M & M’s – Music

Handling the normal stressors of life is in itself challenging. For many, adding the additional stressors resulting from a global pandemic turns everyday stress into mega-stress. I have been mulling over my management mechanisms for stress. In my blog I have been passing along some of my musings on managing stress in the series M & M’s. Read on for my last M & M musing about music, and music’s ability to take the edge off stress.

At Lennox Hill Hospital in New York City, every time a coronavirus patient was discharged or recovered enough to breathe without the help of a ventilator, the Beatle’s song, “Here Comes the Sun,” was played over the public address system. Nurse manager Amanda Griffiths recalls that the song played some 20 times on a single day. Each repetition made her feel better. “It was an overwhelming sense of, wow, we’re making a difference. I got very teary-eyed.” This Beatles’ hit became an auditory balm for many hospital ICU units as medical staff faced stress and anguish of treating Covid-19 patients.

Source: Happiness in the Hard Times by Sari Harrar, AARP Magazine June/July 2020, Vol. 63, Number 4C (p.57)

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[Chorus]

Here comes the sun, doo-dun-doo-doo

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s all right

[Verse 1]

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

[Chorus]

Here comes the sun, doo-dun-doo-doo

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s all right

[Verse 2]

Little darling, the smile’s returning to their faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

[Chorus]

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s all right

[Bridge]

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

Nurse manager Amanda Griffiths refers to this Beatles’ hit as an auditory balm. That is one of the many virtues of the artistic medium of music. Music is a useful stress relief tool. Music can facilitate a mood or change an attitude. Sometimes stress relief involves acknowledging an emotional state and expressing it positively. At other times, as in the Here Comes the Sun story above, stress relievers draws upon music to change the mood through the act of thanksgiving and celebration.

Acknowledging an emotion and positively expressing the feeling is referred to as catharsis. Sometimes stress is an indicator of emotions that have been unacknowledged and repressed. At times music acts as a catalyst for the release of these emotions. Seeking counsel is also helpful. On occasion, counseling involves “soul drilling.” Questions from the counselor are posed in a way to release water, one’s suppressed emotions, from the deep wells of the soul.

“Therefore, with joy, you will draw water From the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3, NKJV) The Hebrew word for salvation is יְשׁוּעָה [yâshuwʿah /yesh·oo·aw/] Synonyms for this word include “help,” “deliverance,” “health,” “welfare,” “prosperity,” and “victory.”

Sometimes stress is the result of not knowing what to do. A counselor can help to identify several possible options for the decision at hand. At other times the one seeking counsel knows what to do but lacks the courage to act. In those cases, the counselor offers “en-courage-ment.”

WE KNOW THINGS 

WE KNOW WHAT WE NEED 

RIVERS OF LIFE HAVE BEEN FILLING THE WELLS OF OUR SOUL

Once the wells are released or the decision made, appropriate music can enhance and reinforce the experience. In an earlier M & M blog, I wrote about movement. Exercise and movement are effective stress relievers. In the past, I would swim laps at Lakeview’s community pool during the summer months. I would swim using different strokes for about an hour. Some days the going got tough. On those occasions, I had some appropriate songs in my repertoire that I could release in my head to encourage my endurance. For example, the theme from the Rocky movies, “Gonna Fly Now,” becomes “Gonna Swim Now!” HOOAH!

Music helps to connect us with positive memories. Anyone experiencing the challenges of aging? Listening to music from the days of our youth reminds us of those days. We can remind ourselves of what we accomplished in the season of our youthful vigor. We don’t aspire to live in the past. Still, an occasional visit there via the music of the day is a profitable recreational pursuit and stress reliever.

Sometimes the source of stress is not external circumstances but self-talk, questioning, and moralistic self-accusations. I mentioned the challenge of aging. The temptation is to pose such self-questions as “Have I done enough?” “Have I fulfilled my destiny?” “Have I followed the correct life path?” Negative responses to such questions might result in berating oneself with moralistic ” I could have,” “I should have,” “I would have,” and “If only” laments. Music can be a tool to distract from such an unfruitful brain focus.

We humans have a remarkable ability to step outside of ourselves and our circumstances and change the tune of our lives even while acknowledging and grappling with painful realities. The medical staff at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City exercised this ability. They intentionally used the Beatle’s hit song “Here Comes the Sun” to facilitate that human ability and created a stress-relieving atmosphere of thanksgiving and celebration.

 


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