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If you’ve been feeling… uncharacteristically stressed since November, you’re not alone. Mental health professionals have dubbed the phenomenon post-election stress disorder, and it turns out about 57 percent of Americans admit to experiencing its symptoms.
In the new cultural climate, simple daily processes like falling asleep or focusing at work may suddenly be a lot harder to complete, which begs the question: How do we cope? A stress reaction to stressful circumstances is healthy, yes, but we still need to pay our bills. How can we curb the intensity?
Music therapy is one relaxation method that actually has the approval of neuroscientists. Take this song by Macaroni Union, for instance. It was composed in collaboration with sound therapists, and carefully arranged so that its “harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”
And it works extremely well! According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International (who conducted the research), listening to “Weightless” resulted in a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date—including a 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.
The stakes for people living with sustained, unchecked stress are high. Baseline stress contributes to health problems like “heart disease, obesity, depression, gastrointestinal problems, [and] asthma,” and a recent paper from Harvard and Stanford found that “health issues from job stress” cause more deaths than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza. Cool!
Basically, being stressed is normal, but it’s also in all of our best interests to try and curb the intensity of those feelings when we can. So something like playing a soothing song is a good trick to keep up your sleeve for an emergency. You could play it at your desk at work, or on the train during your morning commute—just maybe not while driving or operating heavy machinery, since people often report feeling sleepy while listening.
There’s also a 10-hour version of the song on YouTube if you’d like to try sleeping to it.
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.