One of the things that my therapist drives home every chance she gets, is grounding skills and coping skills. Before I get into why Music is such a great coping skill for me, I should probably bring up what grounding skills I use first. Why? I don’t really know but I feel like I should, so….When I feel anxiety, the onset of a Flashback, (although I rarely get warning signs with those, at least not that I can detect yet), stressed, or just general thoughts of depression or sadness I try to use one or more of these skills:
- Tracing the corners of the walls
- Count ceiling tiles
- Tapping my foot
- Doing a quick Emergency Calm meditation
- Focusing on a metronome app on my phone
- Concentrating on feeling my feet on the ground or my hands on the arms of a chair
- Or simply just focusing on my breathing, literally saying to myself, “breath in” on the inhale, and “breath out” on the exhale.
Coping skills, or self soothing/pleasure activities – the main one for me is music. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From taking up the Trombone in 2nd grade and taking lessons till my junior year in high school, to choir every year in high school, to being in rock band after graduation for a bit. Since then the main focus though has just been listening to music. I can connect with it on any level, at any time.
No matter what I am feeling, no matter how bad or how good of a day I have, there’s a way that music speaks to me. There’s always a song I can use or a go to playlist that I’ve created for a specific reason. To say that music is therapeutic is the understatement of the century.
I grew up in the 80’s, the Decade of Decadence, the era where Hair Metal ruled the world, and pop culture was all about big hair, wild clothes, and pretty much doing what felt good and escaping reality any chance you got. Your free time was spent hanging out with your friends, going to concerts, the record store, the mall, and the movies.
Back to music though, 80s music still dominates my phone today and I still enjoy it. It’s a way for me to still connect back to a time late in high school when I took my life back for a time. When I lived life to the fullest, had no regrets, enjoyed every second of time I had doing whatever it was my friends and I could come up with. Music was there in my Sony Walkman, the cassette player in my car, and the turntable stereo at home in my room.
I’m a rocker, so I find solace in the world of hard rock and melodic metal on a daily basis. This music gives me an outlet to just vent frustrations and actually calm down from stress. Funny how music that is so upbeat, so forceful, can actually have a calming effect.
By the same token, listening to some sad songs, or quiet ballads, gives me a chance to reflect on what’s happened and process it in a way I can relate too. I have to be careful though, because too many quiet, sad, songs can bring me down even more. I admit I do tend to take that a bit far, and once I’m in the mood for that type of music, I will immerse myself in it for as long as necessary to either feel better or just get tired and go to bed.
Then there’s actually playing an instrument, which I also do. That really can do amazing things for your mindset and your mood. There are many benefits to playing a musical instrument, especially for me #11, Fosters your Self Expression, and #12, Relieving Stress. I can completely lose myself in trying to learn a new song or just replaying songs I know well by concentrating my mind on the task at hand. It’s re-assuring and self nurturing to engage in acts that makes me feel good, and therefore allowing me to relax and forget about the stresses of everything else flying about inside my head.
You may feel the same way about music, but either way, find something that you are passionate about, and do it every chance you get. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not, don’t compare yourself to a famous person or somebody who you just think is better than you. They don’t matter, only you matter.