Anxiety is something that everyone deals with at some point in their life. Whether it’s before a big presentation or before receiving important news, you have most likely been anxious at one point or another. Some people even deal with anxiety in everyday social situations. You may get butterflies in your gut, or you feel nauseous, or you have this worrisome voice in your head, or you just get extremely stressed. Anxiety is especially popular in teenagers. It is a time where they are balancing things like changing physically, attempting to finding themselves, and preparing academically for the rest of their lives, just to name a few. So you can imagine how stressful handling all of these factors may be for a 13-18 year old. Not to mention the rise is technology and social media, where students are now conversing more online than they are in person.
My Connection to the Topic
Anxiety is something that I have personally dealt with a lot in the past five years. I grew up as an outgoing child, but as I moved into middle school things like social media, cell phones, and new societal norms started to arise, which quieted down my once extroverted personality. I started getting social anxiety where I would avoid as many social confrontations as possible, I would throw up before any big presentation, and I had a fear of crossing the street because I knew I was being watched by the people in the cars waiting for me to cross.
At first I started to write down my thoughts in the notes app on my phone, I talked to my guidance counselor at school, and I took many naps, but nothing seemed to suppress the raging voice in my head as much as music did. In middle school, I listened to Shawn Mendes, Maroon 5, and Adele albums to simply drown out all of the voices in my head. Then eventually by my sophomore year, I started to write songs as an outlet to contain my anxiety. It was a way that I could trap my thoughts onto a page and then put them in a form that could help me relate with others. Not only did writing songs help with my social anxiety, but it helped me to cool down whenever I became stressed. Now I have a way to connect with other people in a way that words cannot, and I have an activity that I am passionate about and really makes me happy.
What I did to Research my Topic
I think that music is a very useful tool for helping teens deal with their anxiety, whether it is playing an instrument, singing, or writing songs. Music is so powerful due to it’s versatility and ability to change someone’s mood. For this presentation, I decided to dive in deeper on how much music helps others with their anxiety.
I decided that instead of focusing on teen anxiety in general, that I would focus on my own school community. There are about 133 students in my entire high school. We are a private boarding school in Northern NH, with students coming from countries all over the world including China, Afghanistan, and the Czech Republic, just to name a few. So I thought that even if I received data from less than 150 people that I would still get a broad idea of how anxiety effects teens with all kinds of backgrounds and lives.
The way I decided to collect data was through a Google Forms Survey. Students at my school often use Google Forms as a means of collecting information for school projects, and usually there is a good percentage of participation. These are the questions I asked:
- How old are you?
- How often do you deal with anxiety? (Never, Barely ever, Sometimes, Always)
- What type of things provoke your anxiety?
- Rank the following activities in order of how much they your provoke anxiety.(Social Media, School work, Public speaking, Social/verbal interactions with others,)
- How often do you listen to music?(Never, Barely, Sometimes, Everyday)
- Why do you listen to music?
- Rank the following reasons in order of how much they relate to why you listen to music.( It helps me focus, To dance to, To make me feel good, To pair with a certain mood I am feeling)
- On a scale of 1-10, how much does playing/listening to music help with your anxiety?
- Please describe how music helps your anxiety?
- If it doesn’t help, list what things do help with your anxiety?
I have chosen some of the more important questions from my survey and shown them below:
When reviewing the pie chart above I was not at all surprised with the results. As you can see the most popular answer was that people often deal with anxiety (42.9%) and the least popular answer was that they never deal with anxiety (0%).Like I previously mentioned anxiety is something that everyone has dealt with at some point in their lives, but not everyone deals with it everyday.
The results for the question above did not surprise me as much as it interested me and opened up my mind a little bit. The first four options listed (Social Life/Interactions, School/Work, Personal Relationships, Public Speaking/Presentations) were all answers I came up with, and everything after that were all self generated by the students taking the survey. There were things that I either forgot about or have never related to. For example, I forgot that family can be a huge factor when it comes to provoking anxiety, but politics is something that has never given me anxiety personally.
The pie chart above is proof of how useful music can be. Even if people are not musically inclined, meaning they don’t play an instrument or sing, music is still used by everyone almost everyday. Especially with technology advancing and new music streaming apps becoming available, it is easier for people of all different backgrounds, ages, and cultures to access all sorts of music.
This question was the one that I was most interested in, mostly because I was eager to find out how much music helped others who aren’t as involved in it as I am. The results to this question would answer: Do you have to be passionate about music in order for it to help with personal problems such as anxiety? and How do people use music to benefit themselves beyond keeping up with today’s pop culture? To my surprise about 78.5% of people answered a 6-10 on a scale of 1-10 of how much music helps with their anxiety. I was originally expecting lower answers because I thought I was one of the only ones in my school community who used music as an outlet, but this question proved me wrong.
Quotes from Students:
Here are some answers from students in response to the question: How does music help with your anxiety?
” Music helps by diving deep into the sound and listening to each detail of different sounds. It also helps with getting the mind off of the thing that is anxiety producing. It helps me decompress and think of new material with composing. It also helps me get pumped for working out and taking the anxiety and letting it out in a positive way. “
” In moment where a situation is out of my control, I can listen to music to distract myself and not worry about something I can’t change.”
“When the lyrics match my feelings I feel less alone and more understood.”
” It can make me feel another way than anxious, which is very helpful. I can end up feeling brave and powerful instead of weak, scared, and helpless.”
“Strumming guitar & learning songs can be a nice, relaxing diversion and is very satisfying when I finally succeed.”
” It forces me to stop thinking about the thing that is causing me anxiety and focus on the lyrics/chords I am singing/playing. It’s also a way to (vocally) get out all of the emotions in a healthier way than screaming :)”
Interview with my school’s Student Assistance Program Director, Matthew Toms:
My Original Song:
As I explained at the beginning of this presentation, I have used songwriting to help control my anxiety for a couple years now. In fact, the majority of my songs are about my anxiety and how it affects me. The following is a more recent song I wrote called “Panic Attack”. I wrote this song to express the pain that comes along with daily anxiety. I tried to keep the song as simple as possible with only a guitar and vocals to maximize the emotion and rawness of the message. The only percussion in the whole song is some rhythmically spoken lyrics at the beginning that say “See five, feel four, hear three, smell two.” This is called The Five Finger Coping Exercise that was suggested to me by a past therapist of mine, and I have used many times to escape oncoming panic attacks, hence the name of the song.
There’s this cloud
That reigns above me
And it shrouds
All the beauty
That the sun
Shines down beneath
I try to outrun it
But it always catches me
Oh oh oooooo
Oh oh ooooooo
All this fear
It just appears
And makes the room feel
Like it’s slowly
Sometimes it goes away
But I always end up relapsing
Can you feel
The tension now?
That’s what I have to deal with
And did I mention how
That the only way
to overcome this
Is to dive
right into it