By Ben Jones
As Week 4 of the Semester dawns on many of us at University: some of you reading this may already be feeling stressed. Stress will be a familiar emotion to many in higher education. There are a lucky few who experience it very rarely, and of course, some who experience diagnosed daily anxiety. But all of us, to some degree, have felt stressed. So what do we all do to feel better?
One thing that can be helpful is the media we consume. As much as the media is made up of large corporations seeking our money, it is also the stories, music and characters that we love. These can all be a comfort when the real world gets a bit too tough.
I put out a survey on Facebook, asking people for their preferred forms of media, which help them calm down when they’re stressed or anxious. Here’s what they told me, with a few of my own ideas thrown in – if you have your own suggestions of films/TV shows/music/etc. that help you calm down, leave them in the comments!
One of the most popular methods of relaxation in the survey was to escape into an episode (or a binge-watch) of our favourite television shows. A lot of people specifically chose cartoons. This makes sense, as these are child-friendly, limitless worlds that are unlikely to drag us back to our Earthly responsibilities. Examples include the surreal Adventure Time (suggested by Jac Williams), or the classic anime Pokémon, which contributor Rosie Waite especially loves for the opening credits: “Nothing eases stress like singing along to an awesome theme song”. Very true, Rosie. Very true.
However, one surprising show given a shout-out was the Batman prequel Gotham (suggested by Rosy Hunt). The show seems to be a dark, gritty exploration of Batman villains when they were younger, tracing their falls from grace. It might be surprising to learn that relaxes somebody! But so long as it distracts your mind from what was causing distress, it doesn’t matter what you watch.
This was the most popular answer, chosen by over 60% of people taking the survey. Sometimes, music is all you need to transport you away from your troubles. If it’s from a film soundtrack, then you already associate it with being transported to another world. One anonymous comment said they favoured “Historical movie soundtracks”, which presumably means films such as Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000). These films tend to have rousing-yet-peaceful orchestral soundtracks, and whether you like the film or not, the soundtrack may still be your relaxation weapon-of-choice.
Other than film soundtracks, people suggested a wide variety of artists, all of whom produce quite soft, sincere music. One contributor named Nina chose the indie stylings of Bon Iver. Other suggestions included the soulful R&B of Frank Ocean, the hip-hop rapper Logic, and the legendarily smooth Stevie Wonder. But another contributor named Helena posted that it didn’t matter what the song was; so long as she listens to it on repeat, it “focusses [her] thoughts again” and calms her down that way.
Films are similar to TV shows, whereas an episode of a show is just one chapter of a story, a film is a whole, often-epic tale in one go. For some, a lighthearted superhero blockbuster, from the likes of Marvel or DC, is their go-to for relaxing escapism. Nothing too heavy (although they have their moments), provide you with plenty of mindless destruction and funny quips.
For others though, the more emotional the movie, the better. Helena writes that having a cry at a film is “therapeutic” as it “releases the stress and anxiety”. It could be a happy cry, at the end of an empowering ‘true-story’ film like Pride (Matthew Warchus, 2014), or a full-on ‘ugly-cry’, at something like The Notebook (Nick Cassavetes, 2004) or most any film by Disney and/or Pixar.
This one may not have occurred to as many of you, but since it requires your interaction, a video game can be the best distraction from stress or anxiety. One suggestion was the adorable and non-threatening Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012, 3DS). We also had some more surprising suggestions from Rosy Hunt, including the post-apocalyptic Fallout 4 (2015, PC/PS4/XBOne), (in fairness, a wasteland can be very peaceful), and any game from the infamously tense horror-zombie franchise, Resident Evil. Again, whatever works for you!
In spite of all this, it is important to mention that nobody who helped write this article is a medical or psychiatric professional. Just a few students who understand the importance of healthily dealing with stress and pressure. Sometimes, a serious panic attack may take hold of you, in which case a movie soundtrack might not be enough. Otherwise, I hope some of you can take something away from this article and sample some of the suggestions left by other students. Please do leave a comment if you have your own suggestions of media that relax you!
Image Credit: Editor license from Adobe Stock
Disclaimer: The information in this article is from surveys and personal opinions, and does not constitute professional, medical or psychological advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions, or if any of the issues in this article affect you. Anglia Ruskin University has its own counselling and wellbeing service, you can find out more information here: https://www.anglia.ac.uk/student-life/health-and-wellbeing.
The research undertaken in this article was conducted on a Facebook Survey where participants would be given the option to remain anonymous, and those mentioned in the article gave consent to have their names published. If there are any issues, please contact the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org