Identifying stress and how music can be used to cope with it.

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.

Inspiration for this Topic:

I have been playing various musical instruments from a young age and the one that I enjoy the most is the saxophone. I’ve continued playing to this day and like playing jazz music the most. I’ve noticed that whenever I feel stressed or just need to relax, I tend to put on my favorite music and take a minute to collect myself. Through this realization, I’ve connected music to meditation and use this stress-relief strategy to lead a healthier and happier life.  Within this course, one of our assignments was to interview a mental health professional. I chose to speak to Dr. Gill, registered psychologist, who spoke about using meditation within her psychotherapy sessions. If her choice of relief to patients was meditation, could music be used to help them also? This was my inspiration for the topic and I wanted to learn the effects that music can have on the human mind. I feel that stress is a big problem for many people and it needs to be addressed and dealt with. It has become normalized and people, specifically students, are failing to see that they are stressed. This project is aimed to help identify stress and offer a unique way to help reduce it.


Stress and How to Identify It:

First, there are two main kinds of stress: acute and long term. Acute means you get really stressed out over something for a short period of time; this is the kind that we have all experienced at some point in our lives. For teens right now, I feel that much acute or even long term stress is induced by school and the pressure to do well. If you have long term chronic stress, you feel stressed for a week or more. This continual stress causes mental health problems later down the road. Stress is not all bad though, in small amounts it can keep you focused or even save your life. But, stress usually affects your mental and emotional health as well as: physical pain, skin rashes, digestive issues, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, heart problems, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. Stress is dependent on the individual as well, because some people have low stress tolerances and others have high. Either way, it is important to identify stress in yourself  so you can better cope with stress and what is causing it. Here is a list of symptoms and their categories, but you may experience slightly different symptoms because everyone is different.

Music Meditation:

The main appeal of music as medicine is in the emotions it evokes in us and how this can change our day. It puts us in a certain mood and we can even relax and zone out to the tunes. It also has a few other effects:

  • Increases endorphins and other pleasure hormones in your bloodstream.
  • Decreases the production of cortisol and adrenaline along with other stress hormones.
  • Slow your heart rate and blood pressure (entrainment). *also depends on music choice*
  • Stimulates alpha brain waves, associated with a relaxed and conscious state of mind, or delta waves best for the onset of sleep.

All of the effects of listening to music help to alleviate stress. Meditation is a powerful way to alleviate stress and is more widely used in the east, it is still beneficial to us. As music absorbs our attention, it acts as a distraction at the same time it helps to explore emotions. This helps the mind from wandering during meditation and causes a deeper and more mindful meditation. This deep meditation has a lot of healing effects, one of these being stress. We sometimes have unconscious negative thoughts and positive music can be used to counteract these negative thoughts and thus stress.

Music Choice:

The type of music you like varies from person to person and it is up to you to find the music that puts you in the best relaxation mood. Through my research, I found that the main genre of music for relaxation and meditation is classical. I personally find jazz to be the most relaxing and soothing, but it also depends on my mood. That is the great part of music, there is a song for every kind of occasion and feeling. For meditation purposes, it doesn’t even have to be music, it could be white noise or nature sounds. The use and impact of music is so far-reaching and people are able to feel better,concentrate, meditate, and be mindful.

My Favorite Relaxing Music

My Task for You:

If and when you feel stressed, try this musical meditation. A good amount of time for this meditation would be around 15- 30 minutes. If you do not know if you are stressed or not, look at the symptoms in the table above and see what you are experiencing. Look deep here and think about your true feelings. The more you reduce your ongoing stress, the better your life will be. I would like you to listen to the music prompts below and chose the one that you like the best for meditation.

Other ways to Reduce Stress:



White , Donna M. “Recognizing and Dealing with Stress.” Psych Central, 17 July 2016,

“Recognising Stress in Yourself – Signs and Symptoms.” NHS Foundation Trust ,

“How to Recognize the Causes of Stress.” Edited by Timmothy J Legg, Healthline, Healthline Media,

Novotney, Amy. “Music as Medicine.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Nov. 2013,

Collingwood, Jane. “The Power of Music To Reduce Stress.” Psych Central, 22 Mar. 2018,

Baker, Danielle M. “The Scientific Benefits of Music.” Science of People, 7 Dec. 2017,

Share this project
  1. April 26, 2018 by Caroline

    I loved reading about your topic! I have always found that when I play the guitar or ukulele, or even just sing, my stress and worries are eliminated. I feel so at peace and happy, so I enjoyed reading about the biological reasons for this and I’m happy to know that there’s proof music does indeed alleviate stress! I think this is an important topic to spread and educate others about because it’s such a simple way to reduce stress in your life.

    • April 28, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Thanks Caroline

  2. April 27, 2018 by brendan.sarsfield

    John Coltrane is one of my favorite de-stress musicians – along with Miles Davis: – interesting webpage – I’m going to recommend my students visit !

    thank you !!

    • April 28, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Hello Brendan, I like Miles Davis as well. Thank you for sharing my page!

  3. April 27, 2018 by brooke

    I always listen to music when I’m doing my homework or driving or doing chores. I always like having some music playing and it was so interesting to learn that music actually has an effect on your mentality.

    • April 28, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Glad to hear that Brooke

  4. April 27, 2018 by Anna Thompson

    Hi Peter,

    First of all, I just want to say that I love how hands-on and fun both your topic and your presentation are! You did a fantastic job of incorporating a personal anecdote with scientific data, and then applying that to make a change. All of your graphic elements, such as your symptoms chart and your “5 Ways to De-Stress Yourself” infographic were visually appealing and supported your ideas nicely. My big question for you is this: could you see this music meditation method being incorporated into the treatment of patients with serious mental health-disorders? If so, which disorders do you think this might be applicable to, and what would that treatment look like? Awesome job!

    • April 28, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Hi Anna, I think that one major mental disorder that music can be used to help is schizophrenia. When someone has an attack and they are out of it, they can have ‘their song’ play to help bring them back to reality. Other than that, it can be used for alzheimer’s because music is very powerful and sometimes noises are evoke more memory than pictures. Music can probably be used to treat more disorders and problems because as I said, hearing someting is a very powerful sensation.

  5. April 27, 2018 by Morinsola.Tinubu

    Hey Peter, I found your topic to be interesting and loved learning about the impact music has in stress. I also enjoy how you incorporated your own personal connection to the topic. I believe that this is something that teenagers need to talk more about because it is a prevalent issue in society today. My one recommendation is that you add more persuasive aspects to the topic that makes it a little more personal and compelling. This could be presented through a video or even more photos. Other than that, great job!

    • April 28, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Thanks for the feedback Morinsola

  6. April 27, 2018 by Maddie Koo

    Hey Peter,
    I recently have found myself super stressed out in school for the past few months, and music has been something I listen to whenever I am walking around school, doing homework, etc. In a way, I have gotten slightly addicted to music to the point, where the few songs I queue all the time, put me in such a good mood. The infographic you included was a great addition and visually pleasing. A question I have is how can you spread this idea of music helping individuals dealing with stress? I feel like many people in High School especially would find this very beneficial to know, if they don’t already do it.

    • April 28, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Hi Maddie, I love that you already listen to music to reduce stress. I was thinking that putting some kind of ad on social media may be a good way to get the word out. I feel that is something that almost all Highschoolers use and it may be the easiest way to reach a lot of people.

  7. April 28, 2018 by leilani.ahina

    Hi Peter!
    I really enjoyed reading and listening to what you had to say about this. I think that music can have a big impact on mental health and can be a key component of wellness. I think a lot of people are intimidated by the nothingness/silence of meditation, so adding some music makes great sense.
    Dr. Ahina

    • April 28, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Hey Dr. Ahina, thank you for reading my project, knowing some of the positive psychology concepts certainly helped!

  8. April 28, 2018 by Anna Demopulos

    I really loved how you identified and categorized different types of stress. This is something that we don’t really think about, but it is so important to understand and think about. On top of that, I love your focus on music and meditation. It’s something that I’ve tried to practice for some time, but I think that your project has definitely helped with this. Thank you and great job, Peter!

    • April 28, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Thanks Anna for your support!

  9. April 29, 2018 by Jane MacRae

    Hi Peter! I really enjoyed reading about your project. I think that music definitely helps me de-stress, and I think more people should be aware of it. I also really liked how you included the music that helps you de-stress the best. I think that was a great personal touch and really helped me connect to you as a reader. I think that music can definitely help with mental health as well. Thank you for a great presentation!! -Jane

    • April 30, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Thanks Jane

  10. April 29, 2018 by Anya.Weaver

    This was a really interesting perspective! when I’m stressed, I also like to listen to music to help me decompress. Are there any genres that don’t de-stress?

    • April 30, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      I can see how hard rock and puck would make me crazy, but it all depends on the person and their preferences.

  11. April 29, 2018 by Nicole.Sanders

    Hi Peter, I loved your project! I am very stressed with school and other activities, and I often listen to music to de-stress. I liked that you talked about stress first and defined different kinds of stress. I also liked the end, where you shared your favorite relaxing music and suggested ways to destress. Overall, I thought your project was formatted really well and looked really good. The pictures and infographic complimented it really well.

    • April 30, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      Thank you Nicole

  12. April 29, 2018 by Madoka.Kumamaru

    I thought your website was really intriguing! I often listen to music, but I hadn’t given much thought to how to identify stress and how to cope with stress using music. I think using music to de-stress, especially classical music or jazz, is definitely something I would like to incorporate more into my routine. I also liked that you included more ways to cope with stress as I think it would be helpful for many people!

    • April 30, 2018 by Peter.Wess

      I love all the people who love Jazz, thanks for commenting Madoka

  13. April 30, 2018 by Elena Maria Vitale

    Hey Peter, honestly I now understand why I always listen to music whenever i feel stressed and it’s such a relief that something that I really love, like listening to music, can actually make my mood and my body feel better. Very good job, interesting topic!

  14. May 03, 2018 by Natalie

    I loved the positive message of your presentation! I think that the fact that stress exists is often what is reported on the most, but it is really important to recognize that raising awareness that an issue exists is only the first step, and that solving the issue is the next thing that needs to happen. Overall, great job and I really enjoyed the images and tips and tricks.

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