How Music Therapy Can Relieve Your Stress

Music can lift your spirits and feelings of stress in more ways than you’d expect

Stress is a human reaction that we’ve all experienced when under too much pressure. It’s a normal feeling to have until it begins to last longer than what’s comfortable. Stress can have detrimental effects if relief is not sought after quickly enough. Read about the following to better understand how music can help with your stress:

  • What is stress?
  • What stress can music relieve?
  • How can music therapy help with stress? 
Elderly woman holding head with a look of discomfort on her face. She has a stress headache.
Stress can appear as both psychological and physical symptoms, such as anxiety or a headache. Image courtesy of

What is Stress?

In psychological terms, stress is a person’s response to something that’s emotionally straining and makes them feel pressured. Stress manifests in emotional and physical responses in the human mind and body. Emotions such as frustration and anxiousness are amongst the many feelings you may experience while stressed. Muscle tension and headaches may be some of the physical symptoms you experience with stress as well. The cause of your stress can result from various parts of your life, such as a job, school, or personal relationships.

Both the psychological and physiological effects of stress can lead to negative outcomes if they persist long-term. Stress hormones released into the body can lead to depression of the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to illnesses. Prolonged release of the stress hormone cortisol can lead to impaired brain functioning, with effects like memory loss and the development of mood disorders. The body remaining in prolonged stress mode can be painful and unpleasant. 

Adult man smiling contently as he listens to music through a pair of white headphones. He wears a suit and is walking through a neighborhood.
Various types of stresses, whether from work or a medical condition, can be relieved by music therapy. Image courtesy of

Types of Stress Relieved by Music Therapy

General Stress

The effects of general stress on the body can be relieved through music therapy. Different elements of music can have considerable effects on your stress symptoms. Slower music tempos have been shown to reduce quickened heartbeat rates resulting from stress. Music playing and listening can also reduce cortisol levels and blood pressure. Regardless of what the general stressors in your life are, music therapy can provide stress relief

Medical Stress

The stress that comes along with a medical condition or illness can be intensive. The symptoms of stress can feel much worse when coupled with physical symptoms of a medical issue. Luckily, music therapy can relieve stress from medical issues and mimic the effects of some medicine. Music has been shown to improve the immune system’s functioning by increasing production of antibodies, which fight viruses and protect the system. The rhythmic vibration of music can help improve rigidness, tremors, and walking issues that are symptomatic of Parkinson’s Disease. Music’s rehabilitative effects can permeate throughout a person, from their inner mind to their external body parts. 


Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that generally involves reliving a traumatic event, experiencing anxiety arousal, avoiding triggers of the trauma, and experiencing psychological negativity. The symptoms of this condition can be debilitating and disrupt your life with grave amounts of stress. Fortunately, music therapy can relieve some PTSD symptoms. Music therapy can promote the release of positive neurotransmitters in the brain that reduce anxiety and improve mood. Music counteracts the distressing emotional aspects of PTSD and can help those who have been diagnosed, to get by.

Pain Stress

The stress that physical pain can inflict on the body is distressing and uncomfortable to deal with. Various studies have concluded that music therapy can reduce pain in the body. Music therapy is able to diminish pain in experiences ranging from an IV being inserted, to the post-effects of a medical procedure. Music therapy has also been shown to help those suffering from persistent pain issues with daily pain relief. 

Woman reclines at her desk and has a look of contentment on her face as she listens to music through headphones.
With the right music playlist, you can relieve stress symptoms from your desk. Image courtesy of

How to Use Music for Stress Relief

Music Therapy Sessions

Music therapy sessions can implement a variety of techniques and exercises to help treat distressing experiences or improve functioning. Sessions can be interactive experiences involving music-making with instruments or voice. This allows a client to explore and process their own experiences. Other exercises can include listening to live or recorded music, songwriting, and rehearsing familiar songs. 

Music therapy is practiced within a variety of settings, such as hospitals, mental health practices, and nursing homes. Anyone can benefit from music therapy. If you’re curious about music therapy or feel that it’s the ideal treatment for your stress, reach out for professional treatment and questions. 


Though professional treatment may be ideal if you’re struggling to handle stress on your own, you can also utilize music’s stress-relieving effects in your free time. Lighter daily stresses can be relieved with something as simple as a music playlist. After identifying your mood and how you’d want to change it, you can follow some simple tips in creating your own therapeutic playlist:

  • Use songs that are familiar, enjoyable, and relatable

Music that you have positive memories associated with can improve your mood and help you to maximize music’s therapeutic effects.

  • Use music that matches your mood

Find music with tempos, volumes, and harmonies that complement your mood. For example, music with slower tempos, lower volumes, and soft harmonies may best fit a sadder mood. 

  • Consider no lyrics

Lyrics can absorb your focus and attention away from the music. Consider music without lyrics to free yourself from distractions. 

Ridding yourself of stress can’t always involve a simple or quick fix. However, the relaxing effects that music can have for one’s stress symptoms make it a more accessible and ideal treatment option. Whether with the help of a professional or being your own personal DJ, stress relief can be attainable for anyone.

Edited by Cara Jernigan on January 19, 2021

Cristal Thomas
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