Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Blog  - Rhythms of Resilience: Using Music as a Stress-Relief Tool 4724

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Blog - Rhythms of Resilience: Using Music as a Stress-Relief Tool

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It's the end of a long shift, and your mind is ready to burst from never-ending to-do lists and care plans. As you finally take a moment to catch your breath, the weight of exhaustion settles in.

You pull out your phone and cue up your favorite song. A soothing melody replaces the chaos with calm.
 

What’s going on in your body and mind? Is this more than just a temporary escape?

What the Science Tells Us
Several studies have examined how music affects stress. This research shows that listening to or playing music lowers stress in 2 ways. It:
  1. Calms your nervous system
  2. Lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels

One systemic review looked at the use of music to manage burnout among nurses. It found that both self-selected and externally facilitated music activities, like listening to or playing music, were linked to lower levels of burnout.

In another older study involving 54 nurses, researchers found that listening to soothing music for 30 minutes drastically reduced stress levels compared with simply resting quietly. Participants had lower heart rates, blood pressure, and cortisol levels while listening to music.

When we hear music, especially calming tunes, our brains release chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which make us feel happy and relaxed. This helps soothe our nervous systems and reduce cortisol production. Think about it this way: Music triggers a positive response in the brain and body, helping us feel more at ease and less stressed.

Creating Your Stress-Busting Soundtrack
While there are many ways to combat stress, listening to music is one of the simplest, most easily accessible stress-prevention tools.

When you incorporate more music into your life, it can:
  • Help relieve anxiety
  • Provide an emotional release
  • Help you focus on the present moment
  • Pull you away from stressors
  • Encourage creativity
  • Increase connection

Whether it's during a break, on your commute home, before bed, or at some other opportunity, carving out time for music is a much-needed moment of calm. Even just a few minutes of intentional, focused listening can make a world of difference in your stress levels.

Make Listening to Music a Daily Stress Management Tool
Beyond its immediate calming effects, music is a powerful tool for long-term stress management. When you include tunes in your daily routine, you create a consistent source of relaxation and renewal — something we all need.

Use these tips to make music a nonnegotiable part of your life:

Think about your goals
What do you want your music session to accomplish? If you want more happiness and a positive outlook, put some upbeat songs in your queue. If you want to feel calm and relaxed, slow-tempo tunes, soft instrumentation, and soothing rhythms might be your jam.

Create playlists
Based on your goals, curate and save playlists on your smartphone, tablet, computer, music streaming services, or MP3 player. Make sure you can easily pull up the playlists during your breaks or commutes.

Use headphones or earbuds (when not working, driving, or doing any activity that requires your full attention)
Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones to block out external distractions and fully immerse yourself in the music. Even in busy or noisy settings, you’ll have a peaceful listening environment.

Schedule your music sessions
Set aside dedicated time each day to listen to music. Literally put it on your calendar. Be proactive by scheduling it near a stressful time of day. Having at least one structured listening session can help you unwind and recharge.

Practice mindful listening
Focus on mindfulness while listening to music by concentrating on the rhythm, melody, and lyrics (if applicable). Pay attention to how the music makes you feel and use it as a cue to relax and let go of stress.

Incorporate movement
Combine music with gentle movement, dance, or stretching exercises to enhance its stress-relieving effects. For example, you can pair yoga or tai chi with music to promote even more relaxation.

Experiment with timing
Try listening to music at different times of the day to see what works best for you. Some nurses find that starting their day with calming music sets a positive tone, while others prefer to wind down with music after a long shift.

Share the benefits
You have the unique opportunity to share the gift of music with your patients. Whether it's playing calming music during procedures, creating personalized playlists for patients, or encouraging them to listen to their favorite songs, music is just as powerful for them as it is for you.

Make Your Own Music for Ultimate Stress Relief
If you’re hoping to take your stress management to the next level, playing a musical instrument also lowers cortisol levels and reduces anxiety. If you don’t play an instrument but want to start, keep these guidelines in mind:

Choose an accessible instrument
Select an instrument that fits into your lifestyle and space constraints. Portable options like a guitar, keyboard, or ukulele are great choices for people with small spaces or busy schedules. Even a harmonica, drum, recorder, or flute could work!

Start with beginner resources
Explore online tutorials, apps, or local classes designed for beginners. These resources can help you learn the basics at your own pace.

Practice often
Set aside small chunks of time each day for practice, even if it's just 10–15 minutes. Consistent practice is key to improving your skills and experiencing the therapeutic benefits of music-making.

Join a community
Look for local music groups, clubs, or online communities where you can connect with other musicians. When you share your musical journey with others, you experience support, motivation, and a sense of belonging.

Express yourself
Use music as a creative outlet to release emotions and relieve stress. Experiment with improvisation, songwriting, or composing your own melodies to unleash your inner creativity.

Focus on the fun
It’s all about perspective. Approach learning a musical instrument as a fun and fulfilling hobby instead of a daunting task. Your skill level doesn’t matter — celebrate your progress and enjoy the process.


Harness the Healing Power of Music
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but there are tools to help. Whether you're listening to your favorite song on your break or sharing a good tune with a patient, music has the power to uplift, soothe, and heal — for yourself and those in your care. Take advantage of this stress-busting tool as often as you can.

For more inspiration, see how #healthynurse and previous ANA President Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, uses music to relax.

How does music calm you? Do you unwind with a particular genre or play a musical instrument? Share with us in our discussion below.

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Blog Quality of Life 03/25/2024 1:07pm CDT

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Quality of Life
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Your life is full and your work is often stressful. This domain focuses on the elements that improve the quality of your life: including resiliency and preventing burnout, restoring joy, and achieving a positive work/life balance.

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