Stressed? Try Desserts
This has actually worked for me for years. Yes, and I think I'm going back to it very soon. I've been stressed lately. Palindromically, stressed is desserts backwards. The desserts I'm referring to here are not the calorie laden ones however; they are what I have always considered desserts...SINGING... of all kinds. I'm sure desserts come in many forms as do stresses. How we handle the two are the key to our success. What we physically and mentally/emotionally interpret as stress for us personally can make or break us, our lives, our careers, our families and our loved ones. What we subsequently do or refuse to do to relieve that stress can also do the same. Some stress reducers are very temporary and eventually destructive. i.e. fattening desserts, sugar highs, frantic hyperactivity, compulsive behaviors and escapist alternatives. Not good. Won't work.
According to Susan Brink, an L.A. Times Staff Writer, "a simple tune can boost mood, memory and the immune system - it can ease stress." Her article in the Health Section yesterday summarized these truths for me. She went to a retreat for amateur singers in Oregon called "How to Sing in the Shower". What a wonderful discovery she had. She, like many students I've known, was afraid to sing in public or where anyone else could hear her. Problems with pitch, tone, volume plague many needlessly. Karaoke Bars have jokingly pointed that out. Church choirs have been the haven for many a "closet singer"...no audition, no pressure, come on, you're praising the Lord. Who could criticize that? Well, I've been there. No, I've never had problems with my singing voice but I've worked with many who just refused to sing because of peer rejections or ridicule. It can be a problem in a music class. You can't force someone to sing. They have to want to. I'd get around that by including instruments of all kinds, rhythmic in nature so that they could participate somehow. It usually worked.
Susan's article goes on to point out lots of recent research on the effectiveness of singing as a stress reliever and immune system strengthener. Oxytocin is a hormone that courses through us when we are having a good time i.e. new mothers nursing, having sex, and when we sing in groups as teenagers and so on. according to Walter J Freeman, a neurobiologist at U.C. Berkeley. Music is mainly "right brain" and language (lyrics) is mainly "left brain". How they get together through the corpus colossum, the pathways, can be very robust. Some of us can remember songs and words from our childhood. How do most of us learn the alphabet? The ABC song.
Yesterday I taught a song I pulled out of my memory to my kindergarteners and they loved it. Of course, I didn't remember it exactly and I added some gestures and teaching points, but we had fun. I used it as a vehicle to teach/review the Seasons and their knowledge of them and their sequence. Do you remember?..."Its gona be a cold winter...and what will da birdies do den?...the poor tings." It was silly, used baby talk but it got to its purpose. It also taught rhyming words, barn - warm, fly - sky - dry, pool - cool, etc. I added: school - stool and book - rook for Fall. See if you can figure it out.
My barbershop group meets tomorrow. Our quartet, The Shakers, hasn't had any time alone to practice so we are somewhat frustrated. We have fun when we do sing in front of the group but we can't get past a certain point of improvement...and that's the point. Maybe, if we tried harder we wouldn't enjoy it as much. This is probably one of the reasons many of these old guys are still going strong: they sing, sing a song, sing out loud, sing out strong...don't worry if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing!
Inhale...and phonate...don't just exhale. Bob! (too, while you're at it)