Plug in your headphones and sink back into the pillows; turn up your car radio and roll the windows down; hook up your tower speaker and wait for the neighbors to call the cops.
We all know that feeling music gives us deep down in our souls; it’s transcendent. Music doesn’t judge. Music gets you. Music is here for you.
But when nothing seems to help, when you hardly have the energy to reach for your phone, when nothing sounds good, what do you turn to exactly? Okay, you can probably think of a few songs off the top of your head that always make you feel better. But in case you don’t, or need a few suggestions, here’s my guide to using music to my benefit when the dark clouds loom.
CLASSICALLY BORING... ER, I MEAN, SOOTHING!
This one is relatively simple. Find something soothing – even if it’s not usually in your forte. The trick, ultimately, is to deceive your mind into relaxing when it’s on DEFCON one. This suggestion lends itself more to dealing with anxiety than depression, though it’s a useful tool regardless. While all of my suggestions are absolutely open to interpretation, a specific kind of music does come to mind here. Look for songs that are soft and/or sweeping. Avoid hard rock and metal, etc., due to its often harsh nature, screaming, heavy drums and bass, and such. Mind you, there is NOTHING WRONG with any of these things – not that I have to tell you that – and if this actually helps you unwind, go for it! It’s simply a safer bet to avoid it.
Opera is a safe go-to; for a beginner or someone lacking much interest in this category, just type in a basic “soothing opera music” into your search bar. Opera has many of the perks of instrumental, but with the added bonus of the singing – the powerful voices of other people can help make one feel less alone, and yet they are often in another language so the words are able to wash over you instead of distracting you.
Opera is a great way to force your demon to release its fanged jaws from your mind, but another option in this situation I tend to favor is instrumental. I find the voices too diverting to adequately disable the attack. Classical or even big band swing jazz helps to transport me to another world and shut my brain up.
The crème de la crème, however, for myself personally, are…video game soundtracks! Commonly instrumental or operatic, it is designed to engage your mind without you even realizing it. So it possesses the distinct advantage of being able to gently guide you into feeling what it wants you to feel – safe, content, excited, fearful, motivated – in such a way that you are mostly unaware of it, so you don’t feel terribly manipulated or coerced. This hopefully leaves only the relaxed state in which you should find yourself.
SECOND VERSE SAME AS THE FIRST
Rinse and repeat the same process when the emphasis is mostly directed at depression as opposed to anxiety, with one minor tweak. Now you’re trying to manipulate yourself into being happy – no, it’s not that simple; yes, depression/anxiety is a medical condition and you can’t just feel your way out of it. But the goal is to trick your brain into boosting those pesky brain chemicals on its own. It might not fix everything, but hopefully it helps get you through the worst of it. Play something with which you associate being joyful. Songs about sunshine, living the good life, dance songs – anything upbeat! Ones that immediately come to mind: “Pocket Full of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield, “Happy” (Pharrell Williams), or “Better When I’m Dancing” (Meghan Trainor).
This is a bit more of a niche category, but it’s certainly very dear to my heart. This is more about releasing pent up emotional toxins. Deep depression has the tendency to present itself with a numbing effect; anxiety can almost be described in the opposite way, that you’re so flooded with fear you are unable to function. Sometimes, however, I find myself dealing with a more common funk. Often when I’m overwhelmed, even on a “good” day, and something just doesn’t feel right, it helps to have a good purge. So, love, here’s what I encourage you to do: Lock yourself somewhere you feel safe to let loose (bedroom, car, etc.), plug in your headphones or blast your speakers, and RAGE! Let they cup runneth over so to speak when you feel too full of all that anger or sadness or stress or fear. Don’t be afraid to metaphorically vomit all those emotions all over the room. Scream, dance, cry, punch a pillow, pound the car horn. Induce whatever feeling necessary and get it out of your system. Heavy metal and punk/pop punk are excellent for this exercise. Pop punk – my favorite – is by connotation geared specifically towards the “emo” crowd. While easily enjoyed by all, it boasts a particularly heightened talent for expressing one’s inner heart, struggles, and even deepest secrets. Crank up the volume to any All American Rejects song about heartbreak, Panic! At The Disco (squeals) song about humanity in general, or (YAAAASSSSSS!) My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay” – which is basically sheer perfection for all of these scenarios.
So there it is, my loves. Merely a tool I use when things get rough. Adapt it as needed for optimal results. I hope this helps, dears. Take care of yourselves.