There is a great deal of talk about stress these days. There’s a good reason for that. It is the underlying cause of up to 90% of visits to the doctor. That makes it a serious health problem.
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s normal response to an external stimulus that makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable. It is as normal as breathing. It’s your body’s natural defense mechanism and it makes no difference whether the threat is real or imagined.
Hormones are released to put you in a state of high alert. Your heart beats faster increasing blood pressure, your breath quickens filling your blood with more oxygen, your muscles tighten as they ready themselves for action, and your senses become sharper.
These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, quicken your reaction time, and sharpen your focus.
This is really useful if you have to write an exam, give an important presentation at work, are participating in a sporting competition or if you are in danger.
But once the test is over, the presentation is done, or the sports event or danger has passed, the hormone levels return to normal, and your body relaxes.
Our bodies aren’t designed to experience stress for an extended period of time. And the consequences of extended stress affect every part of your life.
The hormones should be gone from your system in 90 seconds. That’s the physical process.
But, these hormones can also be released over and over again by our thoughts and emotions.
We do it all the time. It’s called worry, or fear, or anxiety.
For those who are in treatment for or recovering from cancer, there is some evidence that psychological stress can have an effect on how a tumor grows and spreads.
Some of this information is available on the National Cancer Institute website in an article called "Psychological Stress and Cancer."
The good news
There are many ways to reduce the symptoms and effects of stress.
Because of our intimate wiring for sound – at all levels – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – most of us intuitively reach for sound or music to reduce stress.
The human body is a natural resonator for sound. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples of our wiring for sound:
|1.||Sound moves through the more fluid parts of your body four and a half times faster than it moves through the air. And twelve times faster through your bones.|
|2.||Rhythm changes your heartbeat, breathing and brainwaves. This is called entrainment. The music playing in the grocery store changes your heartbeat. And you can’t turn off this response.|
|3.||Hearing is the first sense that develops in the fetus. Sound stimulates the growth of the nervous system. Throughout your life, sound continues to stimulate your nervous system.|
|4.||Hormones are released whenever we play music or sing together – feel good hormones, hormones that bond us together into communities and hormones that help keep us healthy.|
There are so many simple ways to use music and sound to reduce stress, create more focus, enhance creativity and make your days easier.
One way is to use recorded music. KNOWING exactly what music to choose – the music that works for you (we are all different in our response to music) – takes common sense and intuition to a whole new level of EFFECTIVENESS in managing stress.
Have you ever put on your favorite piece of music after a tough day?
Do you listen to music while driving to or from work?
A good friend of my husband’s listens to hard rock on the way home from work. But it really bugged him when he started his car in the morning when this hard rock blasted from the radio. For a long time he couldn’t figure out who had been messing with his radio until he figured out that it was him!
He intuitively found that the low bass and heavy beat helped him discharge the stress after work. But he really likes light classical music in the morning to help him focus for the day.
Science has shown that stress causes an elevated heart rate – and along with it, high blood pressure. Science has also shown that music can alter your heart rate – the right music can slow your heartbeat in minutes.
Music with low sounds and slow rhythms creates relaxation – because it slows down your heartbeat, brain waves and breathing.
If you need energizing or help with concentration, look for music with faster rhythms and high sounds. Sounds like flutes, clarinets and even birds charge the mind, helping you to become more focused and productive.
Having practical and effective ways to manage too much stress helps you to reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of stress on the body. This can be as easy as having the right kind of background music on as you work or play.
The right choice of music can:
||Reduce cortisol in 10 minutes – cortisol is the "stress" hormone. Too much cortisol in the blood over a prolonged period causes many physical problems|
||Slow heart beat|
||Slow breathing rate|
||Lower blood pressure|
||Effortlessly create the "relaxation response"|
||Boost the immune system|
Three of the healthiest sounds for the human being are the sounds of water, birds and wind.
The low sounds in water calm the nervous system, slow down your heartbeat lowering blood pressure, slow down your breathing and create a shift in brainwave state to the alpha state . . . a calming relaxation response.
In addition to the relaxation, the birdsong consists of high frequency sounds which charge and energize the mind.
And you never know when a bird is going to sing. It’s totally unpredictable. Your brain loves patterns and constantly looks for them. But the brain can’t find any patterns in birdsong.
The result is your mind becomes alert, focused and productive at the same time your body is relaxed with the sounds of the water.
This is a great sound to have in the background when you need to stay focused.
I love this sound so much that I created my own audio track of birdsong and gently bubbling water that I call, “Woodland Song.”
Here’s another way to bring the simplicity of healing sound into your everyday life. This time, using the most powerful healing tool you have available to you – your own voice.
We all sigh when we are upset. It’s an automatic response every one of us has. Moans and groans are sounds that come from the body instinctively.
All of these natural sounds of the body actually stimulate the brain to release neurochemicals and endorphins that help the body heal itself or manage pain.
What a really good sigh ACTUALLY does is stimulate the brain to release endorphins that help your body reduce stress, heal or manage pain.
You can MAXIMIZE the EFFECTIVENESS of a sigh by using your voice consciously.
Your own voice is the most powerful healing tool you have. Your voice carries every frequency of your body. Your voice resonates every cell of your body with every sound that you make. You have it with you all the time and it costs you nothing to use. And the best part – it creates an instant response in the body, mind and emotions and spiritual connection.
Put your hands on your upper chest. Feel the bones of your sternum and ribs under your palms. Take a deep breath. Feel the air in the bottom of your lungs. Now release the air with a long ahhhh. Like a waterfall . . . the way you would say ahhhh when you say, “Ahhhh, what a cute puppy!”
To maximize the effect of the sigh, start the sigh around the middle of your vocal range and let it drop into the low range of your voice as you sigh. When you sigh in this way, the sound vibrations in your body and the resulting health benefits are focused and amplified.
This is common sense stress reduction that you can do anywhere, anytime!
And it only takes a few seconds.
To learn more, I invite you to drop in for a visit at www.soundwellness.com Become a member – registration is free, and explore the articles, watch the videos, and enjoy the many free downloads, including the track of birdsong and water I talked about earlier. Or inspire your day with our popular toning moments on the Sound Wellness Facebook page:
Sharon Carne is an author, musician, recording artist, speaker, sound healer and life-long student of evolving consciousness. She is the visionary founder of Sound Wellness helping people use common sense ways to reduce stress, create wellness and make their days easier with sound and music.