Does Music Reduce Stress

Yesterday morning I had a meeting at an Outpatient Department in a very large city public hospital.

I followed the signs on my arrival at the main hospital entrance and after walking along several very long corridors on the ground floor arrived at the New Patient Oncology Outpatient Department.

The room I was about to enter had a glass wall floor to ceiling along the corridor I was walking along, and the entry was at the end of this glass wall. All I saw looking through the glass were people sitting and the backs of their heads. It looked very uninviting and depressing. Like entering the rear door of a train carriage where everyone was seated looking forward. Very uninviting and not welcoming.

Looking further through the glass wall all you could see were several rows deep of blue cloth covered metal frame chairs with people sitting in every chair. The overflow of patients, family and friends were pressed against the walls at either side of the totally packed out large waiting room.

Have you ever walked into a room full of people and you instantly felt fear was in the air, the people were very stressed and anxious, and most had looks of uncertainty and some even desperation? This waiting room was one of those rooms. The tension was palpable.

This room instantly gave you the feeling that you wanted to ‘bail out’ of it as soon as possible. The patients’ here were waiting in many instances for a diagnosis to be given and their prognosis to be delivered. Many expecting a date they were expected to die, whether it be weeks, months or a few years.

I waited for the receptionist to return to the desk. I told her I had a 9.45am appointment with the Professor of Oncology and I handed her my invitation. She checked the appointment log and then informed me that today, the Professor was running a clinic for patients on treatment plans and gave me directions to the Oncology Clinic on the second floor.

On my arrival at the Clinic there was no glass wall this time. Instead a plaster wall and at the end of it you took a right turn. The very large room you entered was welcoming with many coloured posters on the walls and a piano on the wall which had the majority of posters.There was a myriad of chairs, and people filled about 80 percent of them. This time all but one row the patients’ and their support people faced each other… so much more welcoming and friendly. There was some communication.

Although there were many stressed and anxious people in the room these patients were waiting to see their oncologist about a check-up, change of medication, a new clinical trial they were about to join or some other aspect of their on-going treatment. Some patients were early in their treatment plan, while others would soon be joining their maker.

The atmosphere in the room was more relaxed, some people were talking to others, a few watching television, some reading, some contemplating and some staring into the distance.

There was an elderly couple who were very compassionate, and they roamed the room seeking to support the patients and their partners. Each wore a green shirt which had a badge on it with their name and Volunteer. They offered free tea, coffee and biscuits. They were the room comforters.

The Professor was running about 90 minutes behind schedule when we arrived at 9.45am so we had plenty of time to take in the atmosphere. There were doctors continually entering the room from two different passageways calling out patient’s names. There was lots of activity.

All of a sudden at 10.15am ‘the band started to play’. Neil the pianist and Ces the tambourine player let loose. Instantly there was an air of fun and relaxation in the room and more and more people started talking.

Music… a powerful de-stressor had been released and the atmosphere in the room took on a festive feeling.  It was wonderful to personally experience.

At 10.45am Neil and Ces completed their musical interlude and as they packed up, I walked over and thanked them for being ‘miracle workers’ and master ‘de-stressors’ for this group of mainly terminal patients. I gave each of them a gift…

Both men in their late seventies were thrilled with their card and shared with me they came to the hospital every Thursday morning at the same time to share their music for others who were far less fortunate that themselves so it would help the patients feel better and less stressed.

After the music concluded the chatter in the room decreased and there was a serene feeling in the atmosphere.

What a simple tool and strategy the music recital was to calm the energy and bring some relaxation into the space.

A simple gift to get you started on a de-stressing pathway… click below to get the full list.

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