Does Holiday Music Cause Anxiety?

After being asked to join a news station as an expert to debunk the claims made by a psychologist about Christmas music causing anxiety (see article here: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2017/11/08/christmas-music-too-early-mental-health/), I wrote up some thoughts and my take on it. Unfortunately it didn’t work out and I was not live on the news this morning, but I figured I would still share my thoughts.

  1. There is no clinical evidence (or research studies to my knowledge) that shows Christmas music causing anxiety. I actually did a quick literature review and did not find any! This is just one psychologist’s opinion.
  2. There are several studies that show that music can affect mood. With that being said, obviously fun, upbeat, holiday music can lead one to feel joyous and cheerful.  Research actually shows that listening to music CAN reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate.
  3. While Linda Blair, psychologist in Great Britain, states “too much Christmas music is actually bad for your mental health” and “forces people to remember all the things they have to do,” I believe that this music provides a positive reminder of how wonderful the holiday season is– being surrounded by loved ones and watching kids faces light up when they see holiday lights and when opening gifts. Further, these songs tend to remind people of their own childhood experiences and family traditions. This positive music is a reminder of all of the joyous things one has to look forward to.
  4. The current Stress in America survey done by the APA found that two-thirds of Americans are stressed about the future of our nation. I strongly believe that the holidays and hearing holiday music can actually ease some of that stress by introducing positive emotions.
  5. If we think of stress and anxiety as a whole, any situation is actually a neutral situation until an individual interprets the event. One’s view of an event may be drastically different than another. A famous psychologist, Richard Lazarus had a view about stress that the interpretation of the event is more important than the event itself. Once again, there are no research studies (to my knowledge) showing that holiday music causes anxiety, but if one is already stressed in general, or about the holidays, then perhaps the music could be a reminder to that individual about all they have to do, BUT if someone is not yet stressed, then their interpretation of the music would not cause stress or anxiety and would rather do the complete opposite. It is not the holiday music that causes this anxiety, but perhaps the other psychologist’s perception of it and her interpretation.

    With that being said, if YOU are stressed and have anxiety regarding the upcoming holiday season, or just feel stressed in general, here are some tips to help decrease your stress level.

    1. Use positive self-talk
    2. Manage your time wisely by making a list and prioritize
    3. Utilize relaxation techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, imagery and visualization
    4. Exercise
    5. Take a walk and get fresh air
    6. Meditate
    7. Unplug from technology – even if it’s 10 or 15minutes
    8. Surround yourself with positivity. Do something fun with friends or family
    9. Take a bath
    10. Listen to music (yes even holiday music)

    To a happy and healthy holiday season!

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