For Chris and Kristine Munselle from Dallas, Texas, who are parents to four children under the age of eleven, connecting through music has been a surprising way for them to manage the newfound stresses of the pandemic.
“It’s always very loud,” Kristine tells Yahoo Life. “We’re homeschooling three of our kids, we both have full-time jobs and it’s just kind of madness.”
In March, at the onset of the pandemic, the Munselles decided to learn a song, perform and record it, and post it to the app, Nextdoor, in order to engage with the community and spread some joy. It became an instant hit with the neighbors and the community at large.
“For 33 of the last 35 days [of quarantine] we have recorded ourselves covering a classic song and posting them online,” says Chris. “It...makes every day unique where there is a lot of similarity, from day to day.”
In the process, daily practice and performance has become something of a date for the couple. “It's just been really fun for us because we met in high school choir and have never sang together outside of my senior year of high school,” says Kristine. “It's been good for our marriage just to have something to do together.”
Experts say music is good for reducing stress and anxiety, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Maya Benattar, a New York City-based music psychotherapist, is not surprised that the couple finds performance helpful during this time. “I think as well as people connecting to each other, which is so important right now, music also offers an opportunity for people to connect to themselves,” she says. “To make space for all of those feelings as well as to tap into positive internal resources.”
“These are very stressful times, many people's lives have been upended very suddenly and dramatically in numerous ways,” says Dr. Andrew Levin, Division Chief of Neurology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “I think music can have a positive influence on our daily experience and help us to cope in a variety of ways. And it can also bring people together and foster a sense of community, which is itself therapeutic.”
Levin says that listening to music can influence how the brain functions and our emotional states. “Everyone has experienced how different kinds of music elicit a range of feelings: joy, sadness, anger,” he explains. “ It can also induce objective physiological responses like giving us goosebumps or moving us to tears. So listening to certain kinds of music… also appears to influence the activity of the autonomic nervous system, for instance, decreasing heart rate and blood pressure.”
Levin, who is also an amateur trumpet player, says he has gotten many personal benefits from playing music. “[It] is one of the most joyful things I do in my life. I didn't pursue it professionally because I don't particularly enjoy practicing because it feels too much like work,” he says. “So instead I reserve it as a creative outlet, which, in retrospect, has proven to be an invaluable tool for relieving stress and increasing my well being.”
This is particularly the case, he says, during the pandemic when many physicians are feeling burned out. Levin says even just listening to music while he takes a walk has real benefits. “It helps wash away the stress and refocus my mind and it also helps me feel like a more balanced individual.”
Benattar says it’s important to remember that individuals can reap the benefits of music as a stress reliever, even if they aren’t musically inclined.
“For some people, it's listening, but really listening deeply,” she says. “I work with a lot of my clients around combining music, listening and mindfulness, and just using music as a really specific resource – not just like putting it on in the background – but how can music offer you more of what you need or provide a space for the feelings that you want to move through?”
She says listening to music can also be a substitute for those who struggle with meditation. “Listening to music deeply and with that sort of singular focus is a form of mindfulness,” she says. “It's a mindfulness practice and a really valuable one.”
The Munselles say their musical performances aren’t just about them. “We just hope that what we're doing brings joy to our neighbors and anyone else in the world who might be listening to this,” says Chris.
Kristine adds: “It's easy to get stuck in what we're doing and get depressed or sad, and it's really important to just find joy in every day, in everything, and every situation.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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