-stressor is one that we often overlook.  While we may go out of our way to search for things that make us feel better, music is a tool that is very easily accessible and has the power to aid in relaxing both our mind and our body.

A large amount of research has been conducted regarding the effects of music on both the psychological and physiological well-being of all types of people.  The studies show a great number of ways that beautiful tones create a calming environment for those suffering from a wide range of afflictions; from cancer to stress and almost everything between.  The use of classical and other peaceful types of music has been shown to slow the pulse and heart rate of the listener.  In addition, this music has been shown to reduce high blood pressure and decrease the amount of stress hormone produced by the brain.  By causing these physical reactions, peaceful music helps to calm the listener. Classical music has even been shown to increase the production of serotonin which can help fight depression, anxiety, panic, and anger.
Classical music is not the only type of music that affects our health and well-being.  The way that music affects a person is completely individual and based on our own personal experiences.  Some people find solace in the golden oldies their parents listened to growing up while others seek comfort in the silk of smooth jazz.  Some are uplifted by the positive message of pop music while others feel energized by the thunderous beat of rock-n-roll.  Musical styles affect everyone differently, and it is very important to know how music affects you before trying to use it to reduce your stress. 
In order to know which styles of music help you reduce stress, start with the ones you like! The musical styles that we find pleasant and pleasing are the ones that have the most positive affect on our emotions and our stress levels. It’s not helpful to force yourself to listen to classical music to relax if you know you hate classical music.  Instead, identify those styles of music that you genuinely enjoy.  Once you have identified them, consider how these different styles make you feel.  Do they relax you or excite you?  Do they increase or decrease your energy level?  By understanding how certain kinds of music affect your body, you can use that music to achieve the emotion you want.
Once you have identified the right type of music, the next step is deciding how best to use it to improve your mood or lower your stress level.  Starting your day with the right song may be much more relaxing and calming than waking up to a droning beep.  Try setting your phone or alarm to play music instead of the standard alarm sound.  You can also take music with you throughout the day to help.  The portability of technology means that you can listen to positive music while exercising, during travel, on a break, doing chores, or even while working (depending on your job, of course).  If you have trouble meditating, music can be used to help you by giving you something to focus on other than your own thoughts.  You can even try singing your favorite songs as a way to reduce your stress level and increase a positive mood- and if you’re singing alone, no talent is required! 
However you decide to utilize music to de-stress yourself, the idea is to wrap yourself in the positive feelings created by the songs.  Experience the healing power of music by focusing on the rhythms and melodies of the songs that you choose.  With time, practice, and the right playlist, you can learn to create a soundtrack to your life that helps you combat the day-to-day stressors of a hectic world and create a better, happier you!

Submitted by Bill Knor, LCPC
Licensed Professional Counselor