DEAR JIM: My wife and I retired several years ago – we are both 70 – but we have seen our retirement money waste away with the current economic downturn. We are confident that everything will recover eventually, but it is nerve wracking watching our investments decline in the meantime. Neither of us has any major health issues, and we are both physically active which helps to relieve the stress, but is there anything else we can do to relieve the anxiety that we are feeling from this financial chaos? ANXIOUS IN ANCHORAGE
DEAR ANXIOUS: Hopefully your investments are in the hands of a competent financial advisor or otherwise well-managed to give you some peace of mind. The rest is up to you. The fact that you both are enjoying good health and have remained physically active in your retirement years is a step in the right direction for coping with stress. But, yes, there is something else you might try.
Almost everyone in America has been affected by the economic uncertainty that has engulfed the country for the past eighteen months. Characterized by the continuing mortgage crisis, record unemployment, business closings, declining stock markets, bank failures, and more, the economy has touched all of us in different ways. How we cope with the individual stress associated with the economy has been different too, but a growing number of people have turned to world renowned singer and music therapist Rajaseree Mukherjee from India.
Mukherjee is a frequent visitor to the U.S. where she introduces people to the stress busting benefits of Indian classical music. Her music is mainly Indian raga based instrumental compositions, with a touch of folk music and vedic chanting. The instruments used are mostly traditional Indian string instruments like sitar, sarod, santoor, sarangi, and wind instruments like the flute, fused with Western instruments like the violin, guitar, octopad, and keyboard. The percussion is mostly Indian – tabla, dholak, and pakhavaj – combined in a soothing yet invigorating blend of sounds to soothe the psyche.
“Music has therapeutic qualities, hence the name music therapy,” says Mukherjee, and she acknowledges that people may have different tastes. “Some like vocal renditions,” she says, “and some have aversion towards certain sounds, some prefer string instruments, and for some, rhythm is very important. Accordingly I suggest relevant music for them.”
Mukherjee has observed a clear change in the thought processes of people who listen to her recommended music. “They visualize certain scenes or things, like a garden, flowers, butterflies, a flowing river, quiet surroundings or a clear blue sky. Gradually the mind falls silent. There is no thought, no emotional turmoil but just a feeling of bliss. The body and the mind feel rejuvenated after the musical experience.”
“All of us have the power within us to achieve whatever we want, stay healthy, happy and at peace,” she says. “I want to show through my music how people can do that I want everyone to experience and maintain their sanity in today’s unstable world.”
Mukherjee has produced several musical CDs for both entertainment and therapy and is currently writing a book on music therapy. For more information, click here.
As you know, I do not typically “endorse” specific products or services in these columns, but once in a while I break my own rule when I am introduced to something really special. I have often listened to Mukherjee’s tapes during stressful times and have found them very calming. Perhaps they might be something for you to consider in your arsenal of stress management too.
In the meantime, be sure to stay physically active too because exercise is still one of nature’s best anti-depressants – even if you don’t feel like it. Take a brisk walk and then sit down with an ice cold glass of tea or lemonade and listen to one of Mukherjee’s CDs. Hmmm.