Stress has an effect on all aspects of personal wellness. It is also experienced by a significant amount of the population. Indeed, almost 30% of Canadians aged 35 to 49 rate their stress levels as either “most days quite a bit” or “extremely stressful” (“Perceived Life Stress”, 2019). This stress has a major impact on society, with 1 in 4 Canadians saying they have quit a job as a result (Dubé, 2017).
With stress as a leading cause of health problems and poor wellness, contributing factors are important to understand. Sound is one of these factors, and can be addressed to benefit the client and improve their personal wellbeing. This article will explore the relationship between sound and stress.
Know the Impact of Sound when You Become a Wellness Counsellor
Hearing orients the human brain and alerts it of important information or warnings. Since humans use sounds to gather information on their surroundings and evaluate potential dangers, sound stimulates emotional and reactive responses (Westman & Walters, 1981). The “fight or flight” mechanism is sometimes stimulated by jarring or sudden sounds, causing reflexes to kick into action (Westman & Walters, 1981). This stresses the body and can be harmful from a wellness perspective if it occurs frequently.
Chronic activation of the stress response by unpleasant or threatening sounds is damaging over time (Münzel et al, 2018). When the body releases glucose and adrenaline to handle a threat, it does so through the sympathetic nervous system before a person has a chance to register the stimulus (Harvard Health Publishing, 2011). Then, cortisol is released through the adrenal glands. When this becomes a common occurrence, the elevated cortisol can increase fat storage, while adrenaline surges can raise blood pressure as well as cause arterial damage (Münzel et al, 2018).
Soothing Sounds and their Effect on the Brain
Professionals with a diploma in wellness counselling may know that just as negative sounds can stress the body, soothing noises have been linked to meditation and presence practices. The sound of water moving provides white noise with which many people are able to mentally let go of worries and relax, helping them cope with various challenges (Lin et al, 2018). White noise provides a constant focus, obscuring and minimizing interruptions or sudden sounds.
Simulated nature sounds have been shown to have relaxation benefits in people with high sympathetic responses (Gould van Praag et al, 2017). This is also shown to trigger outward as opposed to inward focus (Gould van Praag et al, 2017). Outward focus can include letting go of stressful thoughts and giving the body a chance to recuperate.
In addition, not all unnatural or chaotic sounds are stressful. A fun sports event might be loud, but not stress-inducing if a client feels they are in control of the situation because they have chosen their environment. Understanding this relationship between sound, control, and stress will give you insight into why certain noisy environments can cause stress while others may not (Leotti, Iyengar & Ochsner, 2011).
Controlling Sound Can Help Calm Clients when You Become a Wellness Counsellor
Excessive noise is recognized by the WHO as causing serious harm to human health, making it difficult to cope with daily life (World Heath Organization, 2019). Noise pollution can therefore have a significant impact on wellness.
Sounds that are beyond a client’s control are some of the most stressful (Leotti et al, 2011). For instance, being kept awake by a noise from the street outside can be very distressing. When unable to change or alter a situation, many individuals become anxious.
When you become a wellness counsellor you may have clients whose wellness may be impacted by the effects of noise pollution. To help them handle this, white noise can act as a canceller, soothing stress responses and blurring out jarring noise. Setting up quiet areas and recommending that clients use earplugs can also help.
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Westman & Walters. (1981, October). Noise and stress: a comprehensive approach. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1568850/
Münzel et al. (2018, March 20). The Adverse Effects of Environmental Noise Exposure on Oxidative Stress and Cardiovascular Risk. Retrieved from:
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Lin et al. (2018, February 26). The Effects of White Noise on Agitated Behaviors, Mental Status, and
Activities of Daily Living in Older Adults With Dementia. Retrieved
Gould van Praag et al. (2017, March 27). Mind-wandering and Alterations to Default mode Network Connectivity when Listening to Naturalistic Versus Artificial Sounds. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep45273
& Ochsner. (2011, October 1). Born to
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http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/noise/noise Statistics Canada. (2019, August 13). Perceived life stress, by age group. Retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310009604