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Stress Advice - Coping Strategies for Stress - Music Relieves Stress

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Using Music to Relieve Stress and Anxiety

Music often affects our moods and energy levels. But have you thought of music to relieve stress? Music has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety effectively, as well as their associated symptoms. If you want a quick, easy way to fight stress, then perhaps listening to your favourite soothing music on a regular basis could be part of the answer for you. Read on to find out more about how music can reduce your levels of stress and anxiety, and induce peace and calm.

It is not difficult to understand that music affects our moods and feelings in various ways. It can soothe and relax us or bring us to a state of aliveness with its dance beats and pulsing rhythms. It can add to our stress levels when it is unwanted, such as a neighbour's radio blasting out over our garden. Some people like to have continuous background music and find it hard to function without it. So, if we know that music has such effects, then maybe it shouldn't come as any surprise that the right kind of music can help to reduce tension and fight stress.

Although stress originates in the mind as it is caused by our perceptions of various external factors, it has certain effects on the body. When we suffer from stress, we have definite physiological reactions. The brain pumps stress chemicals into our bodies to suppress certain bodily functions whilst placing others on red alert in preparation to defend ourselves or run away - this is known as the fight or flight response. Some of the symptoms that we experience as part of our stress response may be pounding heart and quicker breathing. Blood is diverted to our muscles and we may find it difficult to swallow or we may break out into a sweat. As we are primed for action, our impulses take over and our awareness increases. If we have the time to stop and think about it, we feel fear, tension and anxiety.

These are our natural inbuilt responses to the perception of threat and danger and originate in our subconscious, whether or not the danger is real or imagined. The great news is that these stress activated symptoms have been shown to be reduced with music and music related therapy. Clinical tests have shown music to relieve stress and to help patients to face their fears and reduce anxiety. During a particular test, music was played to patients before and during surgery. It was found that it helped relieve stress in 93% of patients. Studies show that music can help to reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones and decrease anxiety. In some studies, patients with highest levels of anxiety were found to benefit most. (See below for references.)

Having said this, our choice of music is a personal matter and the types of music that can help us to lower stress levels is often a matter of individual preference. This may depend on type and volume of music, familiarity with the music being played and our current mood. Loud and fast music may stimulate us rather than relax us. The most beneficial music to relieve stress for most people would be relatively slow with a repeating rhythm and stable contours. You can, of course, buy whole albums full of music which have been specifically created for the relief of stress.

So, why not think about using music as part of your stress coping strategies? If music relieves stress then regular relaxation, listening to soothing music that calms you and makes you feel good can only be beneficial to your health. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that music will help to relieve your symptoms of stress and anxiety and help you feel better. For a more relaxed and peaceful you, that's got to be worth a try.

References: Stress reduction through music in patients undergoing cerebral angiography, 2000, Schneider, Schedlowski, Schurmeyer and Becker, Neuroradiology(200) 43:472-476. Relaxing music prevents stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy males and females, Knight and Richard, 2001, Journal of Music Therapy XXXV111(4), 2001, 254-272.

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