• Cassie Smith, MT-BC

4 Ways for Veterans to Reduce Anxiety


We all know at least one Veteran, whether it be a family member or a friend. Sometimes our loved ones experience anxiety and have difficulty sharing about their time serving in the military.

Over 4 years ago, I had the wonderful experience of completing my music therapy internship at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center.


Working with the Veterans at this facility was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had! Being able to work with the amazing individuals there is something I will never forget!

In working with Veterans it's fairly common for them to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from their experiences serving in the military.


Anxiety is a symptom of PTSD, along with flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, heightened startle response, and emotionally withdrawn. Experiencing these symptoms for a long period of time can have negative effects on the body.

For example: gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, headaches, and a weakened immune system.

Our soldiers deserve not only our respect, but also our support as they return to civilian life and cope with these changes.

The techniques below have been shown to reduce anxiety and provide a healthy and safe environment to express difficult emotions.

Ask your doctor is the following techniques would be appropriate for you to use at home.

​1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

PMR is an excellent technique to use to decrease anxiety levels. It helps the individual become in-tune with his or her body and where he or she is holding tension.

It also allows the individual to recognize the difference between tensing and releasing the muscles throughout the body.

Typically, PMR addresses muscles starting from the feet working up to the head or starting from the head and working towards the feet.

Here is an excellent PMR script read by Anderson Music Therapy's director, Noel Anderson. Adding music to PMR enhances it's relaxing effects and helps you focus.

I have followed along to this video before going to bed, after having a stressful day. It's helped me rewind and let go of the day's events.


​2. Grounding Exercise

I found this exercise on the wonderful world of Pinterest.

I have personally used this exercise during times I was experiencing anxiety. Using this exercise brought me back to the present moment and allowed me to effectively feel grounded and connected to my body.


​3. Songwriting

Songwriting can address many goal areas. Using it for emotional expression is a very effective technique.

Songwriting can sometimes be intimidating, especially for those who think they are not musically inclined.

An easy introduction to song writing is to "fill-in-the-blank" from an existing song.

One of my go to songs to re-write is “Let It Be” by the Beatles.

Fill in your own words in the blanks:

When I find myself _________________________________,

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.

There will be ______________________________, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.

_________________________________________, let it be.

​4. Improvisation

Improvisation is another simple technique to promote emotional expression.

When improvising with clients, the majority of the time they don’t realize they are expressing their emotions in a non-verbal way.

Then while talking about the improvisation after the fact, they are able to label musical components with an emotion.

The following 3 videos are backing tracks I like to use when improvising with clients. These tracks are chord progressions in C Major.

If this exercise feels intimidating to you, try only playing the white keys. No matter what you'll sound great!

And remember there's no wrong way to improvise!

Here is a picture of the C major scale on the piano.


Music to improvise along with:




Incorporating these techniques into your daily life can provide a healthy and safe way to cope with anxiety.

If you need further support, please contact us or a local healthcare provider to find a great fit.


If you'd like to explore these techniques further in a group setting with a board certified music therapy, join us for our upcoming FREE VETERAN'S VOICES group!


We will begin our group February 4 and only have several spots left to-date.

Join us for our

Free Veteran's Voices music therapy group!!!

Register and learn more below.


#veterans #anxiety #PTSD #relax #progressivemusclerelaxation #Freegroup #relaxation #expressivecommunication #deepbreathing #mentalhealth #improvisation #songwriting

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