Anxiety affects us all on a daily basis. It’s our nervous system responding to a perceived threat, and it exists for the benefit of our survival.
When tragedy strikes, anxiety is an expected response. It’s called “state” anxiety, and is a reaction to a situation or event in a person’s experience.
But some people are just anxious by their nature. This is called “trait” anxiety. Trait anxiety can be difficult to manage, and the world can feel overwhelming for people constantly struggling with anxiety.
Counseling, healthy lifestyle practices, and sometimes medication can significantly increase a person’s ability to manage their anxious nature. But there is a tool that might also help combat anxiety, and it’s just an app (or CD-digital album) away.
Though it’s been around for quite some time, many people have never heard of binaural tones or “beats.” This is not related to any brand, though some organizations such as the Monroe Institute have their own trademarked incarnations.
Binaural beats happen when different frequencies of sound are played in different ears at the same time. It is supposed to make the brain perceive a third tone, causing your brainwaves to synchronize.
This is called brainwave entrainment. Some people remark on this tool’s ability to improve mood, focus, sleep, meditative experience, and anything and everything that could possibly ail you.
Between 1979 and 2012, there have been more than 20 peer-reviewed studies showing that brainwave entrainment is useful for cognitive improvements such as mood, anxiety, and focus.
There are some contradictory findings, but some promising evidence that by listening to specific frequencies for 30 minutes per day, an anxious person might experience a significant decrease in trait anxiety after 60 days.
So how can you try this potentially marvelous tool? You can find digital albums, apps and websites with links to these tones.
Some will play them underneath your favorite music, and some layer multiple tones on their own. Many of them are free, so there is little to no monetary investment to try binaural beats.
It is necessary to use headphones in order to get the binaural experience to work as intended.
The jury is still out on how well it works, and exactly why. But if it’s free, has no reported harmful side effects (listening at a reasonable volume, of course), and is easy to use, why not give it a try?
Your headphones might be the key to turning down the volume on your own anxiety.
Alison Jedrick, MSW, LISW-CP, is an associate with Psychological & Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.