Fast Fix: How to Use Music to Reduce Stress – In Almost Any Situation

Music has powerful stress-bursting effects – but what types of tunes should you put on in different situations?

If you’ve ever sought refuge in music during a brutal traffic jam, you know this to be true: Music has a powerful ability to reduce stress for some people. In fact, a number of studies have shown that music can help to reduce anxiety and distress. 1

Pretty powerful stuff—but should you be cranking up songs with classical strings or putting on some pumping dance tunes? This surprising research might help you take on a range of stressful situations—as long as you’ve got the right playlist cued up.

When you are about to speak in front of people…

Standing up to give a group presentation at work or a best man’s speech may be an express ticket to Stress City for some. One study2 found that you should just pop in your ear buds and turn up Mozart in that situation. Students in the study were given the task of preparing an oral presentation, some of them with Pachelbel’s Canon in D playing and some without. While significant increases in subjective anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure were seen in control subjects (those with no music), these stress-induced increases were each prevented in students who listened to the classics prior to their presentation.

You’re about to have a medical procedure…

It’s understandable to feel stressed out before an important doctor’s appointment. Music can help in these situations. One study found that patients who listened to instrumental Indian classical music before and during a diagnostic procedure experienced reduced psychological distress and blood pressure.3

When you’re feeling blah and sick…

There are other ways to take advantage of music’s powerful stress-busting effect. A study out of the U.K. 4 showed that listening to happy, joyful dance music decreased stress hormone levels (high levels weaken the immune system). Study volunteers who played a percussive instrument along with the music also got the immunity boost. Translation: Go ahead and drum on the steering wheel when your favorite song comes on the radio — it could be good for you!

Want to know more? Learn the science behind headaches in our educational video.

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2.  Knight WE, Rickard PhD NS. Relaxing music prevents stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy males and females. J Music Ther. 2001 Winter;38(4):254-72. PubMed PMID: 11796077.

3.  M. Raj Kotwal, C. Z. Rinchhen, Vishwajeet V. Ringe. Stress Reduction Through Listening to Indian Classical Music During Gastroscopy. Diagn Ther Endosc. 1998; 4(4): 191–197. doi: 10.1155/DTE.4.191

4.  R. Enk,P. Franzke,K. Offermanns,M. Hohenadel,A. Boehlig,I. Nitsche,T. Kalda,U. Sack,S. Koelsch. Music and the Immune System. International Journal of Psychophysiology. Sept 2008.



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