Finding Calm One Note at a Time

We can all find ourselves in moments of frenzy.

This morning I caught myself loading the dishwasher WHILE tucking in my shirt. 😵‍💫

Our frenzy isn't always visible on the outside but is certainly still felt inside. It's even possible (and common in the clients I see) for the inner frenzy to lack any cause at all. It's just there, brewing inside. 

Whether your inner experience is one of high stress and anxiety, deep turmoil and depression or just generally feeling "off", your nervous system needs a tuning. 

Thankfully there are many strategies for settling the nervous system. The challenge, sometimes, is that it can take some time and intention to find your way to what you need. 

Here's a practice based on music therapy principles that's simple and yet also quite gratifying. Note 🎵: You do NOT need to be a "musician" to do this!


Calming your Nervous System, One Note at a Time:

To prepare, find a musical instrument that you are fairly confident you can make a sound with (for example, I personally would not choose a tuba 😮‍💨). If you don't have an instrument, explore the sounds you can make with your voice, or even just with everyday objects - like tapping cups filled with different volumes of water, or fingers drumming on a table top. I once learned at a party that you can apparently get 7 different sounds out of any object!

🐞 Step one: Find a sound that matches your inner experience. Continue to play/make this sound in a way that continues to accurately portray your inner state. Pay attention to the pacing and rhythm: does it feel accurate to repeat it quickly or to allow long pauses in between? And of course feel free to bring in another note/sound or two to help flesh out what feels true inside. Play until this feeling in you feels like it has been recognized and fully acknowledged. It also may not feel completely comfortable.

🐞 Step two: Find a sound that is slightly more comfortable. In your playing in step one you may have already encountered one of those notes/sounds. It's going to offer a tiny bit of relief from the discomfort of playing your inner experience. Allow the focus of your music/sound making to be on this slightly more comfortable sound/note. How can you bring in more sounds to support it? 

🐞 Step three: Make a sound that feels good. Allow your focus and concentration to dedicate itself to what feels good. You may have already discovered some of this in step two. Allow yourself to play and get creative. 

Here's a little video of myself in this process.

You can see that I'm not really concerned with making "music", but rather I'm working my way through this process, from an accurate reflection of my current emotional state, embellishing upon that and exploring different sounds that might feel better until I finally I arrive at a note that resonates satisfaction in me and allows me to breathe.

"Art is not a mirror for reality, but a hammer with which to shape it" ~Bertolt Brecht

Enjoy sounding it out, ladybugs!

Adrienne Cress, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Expressive Arts Therapist

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Adrienne Cress is an Expressive Arts Therapist, Coach and Educator. She is the Co-Founder of The Loveliness and has a private practice in Portsmouth, NH.  

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