02 Oct The Power of Music: Coping with Anxiety
For as long as I can remember, I have always performed music. I started playing the piano and singing before I even knew how to read or write. However, I never enjoyed performing music when I was younger. The technical work was dreadful; practicing scales, ear training, theory, sight-playing, and painfully long choral rehearsals in a building with no AC. On top of that, I couldn’t even perform the songs that I enjoyed! Instead, I was stuck playing classical pieces from the eighteenth century that seemed completely irrelevant and hard to master.
As I got older, I learned to appreciate the endless practicing for what it amounted to. My feelings toward the music I had once despised changed, in part due to the fulfillment I received from performing after months of constant practice and rehearsals. However, the most significant reason for this change can be attributed to the fact that I cultivated a deeper connection with music as I grew. That is, the unexciting classical pieces that I described earlier would resonate differently within me. I spent months with my choral coaches, conductors or piano teachers making corrections in my performance; adjusting the dynamics, fixing articulation, focusing on phrasing, etc. However, when we reached a point in which the pieces were right, they felt right.
When I left home for the first time to begin university, I concluded my music training to start this new chapter of my life. At that time, I quickly began to notice dramatic changes in my mood, and right away I knew something was off; my anxiousness ate me up and left me feeling too nervous to eat, too anxious to see my friends and even too anxious to leave my house. In short, I had been too anxious to do any of my regular daily activities. I reached a point where I felt hopeless about getting better. I was extremely frustrated. I wasn’t able to communicate how I felt and thought that I simply had to move on.
I couldn’t help but think, “Why was this?” I had always experienced mild anxiety, but I couldn’t quite figure out how things got so out of control. I later realized that I had a constant urge to perform music to an extent that I had never experienced before. I never thought anything more of it, until one day when I was listening to an old recording of one of my choral performances I broke down in tears. The emotional imbalance that I had sought to restore for so long was finally cured. I felt like I could breathe again. It was a rush – one that gave me energy, but also centred me from the inside-out. It was then that everything made sense: I no longer had an emotional outlet when I let go of music.
Music was, in a word, an oasis that I had never realized affected me until I stopped. I hadn’t realized that those endless rehearsals I once despised would be so pivotal in expressing my emotions. I found peace in conveying my thoughts and emotions through music. This was rarely through lyrics, but rather through the other musical components itself that stirred up an emotional release from within that simply cannot be put into words.
The outbreak of COVID-19 presented a new reality that imposed greater stress on me than I had experienced before. To come to terms with my new reality, I had to return to my roots. I re-visited playing the piano, which proved to be the most grounding experience. This is such that piano significantly helped me get through the COVID-19 pandemic. At times where I felt anxious and hopeless, playing the piano was the only way to help communicate the difficulties I was facing inside that I was unable to express verbally.
Individuals who struggle with mental illness often have difficulty conveying to others about how they feel, often making them feel misunderstood. Music is one of the most successful weapons I use in fighting my battle with anxiety. I hope my words inspire you to seek your creative outlet – whether it be from music or something completely different – to properly convey your feelings and take steps toward a life of peace and progress.
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