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Music Sees Me Through When I'm Struggling With Anxiety

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At the beginning of the year, I got my second tattoo.

It’s been a long time coming. I got my first one eight years earlier and had wanted more for a while, but because it’s something so permanent, I always take a long time deciding what design I want and where I want it to be placed. The month prior to getting my tattoo, I went to two concerts in one weekend. 

One was Placebo and the other was Biffy Clyro, both bands I love, and I really enjoyed both gigs. It was the best weekend I had in a long time, and I realized seeing my favorite bands perform live gives me the best feeling in the world. Looking back over all of the concerts and music festivals I’ve attended, I can honestly say that nothing else has given me quite the same rush. I must admit though, seeing all the other fans walking about with their really impressive ink made me quite jealous. I decided I would definitely be getting a new one of my own for my birthday in January. There was no doubt in my mind at that point about what the theme of the design should be. It should definitely be a tribute to music. 

I’m not a musician myself. I wish I was. I have a guitar in my loft gathering dust because I don’t have the patience to teach myself to play. Maybe, when I have the time and money, I will be able to take lessons. I do, however, love to sing. There has always been a lot of tension inside of me, mainly from the anxiety, but also from some other things I’m not very good at releasing. Anger, for instance, is something I would probably carry around with me forever, because I’ve never felt comfortable with releasing it appropriately. There are two ways in which I release this tension: one is crying, and the other is belting out some of my favorite songs. Obviously one of these is far more enjoyable than the other. If I’m completely honest, I don’t have the vocal range I used to, mostly through lack of practice. After all, it has been many years since the days I was in the school choir, but I can still hold some tunes reasonably well.

There are two reasons why I find singing an excellent release of tension and effective coping strategy for my anxiety. One is the physical element. When we sing, we have to focus on getting our breathing right and we move our diaphragm and our lungs, so the abdominal region and our chests (the parts of my body which feel the brunt of my anxiety) are being
managed, controlled and otherwise occupied. They can’t feel the physical effects of the anxiety any more because they’re too busy with a much more pleasant task. The second reason is that when I can sing a tune well and I can hear that I have managed to sing it well, it brings a sense of happiness.

It’s not just singing myself that I find therapeutic, though. Listening to music can be incredibly healing. When I am feeling low or angry, listening to music, which reflects my
mood, can really help me stabilize it. It helps me remember I am not alone, and that it’s OK to feel the way I do. It gives me permission to feel my emotions and ride them out, rather than thinking I have to shut them down. Ultimately, this is the difference
between getting to a stage where I can let go of the pain, sadness or anger, and pushing the feelings down inside, where they are stored up ready for a less healthy release later. It’s not only the emotions I perceive as negative that are enhanced by music either. When I’m
particularly happy, some upbeat tunes add to the positive energy that I feel. If I want to relax, and am in a position to do so, calming, soothing, tranquil music helps me drift off into a state of carelessness.

I genuinely regard music, in my personal experience, as a form of medicine. It enhances my happy times and it helps me through my sad or angry ones. When it feels like absolutely nothing or no-one in the world can help and like I’m just alone in my own head with my thoughts and emotions, music sees me through.

I just want to give a shout out to all the musicians out there. You’re amazing. What you do is really important. No matter which genre you perform, your music will speak to someone in a very authentic way. It will touch them in a way that nothing else can. It will speak to them and allow them to get in touch with their own emotions. You might not even realize it, but your music will be healing to someone. Thank you, all of you, for the amazing work that you do and for what you bring to the world because, without music, it would be a very dismal world indeed.

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Thinkstock photo via Ann Triling

Originally published: July 25, 2017
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