Sunday, January 17, 2010

What Stress Can Do For You!

Stress. It really can cause heart attacks researchers say!

There is mounting evidence of the role of stress and the increased risk of heart attack. A new research study in the European Heart Journal links elevated salivary cortisol levels as a result of mental stress to increased coronary artery calcification, a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). This study is important because it used subjects who were not already diagnosed with CHD. The research is also emphasizes how important it is for everyone, not just people who already have heart problems, to recognize and address stress in their lives.

I have written several posts about using music as an aid for relaxation and stress management. I think music continues to offer a powerful tool as part of a lifestyle that includes managing stress. One of the comments on the webpage that introduced the story was from Tony in Essex who quite correctly stated, "Let's get it straight, how the h--- does anyone avoid being stressed constantly in this insane society?"

This past week in my drumming in therapy class we have started each class with a facilitated drum circle. After the drum circle I asked the participants what they had been thinking about while they were drumming. I found it interesting that everybody seemed to have had a clear mind. They had not been thinking about their "to-do" lists or where they needed to go after class, or any number of different mental stressors that clutter up our everyday lives. Christine Stevens, a pioneer in community drum circles, often talks about the power drumming has on our mind, body and soul. I have heard her mention the fact that drumming is powerful because while you are engaged in a group drumming event your mind is more at peace and temporarily free of many of the mental stressors that usually take up our thought space. (For more information about Christine see my post here.)

Stress is a problem for all of us in the modern world. It obviously becomes more serious after a heart attack or diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease, but it looks like any of us could end up in those situations if the new research holds true. Finding some time to relax and listen to some favorite music or scheduling a few times a week to play a musical instrument as a leisure skill are some healthy suggestions in developing a good way to cope with modern life. Music makes sense!

The abstract to the original research in the European Heart Journal can be found here.


  1. Phew! Given this past week's stress level, I guess I'd better get myself to drumming then. Thanks for the post!

  2. Thank you very much for this post.

    It's funny. I do lots and lots and lots of drumming with other people, but I don't really do any for myself. Even when I go to a community drum circle I feel stressed by having to take my family along with me, or if I go to a classic African circle or a Samba group then I feel de-skilled because I am not 'good enough'. I like to improvise too much.

    I used to run my own group, in my house, for relaxation. It was called "The Lovely Ladies Drum Circle" but circumstances have taken us away from each other now.

    I enjoyed Christine Stevens' "The Art and Heart Of Drum Circles" and also her "Healing Drum Kit" (well worth a look, Roia - it is simple, but a very gentle self-help tool) Both draw somewhat from Arthur Hull's work but manage to avoid the whole cult of personality that surrounds Hull and makes his stuff distasteful to me.

  3. I am glad to help people start thinking about drumming again! That is a great concept, Lozzie, "The Lovely Ladies Drum Circle!" I think there should be one in every neighborhood! Hopefully you will find a place soon to share you love of drums. The Healing Drum Kit is a good place to start when you are by yourself. Thank you so much for your comments!


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