Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Music and stress-management


In this era of rapid growth and nail-biting competition, life is getting full of tension. This tension leads to different diseases like the hypertension, heart problems, and insomnia and so on. In psychological terms this tension is called ‘stress’. Many ailments occur due to the lack of physical exercises. Our life-styles have become so comfortable and relaxing, thanks to the science and technology, that most of our day-to-day activities are performed automatically by different machines. For example, we have remote control devices for TV, air conditioners, fans etc and therefore need not trouble our legs in order to use them. Outdoor games have been replaced by very meticulously designed video games. Hence, most of us need not go out and play. Mobile phones have made it possible to sit at home and replace important meetings with the video conferencing. There is just no scope for physical activities. This physical inaction leads to hypertention, and other psychological disorders which generate stress. In this article, we’d see as to how we can manage stress through the use of music.

What is stress?

There are many definitions given to the mental stress. Some are as under:
1 Stress is the body's reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or response. It can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or anxious.
2 Stress is caused by an existing stress-causing factor or "stressor."
3 Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.
Considering these definitions, we can conclude that the stress is the result of our mental fatigue which may occur due to a variety of reasons. Your co-workers do not behave your way and you get tensed; you are waiting for someone but he/she gets late and you get frustrated; you do not succeed in the mission undertaken by you and your blood pressure shoots. There are numerous excuses for stress but in fact it is in your mind. In the same unfavourable situation, some get stress and some other do not. This shows that stress is not something that comes from outside; it is within our own mind.
The stress begins with frustration. We do not like someone’s actions or something and we get frustrated. This frustration, if suppressed, generates anxiety which, in turn, gets transformed in anger. We try to suppress this anger as most of the time we cannot express it. That leads to more mental imbalances and finally we fall prey to the stress. If the situation prevails for a long time, this state of mind can lead to mental depression which can cause more psychological problems.

The solution:

There are many simple actions which can curtail our stress and we can get rid of it. Psychologists have devised means and methods whereby one can cope up with these kinds of situations. However, fine arts in general and music specifically can be of great help in controlling the mental stress.

Stress-management through music:

The basic cause of the mental stress is that our mind sometimes does not accept, or does not wish to accept the reality of circumstances. For example, you are watching your favourite show on TV and suddenly the the electric supply is off. If you accept the situation and keep cool, it is well. However, many of us take it very sentimentally and think that the power fails only when they are watching TV and they are not very lucky and so on. These types of feelings generate stress. If our attitude towards life is negative, we are stressed. If the attitude is positive, the situation changes rapidly to our favour.
Music makes positive. We feel relaxed and comfortable. As we listen soothing and sweet music, all our frustrations, tentions and other mental imbalances keep on evaporating and we feel very light and free of all stress. If one happens to be a musician, he/she can cure the ailment of mental stress very easily. The Swara Sadhana, which is essential to Indian music, is very helpful in controlling the stress. As we listen to the rich drone sound of Tanpura, we feel a kind of peace in our mind. When we mingle our voice in tune with Tanpura, our mind gets concentrated on Shadja, the key note of Indian music. As we tune the instrument, we need too much of concentration of mind towards the basic note. All these activities lead us to the state of meditation. In terms of Yoga, this meditation is the basic prerequisite for attaining the state of Samadhi. But the musicians have the privilege to get this state of mind without Yogic practices. Music in itself is a kind of Yoga. It can cure many mental illnesses including the mental stress.
In the fourth Chapter of Sangeet Ratnakar, the author has elaborated upon the characteristics of a good Vaggeyakara, i.e. the good musical composer. One of the characteristics mentioned herein is ‘Avadhana’ which means the concentration of mind. Thus, we see that the composers of Indian music need the concentration of mind in order to create music. It applies to any kind of music. If we can practice to concentration of mind, we can strengthen our will power. If our will power is strong, we can easily can overpower the mental stress.
Not only musicians, but the listeners of music can also benefit from the positive qualities of Indian music. Here, let us make a distinction between the quality music and the popular music. It is not that the popular or the mainstream music cannot fall in the category of the quality music. But more often than not, the popular music is different from the quality music. Music which is meant for generating excitement and action, fails to give relaxation. Those who wish to use music to suppress the original mental feelings, have to face the consequences. This is the reason, that disco jockeys are able to make us dance but their kind of music is far from the peace of mind. It can generate excitement but cannot create pleasing effects. Therefore, one should choose soothing and relaxing music if he/she wants to get rid of the mental stress.
Indian classical music has the capacity to shun the negative feelings and create the positive attitude. Therefore, it is recommended that one should develop the habit of listening to the Indian classical music if the mental stress is to be curtailed.


There is a very famous saying: “caution is always better than cure.” Therefore, it is advisable that before it is too late, before we fall prey to the mental stress, let us develop the liking towards the Indian classical music. All of us try to learn a bit of Indian music. If it is not possible, at least we can listen to the good music. We should try to keep away from the loud amplified kind of music which is amply available on the electronic media. We should rather be inclined to the real classical music. This will surely make our lives more fruitful and productive in all respects.