Music for Motivation and Self-Care

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At the U’s Career & Professional Development Center, one of our core values is holistic wellness.  If we’re running on empty, we can’t do our best work for our students.  We hope to model this value in our work and our community.  This week, three of our career coaches share music that motivates and supports them.*

Ray Taylor, Events Coordinator:

Self-care and mental health have become much more common topics of discussion in our everyday lives for various reasons. In my opinion, it’s a great thing! Everyone has bad days and needs to be able to have safe, transparent conversations about how their mental health is affecting them whether that be in a personal or professional setting. With it becoming more normalized in our everyday lexicon, more and more tips and tricks on how to better your mental health come out—from taking a walk to disconnecting from social media. One specific tip that I do not see talked about enough, though, is listening to music. Turning on your favorite tunes by your most beloved artist can be so good for your soul, especially on those days where it feels like the world is out to get you.

For me, there are 3 songs I always turn to when I am in the dumps and need to be reminded that tomorrow is a new day. The first is “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves, a slow tempo, country, piano ballad meant to uplift people who are facing adversity. Kacey stated it was written as “a message of hope for anyone in the midst of dark times”. I always listen to it when I need a good cry. The second song I like to turn on is Lizzo’s “Soulmate”, an upbeat pop/hip-hop track that amplifies self-love. Whenever I am beating myself up and need to dance it out of my system, I blast this song in my room with door closed. It always lifts my spirits. Lastly, the third song that I always find myself belting in the car (especially with friends) is “breathin” by Ariana Grande, a dance-pop song that tackles how to overcome anxiety and trauma. The lyrics are very melancholy, but the synth-y disco and EDM music production makes for a beautifully eerie work of art. And at the end of the day, the best thing you can do when having a bad day is to stop and center yourself by taking a long, deep breath.


Brianda De Leon, Graduate Career Coach:  

Vandelux feat. Alex Maher, “Within a Matter of Time:” This song always gets me in the mood to accomplish my tasks or go for a nice run. This tune reminds me to savor the little moments in life. The lyrics remind me that everything is temporary, feelings, moments, and stress. I am the type of person who needs to be inspired daily to think, create, write, analyze, and overall raise my vibration. Listening to pop-rock or electronic beats daily ignite my productivity and raise my energy. I recommend listening to this song with your headphones to have an immersive experience.


Dan Moseson, Graduate Career Coach:  

Rush, “Hope:”  Take it from a longtime guitar guy and a huge Rush fan – ‘Hope’ is guitarist Alex Lifeson’s finest hour.  In classic Rush fashion, he thinks outside all the boxes.  Rush is known as a rock band with electric guitars, but here Alex plays a 12-string acoustic guitar in a very unusual open-chord tuning.  The results are magic.  I don’t know what inspired the composition, but I hear lots of Celtic influence along with Alex’s Eastern European background (and lots of Led Zeppelin, of course).  For this album (2007’s Snakes and Arrows), drummer Neil Peart wrote profound lyrics about religion, politics, and the challenges of being human.  ‘Hope’ has no lyrics, but Neil called it a ‘secular prayer.’  I had to learn the piece myself, and I feel elevated and inspired whenever I play it.

Tool, “Lateralus:” “Lateralus” is almost a religious song for me.  Progressive rock band Tool are big Rush fans, and it shows on this wildly innovative track.  The rhythms make no sense whatsoever, but somehow it’s a perfect workout song.  The lyrics are about the mind-body relationship and staying connected to the world on a visceral, emotional level.  It inspires me to push beyond my comfort zone and keep seeking new experiences.  How can a song about philosophy slap this hard?  How can something this weird be this good?  “Lateralus” reminds me to keep my mind open, keep dreaming, “swing on the spiral.”

*In an unrelated development, new reporting suggests that the editor of Peaks and Valleys is a die-hard music fan, guitarist, and former National Public Radio DJ who will talk about progressive rock until everyone else has left the room or fallen asleep.  Sources say that he might be just the kind of crafty nerd who would run a piece like this purely for his own enjoyment, but at press time, this information could not be independently verified.