Life is full of stressors, from small things like bad breakups and the daily grind of home and work life, to bigger things such as illness or the death of a loved one. Many of us turn to music as a form of stress relief. In fact, musical instruments can be dated as far back as 40,000 years and many archeologists and historians believe vocal music has been around even longer. Music has an uncanny ability to reduce stress and curve the negative physical and psychological effects brought on from it. For this assignment I have chosen three situations where music has had the proven ability to help decrease stress and its reactions. Child birth, chemotherapy, and most autism related therapies often cause patients high levels of stress.
Ask any woman who has ever given birth and most of them will tell you it is a stressful experience. Delivering a baby can bring a sea of emotions over the mother. Anxiety, fear for the baby’s wellbeing, physical strain, pain, and exhaustion are common in almost any birth. These stresses can further elevate in hospital settings, where women are often bombarded with many nurses, the doctor, and select loved ones. In some cases, additional complications such as back labor, tearing and intense contractions can cause increased stress to the mother. According to the Music Association of British Columbia, “research has shown that music during labor can significantly improve a woman’s perception of their birthing experience and lower their levels of physical discomfort.” Additionally, the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) reports studies done with results showing that music during labor contributed to lower levels of post-partum pain, anxiety and depression (compared to labors void of music therapy). I think for any mother having a way to gain relief from the pain and anxiety of child birth is a very welcoming thought.
Music has also been shown to significantly help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Cancer is one of the most common diseases in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute roughly 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2018. Cancer can affect anyone, from the very young to the very old and it can come in a variety of forms (lung, liver, colon, uterine, etc.). Going through chemotherapy can have a profound effect on the patient. Physical pain, nausea, decreased energy levels, lack of appetite, anxiety, depression and financial worry are just a few of the problem’s chemotherapy patients face. What’s worse is that the patient must worry whether they will beat the cancer and survive. Many hospitals and outpatient facilities are now using music during chemotherapy to help reduce some of the stress involved and the reactions that ensue from it. Results indicated that music helped to ease anxiety levels during chemo, made them more relaxed during the process and helped to stabilize their overall emotional state thereafter. I can not think of a more important scenario where the healing effects of music can be applied to a stressful environment.
Finally, I want to touch on how music can help qualm the stresses endured by children diagnosed with autism who are receiving specialized therapy services. Autism affects almost 1 in 59 children in the United States. Stress can affect children with autism in more harmful ways than compared to the average child, because children with autism have more difficulty dealing with sensory input and social situations. Stress can often hinder therapeutic services aimed to increase cognitive and social abilities. When a child with autism becomes stressed and overwhelmed they often shut down completely. Stress in turn causes stress reactions such as self-injurious or aggressive behaviors, and stimming (a reaction from stress in which the child is attempting to self soothe). These behaviors can prevent the therapy’s efforts to improve a variety of issues (social and speech skills, fine motor skills, etc.) However, through music patients with autism often become more relaxed, cooperative, and less aggressive. They can obtain a higher rate of sensory input because they are able to lower their stress levels which then allows them to work more thoroughly on the areas intended by the original therapy. In fact, music has been shown to reduce stress levels in autistic children so well, it is quickly becoming a form of autism therapy.
In conclusion, music can help us all in stressful situations. Whether it be something as trivial as a bad break up or something more severe as an illness or death of a loved one. Music can promote a calm state of being and reduce anxiety across a wide variety of stressful situations.
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