Stress is part of our lives. Good stress, bad stress, we just can’t get away from it. Numerous research studies have shown that some amount of stress can be positive. We’ve all had the experience of having a job or school deadline that spurs us to action and motivates us to do better work. Or the class reunion next spring that gives us the incentive to lose those last 10 pounds. Even getting married and having children are considered stressful situations, but most people would agree that those events are happy ones to be celebrated.
Getting divorced, losing a job, receiving a not-so-good medical diagnosis, death of a loved one— we would probably all agree these are “bad” stress situations. Events that generally aren’t looked forward to with great joy and anticipation. Things we would rather not have to experience at all, if possible.
Those are the big stresses we experience– life, death, marriage, divorce. But what about the daily stresses? My child got in trouble with the teacher today, my boss passed me over for a new project, the “check engine” light came on in the car this morning, my name was left off the invitation to happy hour, the bank is raising their fees….. the list could go on and on. While none of these are events that would tip the Horrible Stress scales, they add up after awhile. We’ve all been there, done that. (Some of us might be there right now!) So how do you cope?
3 Healthy ways to deal with stress:
This could include activities like meditation or prayer, exercise, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Focus on the things that fulfill you– maybe it’s making time (notice I didn’t say taking time) for your favorite hobby, or going for a long walk in the park, or pampering yourself with an extra long shower/bath, or reading a good book. What’s important is to focus on your needs and nurture yourself during tough times. Self-care is often the first thing to go when we begin to feel stressed out.
As a music therapist, this is often the first coping mechanism I turn to, but when I mention it to my clients they usually say, “Oh, I never would have thought of that!” Yes, music can help in dealing with stress. You can use music in two ways– to match your mood or change your mood. For example, one of my clients was going through a difficult break-up, and I suggested that she might want to try listening to songs by strong female country singers to reinforce how my client wanted to feel about her situation (strong, resourceful, independent). Maybe you’ll choose to listen to Gregorian chants while meditating, classic rock while cooking a healthy dinner, or Jimmy Buffet while scrapbooking your recent beach vacation.
Sometimes the stress is so big or goes on for so long that we simply cannot manage on our own. Those are the times when a therapist can be helpful. They have methods and techniques that can help manage the stress, and it’s often extremely helpful just to have an objective person to share in your struggles and listen with an unbiased ear.
We can’t escape from stress in life, but hopefully we can use these tips to manage it more effectively!
If you’re curious about how music therapy and GIM can help, contact me for more information. I’m always happy to answer questions!