Stress Less

By Gabrielle Lamontagne

Music is a major part of all our lives. It drives team spirit, brings us to tears when watching films, motivates us to get through a long day, and helps us to connect with other humans. It can also be a really useful and enjoyable stress-reducer in an indirect way. Directly, music acts like a stressor — but if it’s music you like, it causes eustress, which is energizing and healthy. It definitely does that for me, because I like to dance and sing along to my favorite songs, even if they aren’t really “dance” music. If you use it to help you get things done and be productive, it can help prevent negative stress caused by procrastination and/or anxiety.

Fun times out on the town with friends can help you relax, even if what you’re doing is physically stressful: like bowling. Personally, I like to go to Karaoke Night at Telly’s in Epping or take swing dancing lessons with the Hepcats Swing Club here on campus to strip the weight of stress off my shoulders. Belting out tunes or twirling around a wooden floor to a specific, upbeat rhythm can be a lot of hard work — almost like a trip to the gym. Having friends around to dance and laugh with, whether it’s because you tripped mid-dip or their voices crack hitting a high note, is a major stress reliever. They can be embarrassing, but good friends only tease you about it a little that night and then let it go (at least until the next time). Plus, making a fool out of yourself is the best way to break the ice!

A party isn’t really a party unless there is some form of music playing (and food). It’s there to encourage dancing but also just to help everyone break the ice. Dancing to a fun song that you love can really make us feel comfortable in a new place, as evinced by the entire Miley Cyrus song, “Party in the USA.” For those of us who don’t like the music playing at a particular party, we just have to suffer the torture of awkwardness until we hear something we like or suck it up, adapt and dance to the music we don’t like. Concerts are really just one big party with live music that almost everyone there really loves, which is why so many people make lasting relationships (friends, romantic partners, etc.) there.

Bopping around my dorm room as I pick up my laundry or put it away once it’s clean, as I sweep or organize paperwork can help me keep going. As long as I chose energizing music, that is. Playing music while cleaning is a tradition that my mom began when I was very little and she was a single mother trying to get her only daughter to cooperate on a Saturday morning to clean the small ranch house we lived in. Guess what? It worked! So well that I’ve incorporated it into doing homework, as well. I need some form of background noise just to be able to focus on my work (bizarre, I know), but playing a television show in the background, if I haven’t seen that episode before, is more likely to distract me than help me to focus. Music, on the other hand, does not need to be seen, so it is easy to just have a playlist running in the background while I do any form of work. Listening to music that I like really takes the tedium out of any boring task — kind of like a spoonful of sugar to medicine, according to Mary Poppins.

Going to the gym can seem like a daunting chore, but add a fun playlist to the mix and it just feels like being productive. The feeling of being really productive, and energized or even exhausted by physical exertion at the gym is amazing and motivating and totally worth all that work you put in. So if music can help you to remember to put the work in, and that it’s worth it in the end, then go for it! You have to choose the right kind of music for something like this, though. Slow music probably won’t motivate you to work as hard as a rock and roll beat will. Take that into consideration when you’re creating that “workout” playlist.

For me, music is such a huge part of my life, that I have various songs running through my head all day long. Similar to a personal musical, or movie with a great soundtrack, the songs playing per day are either based on my mood or both consciously and subconsciously in order to improve my mood. Sometimes I think someone is just going to pop out from behind some really unlikely hiding spot and open up their mouth and start singing about the weather or the kind of day I’m having. I’m not sure if that would be a pleasant surprise or just really embarrassing.

Music is such an enormous part of daily life — so don’t skimp on it — use it to help take those pounds off your shoulders. Whether you take that literally — in the amount of homework you have — or just figuratively — in reducing anxiety, is up to you. ‘Cause you can’t stop the beat!

Gabrielle Lamontagne is a sophomore double-majoring in French and business administration.