Using Music to Cope with Anxiety

written by Annie Murphy, MT-BC

Most of us spend our days listening to music whether it is on our commute to work, while cooking dinner, doing chores around the house, or while working out. Music can elicit a wide variety of emotions and because of this, music can be a powerful tool to use when coping with symptoms of anxiety. As we listen to music, the blood flow to the area of our brain that controls our emotions is increased, along with the release of dopamine. This allows for an immediate decrease in symptoms of anxiety and a healthy tool to distract from the symptoms of anxiety. Here are some musical coping skills to try.

  1. Create a Calming Playlist
    • In moments where we experience anxiety or feelings of panic, we might not have the ability to remember those few songs that always help us calm down. Spend some time when you are not experiencing anxiety creating a playlist of songs that will help ground you. For example, you might select some slower instrumental songs, or soft pop music. With this, do not hesitate to select upbeat songs that make you feel joy, or you enjoy singing along to. Next time you feel anxious, press play on your playlist!
  2. Mindfulness Meditation to Instrumental Music
    • If you enjoy meditations or mindfulness exercises, save a script to your phone to use anywhere. Put on a playlist of instrumental music to listen to as you read through this script. 
  3. Use Your Body
    • If you are in a space where you have access to an instrument, feel free to pick up that guitar or play the piano. Physically playing an instrument distracts our brain from what we are experiencing as we must concentrate on the instrument. If you do not know how to play an instrument, or do not have access to one, dance!

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