There is a vast variety of coping strategies and relaxation techniques, which are all equally as effective. One such strategy is music therapy.
When we are stressed, we have a build of tension and emotion. Therefore there needs to be a release of this tension, to help cope with the stressor. Music is a great outlet, as singing along with your favourite song, pouring all your emotion into the song and singing at the top of your lungs. By doing this you are reliving your stress, especially when you feel overwhelmed, it’s an effective way to be mindful of yourself. An individual is able to loose themselves in the music and let go for a few moments.
I am a big advocate of music therapy as no matter who you are and what you’re going through, music is often a great distraction and outlet for emotion. Not many think of listening to music as an effective therapy tool, as they can’t make the link between emotion to music. Let’s put it into another perspective for example an individual feels alone, isolated and has no hope that anything good will occur. They may turn to physical self harm, alcohol, drugs or even attempt suicide. Now these are very valid coping mechanisms which people learn and implement. But they are very temporary and the after effect is always negative. However if the person decides to turn on some music and sing and pour the emotion out, there will be little need to reach for the bottle of whisky or packets of pills. As they have released their emotion, they may not have dealt with the situation but the emotion attached has been dealt with.
In life it’s not often the stressor that causes us stress but our perception of it, what it means to us, how it affects us etc. How we perceive something will then drive our emotions towards it. This build up of emotion than causes us to feel stressed, anxious etc. Consequently we than engage in any behaviour to help cope with the emotion. This is key! We forget about dealing with the emotion, how we are feeling, we often don’t have an effective outlet for it. For example deliberately lacerating your forearm will not help relieve the emotion but will help the person have a physical outlet to what they are feeling such as pain. They feel pain but can’t express it, lacerating can help place understanding to the pain they feel. But the critical point is the feeling of pain is not fully dealt with.
Therapy is an effective way of confronting the emotion, understanding our feelings and relieving the emotion attached.
Some may argue they don’t listen to music, which is a fair argument. Music therapy is just one method in hundreds, so if music is not for you maybe drawing or doing art being more expressive, may be more ideal for example.
Music therapy and such therapies are effective and work long term because you are releasing positive endorphins in your brain, you start to think less negatively and you feel you are more able to tackle the problem as you’ve released a lot of the emotion attached to it. This is an important aspect which a lot of people forget or don’t realise, we have a lot of emotional baggage attached to any given situation . If we are able to let go of the emotion; anger, sadness, pain etc we are only left with the problem. Our judgment and decision making is not clouded or blurred by emotion. We are more able to make rational and logical decisions and perceive the situation differently.
Pause. You might be reading this thinking this is wishful thinking and naive to think every situation can be solved so easily. Incorrect. Here I’m not saying every situation can be solved with this method of understanding emotion . Not at all. Here I mean to say, try using music in times of difficulty, try another coping mechanism which you haven’t tried. My message here is to offer another alternative strategy which is very effective. Just try it.
Music encompasses all the emotion we may feel at any given time. Not one song has only emotion attached to it, they vary in emotion throughout; they are mini journeys. This is what makes them effective, as the song successfully aids you through all the emotions and removes any extra feelings. For example when I feel angry I tend to reach for grime or hip hop music, as they reflect my mood more. But I find after a few songs or so, I maybe listen to some RnB and maybe ending up at pop music. By this time I don’t feel angry anymore but more calm and ready to think of a solution to the problem. At this point I’m not acting in anger or rage but a rational place. Yes in most circumstances this approach doesn’t work as we may need the emotion to help drive us to confront the problem.
Individuals with mental health conditions, use music a lot to escape reality, express their current thoughts/ feelings or to deal with their problems. The individual may have issues surrounding controlling or understanding their emotions and feelings. They are unable to identify them and express them to others. This is seen to be very effective in those suffering with depression.
Music is a great way of allowing others an indirect insight into your current mental state without communication. The listener will often understand what your feeling from the song which you play.
Music can also be used to be mindful and bring yourself, back to yourself. It can centre you and reign in your thoughts and feelings, focus them on one aspect, allowing you control again.
So next time you or someone you know is going to something, provide different options for coping and ask them to try methods which they haven’t yet explored. As you never know singing may be the one strategy which works ( they may even have a good voice).