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7 Tips for Building Your 'Anxiety Playlist'

We all have that one song that calms our nerves and makes us feel at peace. Sometimes, it can be an entire playlist. If you find yourself feeling extra anxious about anything, whether it’s that big meeting at work tomorrow or just knowing you have to talk on the phone later, it’s important to find an outlet for your increased stress.

Personally, I’ve found music can be a powerful tool to calm my anxiety. With my anxiety, I will ruminate on my thoughts for hours unless I do something to distract or refocus my mind, so music is a great way to accomplish that. Music not only absorbs my attention, it can help me explore emotions I haven’t even paid attention to yet. It aids in meditation and helps to prevent the mind from wandering too far.

Too busy for it? Music can be played anywhere – whether it’s in the car on the drive to work (that can be a stressful time) or for me, poppin’ in some headphones and listening to my playlist while walking my furry friend. There’s no excuse for having no time. Make time for your mental health.

If you don’t know where to start on this magical, musical journey, I’ll be your anxiety spirit guide.

1. Address your emotions.

When you blast a beat as you’re cleaning your room or listening to an upbeat song during your morning routine or workout, you’re using music therapeutically without even realizing it. When we are thoughtful about the selection of our music, we can build a powerful playlist that combats stress, anxiety and depression while increasing motivation and evoking positive emotions.

To start the process, let’s talk about those emotions. Sometimes this can be a hard step. Personally, I’m very self-aware of my own emotions or anxieties, but if you have trouble, don’t be hard on yourself. Do what makes you feel comfortable. If you can, ask yourself, What’s my current emotional state? Am I anxious, restless, or sad? How would I like to feel instead?

With those questions in mind, you can gradually bring yourself to whatever state of mind you would like to achieve through music. You just need music that’s cathartic for your current mood and slowly guides you to your desired emotional state.

2. Feel that familiar funk.

Start combing through your own collection of music, whether it be your CDs, records, iTunes or Spotify to discover what genre or specific songs really resonate with you. Personally, I’ve been building my “Anxiety Playlist” for a few weeks now and whenever I stumble across a song, whether it be on a Spotify pre-made playlist or just through exploring, I immediately add it to my collection of calm. My favorite feel good song on my playlist happens to be “Why Should I Worry” by Billy Joel and I’m not one bit ashamed of it. It’s one of my favorite Disney movies and it gives me a feeling of complete and total ease. Even hearing the words, “why should I worry” gives me such a instant shock of relief and reality that my life is pretty great. Why should I worry?

Memories, especially emotional ones, are stimulated by music and can transport us back in time instantly to the moment we experienced that specific song and how it made us feel. Be aware of how songs make you feel and label them as happy, energizing, disturbing, etc. Most importantly, trust yourself and how you believe songs make you feel. Only you know what emotions you have and how to combat them. It’s all about finding that trust within yourself. Place different songs into categories according to your common moods such as: depressed, tired, anxious, stressed and so on.

3. Enjoy the experience.

You know when your mom cranks up that country radio station and says, “you’ll love this song”? I love you mom, but I can guarantee you, I won’t. If it doesn’t seep into your bones and feed your soul, don’t bother adding it to your playlist. You know what you like – explore your options and match those songs to different moods.

4. Let it speak to your soul.

Music is the ultimate form of empathy. As humans, we’re constantly striving to be understood. This could explain why we enjoy music that’s relatable or speaks to our soul. Certain lyrics of songs can validate our feelings and even provide comfort when they are suited to our current mood. For example, when you’re listening to sad music it actually causes your brain to produce the same neurochemical that’s released when you cry. This chemical, prolactin, helps to elicit feelings of comfort, which means listening to a sad song when we feel depressed or down not only provides empathy, it’s causing our brains to begin the process of feeling better.

5. Match your mood.

Think about how you’re feeling right this minute. How fast are you moving? Is your heart racing? Are you feeling sluggish? Heavy? How fast are you breathing? There are many questions to consider before changing your mood with music. It can be easier to wade through matching your mood with the beat when you explore different musical elements such as tempo, volume and harmony. Keep these things in mind when you’re creating your playlist. A great example is volume. If you are overstimulated and feel like you need to turn the world off, find a song with soft lyrics and instruments.

6. Lose the lyrics.

While I personally always attach myself to specific lyrics, I’ve found songs without any lyrics have done wonders for my mood and anxiety. Lyrics leave a little less up to the imagination because someone else is telling the story. When lyrics are included in a song, our brain has to work even harder to process them. They could also stimulate more memories – good or bad. If you want to ease stress, allow your mind to wander without so intensely focusing on the music.

7. Trust your intuition.

If you’ve listened to a song and felt yourself on the edge of tears (“Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra – every time) or motivated to run that extra distance, you know the power music can have on your emotions. When we make a conscious effort, music can provide emotional comfort during the struggles of anxiety. We have a serious knack for picking songs that soothe and heal just for us, without thinking too much about it. Trust the way you feel because it’s real and it’s valid.

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Thinkstock photo via Transfuchsian.

7 Tips for Building Your 'Anxiety Playlist'
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