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22 Songs That Help Me Ease My Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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Those of us with anxiety and panic disorder know the drill. We are all too familiar with the feeling of a muddled brain. We have learned to rest in the numbness that overtakes us as our breath escapes from our lungs. We have been lost in the thicket of self-frustration that comes with the uncertainty of it all. We know what it’s like to greet death warmly time and again, though we never take its hand and follow.

My friend, you know what I mean when I say that most times, it’s too much – the shaking, the spinning, the fear. You have stared your demons in the eyes – just as I have – and surrendered, frozen by the attack. Believe me when I tell you I am right here with you. You are never alone.

I like to think of my anxiety/panic attacks as dementors. You know, those black, ghost creatures from the “Harry Potter” series that come to suck the goodness, light and peace out of those who they fear are too strong. My friends, we are immensely strong. This is why the dementors – the anxiety/panic – come to steal from us. Hear me when I say we must never allow our strength and light to be diminished.

One tool (though not the only one) I use to fight anxiety/panic attacks is music. Tchaikovsky’s words ring truer in moments of panic and anxiety than anything else I know. I repeat his words repeatedly as I fight to keep the darkness at bay – “Truly there would be reason to go mad were it not for the music.”

I have created a list of songs that help me through anxiety/panic attacks. Lyrics that particularly speak to me are included with each. While I listen to these melodies, I am careful to scan my body, heart and mind. I search myself to identify where the pain is coming from and let the music guide me to a place of peace. I use these songs to still the fear before it even has the chance to arrive.

1. “Shame” by Ciaran Lavery

“They see me smiling / But I want to be sad / Would you light me up / Really set me on fire / And be there when I’m burning out”

2. “Heavy” by Birdtalker

“If you’re lost and you’re lonely/ Go and figure out why / Take a trip to your dark side / Go on and have a good cry / ‘Cause we’re all lonely / Yeah, we’re all lonely together”

3. “Things Happen” by Dawes

“Let’s make a list of all things the world has put you through / Lets raise a glass to all the people you’re not speaking to / I don’t know what else you wanted me to say to you / Things happen / That’s all they ever do”

4. “Ship to Wreck” by Florence + the Machine

“And good God, under starry skies we are lost / And into the breach we got tossed / And the water’s coming in fast / And oh my love, remind me, what was it that I said? / I can’t help but pull the earth around me, to make my bed / And oh my love, remind me, what was it that I did? / Did I drink too much? / Am I losing touch? / Did I build this ship to wreck?”

5. “We Are One” by Ana Egge

“Don’t you want to look into a stranger’s eyes / And see yourself looking back? / Don’t you want to feel beneath your skin / That all our differences are nothing, in the face of love?” 

6. “If I Go, I’m Goin’” by Gregory Alan Isakov

“This house / She’s quite the talker / She creeks and moans / She keeps me up / And the photographs / Know I’m a liar / They just laugh as I burn her down”

7. “River” by Leon Bridges

“Been traveling these wide roads for so long / My heart’s been far from you / 10 thousand miles gone / Oh, I wanna come near and give you / Every part of me / But there’s blood on my hands / And my lips aren’t clean”

8. “I Do” by Susie Suh

“I don’t know, what am I doing here? / There’s a shadow in my place / Maybe now / Everything will be so clear / You shed a light into this empty space / And all I am / all I have / doesn’t even matter now / I can’t understand why I feel this way / But I do / I do”

9. “100 Years” by Florence + the Machine

“Then it’s just too much, I cannot get you close enough / A hundred arms, a hundred years, you can always find me here / And lord, don’t let me break this, let me hold you lightly / Give me arms to pray with instead of ones that hold too tightly” 

10. “If We Were Vampires” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

“If we were vampires and death was a joke / We’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke / And laugh at all the lovers and their plans / I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand / Maybe time running out is a gift / I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift / And give you every second I can find / And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind” 

11. “3 AM” by Matchbox Twenty

“She swears the moon don’t hang quite as high as it used to / And she only sleeps when it’s raining / And she screams, and her voice is straining / And she says baby / It’s 3 a.m. I must be lonely”

12. “Blood Bank” by Bon Iver

“That secret that you knew / But don’t know how to tell / It f***s with your honor / And it teases your head / But you know that it’s good, girl / ‘Cause its running you with red”

13. “Only Love” by Ben Howard

“Darling you’re with me, always around me / Only love, only love / Darling I feel you, under my body / Only love, only love / Give me shelter, or show me heart / Come on love, come on love / Watch me fall apart, watch me fall apart”

14. “Hunger” by Florence + the Machine

“At 17, I started to starve myself / I thought that love was a kind of emptiness / And at least I understood then the hunger I felt / And I didn’t have to call it loneliness / We all have a hunger”

15. “We Don’t Eat” by James Vincent McMorrow

“Me, I was holding all of my secrets soft and hid / Pages were folded, then there was nothing at all / So, if in the future I might need myself a savior / I’ll remember what was written on that wall / That we don’t eat until your father’s at the table / We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust / Never once has any man I’ve met been able to love / So, if I were you, I’d have a little trust”

16. “All I Want” by Kodaline

“When you said your last goodbye / I died a little bit inside / I lay in tears in bed all night / Alone without you by my side / But If you loved me / Why did you leave me / Take my body / Take my body / All I want is / All I need is / To find somebody / I’ll find somebody”

17. “Molotov” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

“Do you miss the girl you once had time to be / When you said we had the same three wishes / I hope you weren’t being facetious / And I hope you still see fire inside of me”

18. “Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty

“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell / I know right now you can’t tell / But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see / A different side of me / I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired / I know right now you don’t care / But soon enough you’re gonna think of me / And how I used to be”

19. “Big Black Car” by Gregory Alan Isakov

“Well time has a way of throwing it all in your face / The past, she is haunted, the future is laced / Heartbreak, you know, drives a big black car / Swear I was in the back seat, just minding my own”

20. “No Choir” by Florence + the Machine

“The loneliness never left me / I always took it with me / But I can put it down in the pleasure of your company / And there will be no grand choirs to sing / No chorus will come in / No ballad will be written / It will be entirely forgotten / And if tomorrow it’s all over / At least we had it for a moment / Oh, darling things seem so unstable / But for a moment we were able to be still”

21. “All We Are” by Matt Nathanson

“I kept falling over / I kept looking backward / I went broke believing / That the simple should be hard / All we are we are / All we are we are / And every day is a start of something beautiful”

22. “Call It Dreaming” by Iron & Wine

“We break when our hearts are strong enough / We can bow ’cause our music’s warmer than blood / Where we see enough to follow / We can hear when we are hollow / Where we keep the light we’re given / We can lose and call it living”

As I mentioned previously, these songs help me through even the most severe anxiety/panic attacks. Some help me grieve for what my body and my mind are going through. Others help me hold on to hope that things will get better.

When I listen to these songs, I find a place that feels healing and beautiful for me. Once there, these songs and my surroundings help ground me and connect me back to myself and the world around me. They help slow things down and replenish the breath that has left me. They remind me that it is OK to feel deeply. They help me move into a brighter place.

You can follow this playlist – called “Mental Health Melodies” – on Spotify. I add new songs as they speak to me. I also recommend following “A Mental Health Day Playlist – Ivory & Pine” and “Mental Health Day Part 2” by Laura Brassie.

I would be moved to know what songs help you find peace. If you would, please leave a comment and let me know your favorite songs to listen to when you’re having an anxiety attack, panic attack or other mental health crisis. Maybe they can help me too.

My friends, I wish you all well.

Lead images via Florence + the Machine and Gregory Alan Isakov Facebook pages

Originally published: July 5, 2019
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