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Music: A Soothing Balm for Stress

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

Most people have experienced the relaxing effect of music—from the soft strains of a flute playing in the background during a massage, to tuning out the world with your headphones during a grueling commute on public transit.

With hectic schedules, busy families, financial pressures and life’s many complications, stress can permeate every aspect of daily living. Whether you’re experiencing more persistent stress or just looking to enjoy the many health benefits of increased relaxation, music can play an important role. It has the power to engage the body, mind and spirit and carry you into a more relaxed state.

The Mind

Listening to music may evoke memories, images or scenes. This is how music soundtracks help “tell” the story of a movie. We can all intentionally create soundtracks for our lives, and music therapist Jennifer Buchanan guides us in doing just that in her book, Tune In: Use Music Intentionally to Curb Stress, Boost Morale and Restore Health. Buchanan says that by choosing to listen to music that you associate with calming memories, images or scenes, you can distract yourself from the negative thoughts that are worrying you. Music can also help engage your creative, problem-solving mind so that you can come up with constructive solutions for the worrisome situation.

The Body

Purposefully chosen music can also evoke the physical sensations of actually being in those relaxing scenarios. Whether you’re lying down and listening to a slow-paced symphony, or letting loose on the dance floor to a loud, thumping beat, music can give you a physical release from stress.

The Spirit

Attending a concert, creating live music with a group of people, or even singing along with the radio can help us to feel connected to a world outside ourselves, and sometimes to a deeper spiritual presence. Indeed, music has a major role in most of the world’s religions. Although the use of music as a healing modality dates back to the writings of Aristotle, music therapy was first identified as a profession following WWI and WWII when it was used with veterans who had a variety of issues, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). In her book, Jennifer Buchanan shares the story of her first meeting with a music therapy client with PTSD. Before they met, he had closed himself off from the world and spent most of his time in his room. When he first met Jennifer and listened as she sang familiar songs (just one of the many ways that music therapists use music to enhance the health and wellbeing of their clients), the experience brought a spark of life back into his eyes. Soon, he was expressing that aliveness in other ways, by expanding his activities and more closely interacting with the people around him. When it comes to relieving stress, Buchanan says that it’s not the speed of music that is the key—for some people, it is fast music that is relaxing—but finding your own personalized music prescription for stress. She suggests that you first identify which style, speed, instrument or voice seems to soothe you. Choose a piece of music that has those qualities, and then spend 20 minutes immersing yourself in the relaxing power of music with this exercise:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down near the speakers, or wear a comfortable pair of earphones.
  2. Turn on the music, ensuring that the volume is high enough to capture your attention yet low enough to not hurt your eardrums.
  3. Take a few minutes to observe your breathing, shifting your mind from the external to the internal.
  4. Turn your focus entirely to the music and hold it there. Follow the melody, or pay attention to the pauses in the music. If you find yourself drifting away, gently bring yourself back to the sound.

Repeat often for a long-lasting effect.

Research suggests that your mood will improve and your stress will be greatly reduced by this intentional music listening.

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

10 ways to change your life

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

Too often we take care of other people’s needs, shunning activities that have the most meaning for us. Here are 10 ways to take back your life.

    1. Create goals. Get clear on what you really want, write it down and start to take action toward your goals.

  1. Commit to your own agenda. As much as possible, before helping others each day, complete the tasks that move you toward your goals.
  2. Set boundaries. When you heed your own agenda, you will likely need to set boundaries with the people in your life.
  3. Say no when you want to. Respecting your true desires is liberating.
  4. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Fulfilling long-held wishes brings joy and empowerment.
  5. Seek balance. Which of these aspects need attention: social/family, spiritual/creative, career or health?
  6. Eat well and exercise. Take charge of your energy by treating your body well.
  7. Clear clutter. Creating an orderly and beautiful physical environment positively affects our sense of internal order and makes space for the new.
  8. Pursue completion. Avoiding unfinished tasks, things that remain unsaid and relationships that need closure, hijacks our thoughts and saps our energy.
  9. Get support/find allies. Get help processing uncomfortable feelings and seek friendships with people who appreciate and support your taking charge of your life

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Life on a Swing: Bipolar Disorder

Thursday, March 29th, 2012 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

We all experience a variety of moods, including happiness, sadness, anger and frustration. Having “good” moods, “bad” moods and fluctuations in moods is an inevitable part of life.

But when a person experiences extreme emotional highs (mania) followed by extreme lows (depression) and these fluctuations severely and negatively impact how they behave and function in their daily lives, a mood disorder could be the underlying cause. (more…)

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Color Me Lucky

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 by Ruth Gordon, LCSW

Despite, the often, dramatic, ups and downs, I think I have led an extraordinarily lucky life . This is because of the people I have been fortunate and privileged to know who have chipped away the ice as I was becoming worn out and seriously considering giving up. Repeatedly, just as I was running out of steam, the right person has come along, at the right time, and has given me whatever it is I have needed to get me to the other side of the street.

I am not going to name names here, but I hope, and believe, that those of you I love and appreciate, (who are, obviously, still alive) who are reading this, know who you are.

We all say that “we have to love ourselves first”. I agree with that to an extent. It is the rare human being who can live in isolation and retain his/her sanity and humanity. It’s the other people in our lives who lift us up above the level of pure survival. The right kindness at the right time makes all the difference.
(more…)

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Ruth Gordon is licensed clinical social worker in both Massachusetts and Florida. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Depression Doesn’t Lie

Monday, April 20th, 2009 by Dr. Terry Tempinski

One of the things I continue to be impressed with despite my 30 years of practice is how harsh we are toward ourselves when we are struggling in some way emotionally. It is really striking when you stop to think about it. Our response to our struggles is much kinder and wiser when we encounter physical problems. When we have a toothache, we swiftly get ourselves in to see the dentist. A bad cold? We try to get some antibiotics, drink fluids, and lay low. But depressed? Oh my!?!

I am well aware that no one goes to see a psychologist without many months of trying to overcome whatever is bothering them. This makes sense; we all try to forage ahead when the going gets tough. But unfortunately, when things do not improve, we are often not our own best friend. Here are some examples of the things I hear again and again:

I really have no reason to be depressed.
The reasons for my unhappiness are not going to change, so how can I feel any better?
Others have problems way worse than mine.
How can psychotherapy help anyway?
Therapy is for those who have failed and are weak.

(more…)

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Dr. Tempinski is a clinical psychologist with more than 25 years experience treating adult individuals. She is fully licensed in the state of Michigan. Her solo private practice has been designed with the goal of maximizing client confidentiality. Dr. Tempinski works with the philosophy that most emotional difficulties stem from inner turmoil that can be understood and resolved. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory