Music and anxiety: How it helped me go through the hardest times

Mind HK
Mind HK
Jun 3 · 3 min read

By Olivia Maitre

Not a day in my life goes on without music. Indeed, music can influence our mood, our thoughts and our feelings. That’s the basic understanding we all have of the power of music. But here, I’d like to walk you through my personal experiences with it.

When I arrived in London for my Bachelor degree, my underlying anxiety disorder slowly started to expand. I was this confused 18-year-old girl who had never left her parents and I had no idea what London was like. It turned out the circumstances were quite negative, to begin with the student halls I was staying in were in a really bizarre area; I kept meeting the wrong people; and I hated my university (the one that I had always dreamt of studying in).

It was off to a bad start.

As time passed, I was feeling a little more depressed every day. I started seeing a psychologist who, in the end, wasn’t helping me at all. Everything was just getting worst. At some point, I even wanted to go back home to Hong Kong and leave university behind me.

The only thing that gave me have hope and helped get me through this extremely negative phase was music. Even back then, not a single day would go by without music in my ears.

It helped me in so many ways. When I woke up and was 100% sure my day was going to be dark, I would open my Spotify and play my favourite upbeat music loudly, it instantly changed my mood. Sometimes I would play mellow, acoustic songs. (I’m an indie type of person). Indeed, they can be sad songs, but listening to the lyrics I related to the songs which helped me a lot. Be it happy or sad, music provokes different emotions for all of us.

I find it incredible how just a few music notes, rhythms or lyrics can shift your perspective on things. I’ve always loved music, even as a kid. I think I have learned a lot about my emotional identity through my musical tastes.

Then, fast-forward to my last year and a half in London, after failed friendships and an unhealthy flat-sharing experience in my 2nd year, I started living by myself. I was very happy about it, but there were definitely some obstacles.

Throughout time my anxiety definitely increased. Living alone can be tricky, especially when you feel lonely. The trick is to occupy the mind as often as possible. This includes getting rid of silence, the silence that impacted my anxiety and thought patterns.

When I say “Thought patterns” I specifically mean the intrusive thoughts I used to have on a daily basis. At some point, I thought I was going mad. I didn’t have the courage to talk about it openly, even if I had very close relationships with my family and long-distance friends. It was my choice to remain silent about it.

Every day, my way of escaping these horrible, uncontrollable thoughts was to listen to music. I made playlists every month (which I still do). In some ways it helped me tell a story, every month and it helped me go through the hardest times I had ever experienced.

I can definitely say that music was, and still is, my coping mechanism. When music plays in my ears, anxiety has less space to mislead me. In other words, you subconsciously or consciously give less importance to my anxious thoughts. I also find that music helps to step back and take stock. Sometimes all I need is to listen to a song that touches my heart in a powerful way and it helps me see the good around me. It helps me come to realizations that I never had before.

Besides my personal experiences, music is known to have an amazing relaxing effect on both our minds and bodies.

Music can truly be magical, it has the potential to improve the way we think, behave and feel. Looking back, I don’t know how I would’ve handled everything without it.

MindHK

Seeking to change attitudes toward mental health in Hong Kong and beyond.

Mind HK

Written by

Mind HK

MindHK

MindHK

Seeking to change attitudes toward mental health in Hong Kong and beyond.