Sometimes science only confirms what you already know. For example, the affect of stress on work performance: Poorer quality of work. Higher error rates. Decreased leadership effectiveness. Illness and absenteeism. The list goes on.
Which is why finding ways to relieve stress is critical to maintaining a consistently high performance level.
Fortunately, exercise helps relieve stress. Meditation does, too. Oddly enough, so does the simple act of writing down everything you're worried about. And recent research reveals listening to music can also help reduce anxiety and stress -- and as a bonus, help lower your risk of heart attack and cardiac-related death.
As long as you listen to the right type of music.
In the study linked above, researchers split people who had suffered a heart attack for seven years into two groups. All received regular medical checkups and treatment, but half also listened to "soothing" music for 30 minutes a day.
At the end of the study, the people in the music group enjoyed anxiety scores (a rating of how stressed and anxious they felt) that were one-third lower than those who didn't listen to soothing music every day.
According to the researchers, underlying factor was likely to be a lowered stress response from the sympathetic nervous system: Lowering your heart rate and blood pressure naturally makes you less anxious.
And it puts less stress on your heart -- which is why those in the soothing music group were 23 percent less likely to suffer a subsequent heart attack, 18 percent less likely to experience heart failure, and 16 percent less likely to die from a cardiac event.
Oddly enough, soothing music can also help you recover faster from exercise: This study showed that listening to relaxing music immediately after working out could help you wind down more quickly, jump-starting the recovery process.
Which means, by extension, that listening to soothing music after a stressful meeting, event, or particularly difficult day might be just what you need to chill the (heck) out.
Keep in mind the key word is "soothing." Study participants didn't just pick their favorite tunes. Researchers played nine different samples and evaluated how people responded, using dilation or contraction of their pupils as an indicator.
So just because you like -- or don't like -- a certain type of music, doesn't make it soothing. Theoretically, chamber music should be soothing. But I kinda hate it, so I'm more likely to be agitated than relaxed.
So if you need somewhere to start, try this.
According to neuroscientific research, listening to this song resulted in a 65 percent reduction in participants' overall anxiety and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.
In short, choose music that you like but that you also consider to be mellow or relaxing. And do something relaxing while you listen.
While it might sound like a wasted thirty minutes, the less stressed you feel, the better you'll perform later and over the long term.
Which is always what matters most.