Music for Stress and Performance

Apr 28, 2016 | Stress

Tune in for a quick tune-up

Looking for a fun and easy way to reduce stress, improve your performance, your mood and your brain?

Music to our ears

Feeling a bit lackluster, unmotivated, or overwhelmed? Getting stressed or annoyed about your daily tasks? Or maybe you have an upcoming performance that you’re feeling anxious about.

It might be time to put some more music into your life.

When was the last time you listened to music that you love? Not just whatever’s being played (or over-played) on the radio, but music that you connect with – that gets you singing, tapping your feet, even dancing.

Music can completely change your mood.

You’re stuck in traffic and all of a sudden a song that you loved when you were a teenager comes on the radio. You turn up the volume and sing along, and suddenly you’re not so annoyed with the traffic.

Or you’re doing the dishes when one of your favorite songs comes on, and the next thing you know you’re dancing and cleaning – happens to me sometimes!

But frankly, not often enough… That’s because most of us could stand to put more music into our lives on a regular basis.

Why music is unique, and how it helps

Music can help us in so many ways. It’s such a simple and accessible way to reduce stress, improve motivation, change our mood, and even improve our performance.

How can it do all these things for us?

Because music connects us to emotion in a way that words or action alone cannot.

Songs can take me to a certain time and place, can make me sad or happy, and can be a quick way to turn around stress and resistance.

In coaching, discussing a client’s favorite song can connect her to a new perspective or motivation and help her move forward.

What are some ways you can use music for your own quick tune-up?

1. Reduce stress and enhance mood

Have you ever noticed how certain music can calm your nerves? Now there’s growing evidence to support that feeling, as music can improve your cardiovascular function and nervous system, and cause the release of certain biochemicals that calm the stress response.

In addition to calming our anxiety, research confirms that music can in fact improve our mood, and even help us feel better – and perform better – while driving.

How about not just listening, but actually singing a tune? Research has shown that singing can help relieve stress and boost your immune system as well.

2. Increase motivation and performance

There’s a reason people like to listen to music when working out. Music, especially faster music, can not only help people run faster, but also improve their motivation and endurance.

Music can even help performance. One interesting study of female basketball players found that players who usually performed poorly under pressure made more high-pressure free-throw shots after listening to upbeat music.

Since music connects to our emotions, it can get us out of our heads in pressurized situations – where thoughts of self-doubt and anxiety reside – and into the moment.

3. Improve brain functioning

Music can affect how our brain performs certain tasks as well, but depending on the cognitive activity, the type of music can matter.

For tasks that are boring or repetitive, upbeat music can improve functioning, but for more complex tasks or those requiring creativity, upbeat or popular music can interfere with the task unless listened to beforehand. For tasks that require processing a lot of information, relaxing and repetitive music can help.

Again, music seems to be different because of it’s unique ability to affect our emotions. It is this very access to emotions that can affect our brain state. So exposure to different types of music can improve cognitive function when the music impacts our emotions.

In terms of our brain functioning, music can improve mental alertness and memory. Certain music can help us recall events of the past. And to help keep our brains fit, experts suggest that we try listening to a new kind of music because the novelty of it forces our brain to work harder to process it.

Like trying a new physical exercise which works different muscles, a new kind of music is like a new workout for the brain.

What will you tune into? 

What will you tune into today to ease your stress and boost your mood, or before your next big anxiety-inducing performance? Share your thoughts or share this post with a fellow music-lover via one of the icons below.

Now I’m off to do a few chores, and blast some fun 80s tunes…

Photo by Corey Blaz at


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Jen Riggs Blog

Meet the Author

Jennifer is the creator of Pathways to Change, a framework for mindful leadership development that integrates coaching, neuroscience, mindfulness and mind-body principles.

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