In this episode, Carrie revisits insights from a previous conversation with music therapist Tim Ringgold and shares practical tips for crafting a calming playlist to ease anxiety.

  • How to select songs for a calming playlist based on mood and tempo.
  • The importance of engaging actively with music to ground yourself in the present moment.
  • Tips for incorporating uplifting praise and worship music into your mental health practices.
  • Practical techniques for using music actively during anxiety attacks.
  • Insights on building a personalized “Battle Playlist” to combat mental and spiritual challenges.

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Carrie: Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD, episode 128. Today on the show, we’re talking about how to develop a three-song playlist that will calm an anxiety attack. This nugget is way back from episode six when we interviewed a music therapist and speaker, Tim Ringgold.

Before we hop into today’s episode, I want to let you know that the Christian Faith and OCD Summer Learning Series is going great. It’s off to a good start, and I’m starting to think about what’s next for the fall. I am loving inference-based cognitive behavioral therapy so much. Um, just breathing it in and allowing it to sink in, teaching it to my clients. It’s been amazing just to see people’s awareness and how their awareness has been able to shift their behavior.

It’s a very present, mindful type therapy. I want to know if you are interested in hearing more about it. If you’d be interested. So, if you’re interested in participating in a group this fall, either to interact with others, like a support group type where you’re learning about ICBT and then talking with others about implementing that in your life, or if you like the learning content.

I’m going to have a survey out that’s being sent out to my email list over the next few weeks, and you’re welcome to hop on the email list, fill out that survey, or you can contact us through We’d love to send that survey over to you as well. Stay tuned and be on the lookout for some potential group options this fall.

Now let’s hop right into the episode. We are going to start by looking at what types of music you might want for your three song playlist. Tim will share how to order them and then why it’s important to do more than just press play.

Carrie: Do you encourage people to listen to certain types of music for when they’re anxious or when they’re depressed?

Tim: When it comes to the material that’s in the music, here’s what we know from research. Typically, if you are struggling with depression or anger, Particularly, what’s going to happen is the music you reach for might do one of three things. Typically, people will reach for music that matches their mood.

That’s normal. We want to validate where we are intuitively. So angry people, if they listen to angry music, it may do one of three things. It may reduce the anger. because they now have this resonance with something they feel validated. It’s cathartic. That actually reduces the anger. Sometimes it doesn’t do anything to the anger.

It has no effect at all. They just engage in the music and they feel as angry as they did beforehand. Sometimes it actually exacerbates the feelings of anger. And I would submit that anger and anxiety are more related than anxiety and depression because I feel like anger and anxiety are hyper-regulated, hyperactive states, whereas depression is a hypo active state.

There’s this correlation, but not identical, but correlated. So if you’re in a hyperregulated, hyperactive state, There’s the chance that you could exacerbate that, and we’ve read from research with teens where, same with depression, they listen to sad music when they’re depressed. The music doesn’t make them sad.

They were sad, and they reached for the music that matched their sadness. The music either makes them feel better, doesn’t change the sadness, or actually exacerbates it, makes it worse. It’s really important for people to notice what’s happening in their body as they’re listening to the music they reach for because there’s no stamp of this than that when it comes to music.

Carrie: Jumping in here to add that we are instructed in Philippians 4. 8 to focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is ever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy to think about such things. We want to make sure that when you pick songs for your playlist, that they pass the Philippians 4 8 test.

Tim: There’s a couple of things. One is with anxiety, a lot of times your focus is no longer in the present. You’re kind of wrapped up. It’s a kind of a disembodied experience as a trigger to an embodied sense of panic. But the disembodied part is you’re up in your head, perseverating over a future that you’re convinced is going to happen.

Carrie: Since anxiety and OCD take you out of the present moment, like Tim is talking about, this is why learning to be in the moment is so helpful. Guess what? I have a course where you can learn mindfulness practices as a Christian. Check it out on my website under courses. You can get 10 percent off by using the code LISTENER.

Now, Tim is going to tell us about finding the right tempo for our song selection.

Tim: When it comes to music listening, music listening is very nuanced, and it’s very complex. And that’s why I try to encourage people, music making. Because the music making, it’s a motor cortex embodied physical experience happening in the present moment.

It is not really subject to these nuances of context. It’s just, here’s the beat. The beat’s happening now. Oh, the beat’s getting faster. Oh, I got to keep up with the beat right now. There’s no emotional discussion about the beat. There’s the beat. Okay, I’m going to tap along with the beat. If you’re feeling elevated and you want to slow your heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rhythm down, the principle we use is called the ISO principle and the law of rhythmic entrainment.

So you start with music that’s up tempo to match how you’re feeling, and then you pick music that gradually slows down. Your playlist would be like the first song is the fastest of the three. The second song is a little bit slower in tempo, and the third song’s a little bit slower in tempo. than that, but not shocking.

Carrie: Just gradually going down.

Tim: If you’ve ever been to any kind of cardio class or DJ, if you really pay attention, the music they pick usually starts slow during the warmup. And then it picks up, but gradually, and then it peaks. And then at the end, during the cool down, the tempo, the speed of the music slows down.

The intensity of the music slows a little bit because we’re warming down. We’re bringing it down at the end. So that kind of tempo arc or speed arc, if you will, that’s really what your body responds to more than anything. It’s going to respond to that.

Carrie: Okay, hopefully you’re starting to get some ideas on what songs you want on your playlist. Maybe you have an idea of a fast song or a slower song. In this next section, Tim explains why it’s important to do more than just listen to music if it’s going to help you during an anxiety attack.

Tim: If I’ve got my phone and I’ve got my earbuds in and I put on a playlist of music that inspires me that I’ve already put in there for just such an occasion.

What I want to do is I want to either tap along on my body with the beat, with the music. I want to hum along with the melody. I want to actually audio, which is like when you sing in your head, but not out loud. You can sing along with a song in your head and you’re not actually using your mouth, but your brain is doing all of the calisthenics to produce the pitch and the tempo and the words in your head.

What happens is you just activate your vocal cord. If you want to release that out into the environment, you can just sing along in your head. You can sing along out loud. even better, but any way that you can activate your body to match the music, then your body is involved. That’s a huge component for people with anxiety is because getting back into your body brings you back into the present moment because the only place your body is is in the present moment.

The challenge with remembering that is you got to remember it, but if you just turn on music and you try to play along with the beat or tap along with the beat, you’re just trying to keep the beat. And by virtue of trying to keep the beat, now you’re back in your body and you’re back in the present moment because music’s time based.

When we play music in order to keep the beat, we have to be present. The challenge with listening to music is listening to music can become a very disembodied experience.

Carrie: Passive versus active.

Tim: Yes, it engages your imagination and your memory. So you can be listening to a song and you can float away. You can, the song can take you to where the song is with a disembodied experience. When you just listen to the song, you’ve had this experience where you listen to a song that you have heard before and you have a memory associated with that song. You’re no longer in the present moment. You are back wherever that was.

It could be good, could be bad. Same thing can happen in the future. You can hear a song and it can trigger your thoughts and your feelings and your emotions about the future because there’s nothing holding you. The song itself isn’t holding you in the present moment unless you try to engage with it, with your body.

Carrie: I know I can definitely relate to what Tim was just saying right there, there are certain songs that since my parents funeral that were sung at the funeral that I really have a hard time listening to at this time and trigger a lot of sadness from me. And there are other times that songs come up that remind me of happy times or sad times and it can be challenging to navigate through those. So be careful what memories you may have attached to some of your music. I hope this episode has helped you put one more tool in your toolbox when it comes to dealing with anxiety or OCD. Typically, we don’t recommend people with OCD use relaxation type strategies when dealing with anxiety. anxiety from OCD specifically.

However, I also know that many of my clients with OCD also have anxiety or panic attacks from time to time. We could all use with a little more nervous system regulation. I want to talk with you for just a moment about the power of utilizing praise and worship music for your mental and spiritual health.

Psalms 34 1, I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. If you know much about the life of David, he went through a lot. He praised God in the good times and in the bad times. When Saul was out to kill him, when he mourned the loss of his best friend Jonathan, he was praising God.

Praise is powerful because it puts God over our circumstances, and over our feelings. I know I’ve talked about this before on the show, but I’ve been through some tough bouts of depression in my life where I did not think that I could get out of bed and face the day and I would play music in the morning to get me up. Beautiful Day by Jamie Grace was one of those. I now have a playlist that I’ve saved on YouTube called The Battle Playlist, and these are the songs that I sing along to if I get into a spiritual or mental funk. Raise a Hallelujah, Waymaker, and Jirah are just a few of those songs that are on there. I just pray that you get a battle playlist together and that the this episode helps you to start doing that.

I’ll be back here with you next week for another episode.

Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By the Well Counseling. Our show is hosted by me, Carrie Bock, a licensed professional counselor in Tennessee. Opinions given by our guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views The use of myself or By the Well Counseling our original music is by Brandon Mangrum. Until next time may you be comforted by god’s great love for you