As someone who works in a kitchen among fire, knives and chefs who love to scream at you over radishes not being sliced thin enough, I am no stranger to stress – just like most of America. I've tried many different things to help relieve the tension that stress can create. For years I've tried my best to manage my anxiety, though it seems to come in waves. I could be fine for several months and all of a sudden a wave hits and my shoulders and neck are so tense and cramped up that I can't turn my head to the side. Then there's the insomnia and that panicked feeling, just under the surface at all times, that sometimes leads to panic attacks. I've tried so many things to combat it from yoga to breathing exercises to medication, and while most of them seem to work for awhile, they never last. Or at least, they never last on their own. I always need a combination of several stress-relieving techniques so I can then ride out the wave of anxiety.
And hell, I'm all for new anti-anxiety techniques, especially ones that don't involve medication, so when I stumbled upon something called "ASMR" in some comment section in a far corner of the internet, I looked it up. "ASMR" stands for "autonomous sensory meridian response" and at first sounds like total b.s., but somehow there is definitely something about this that works.
The name is pretty new and there's not much actual research on it, but most people describe ASMR as a relaxed feeling, or even euphoria. I've read comments where it has helped people cope with insomnia, anxiety, stress and addiction. It can also be associated with pleasurable tingles on the scalp or down the spine, similar to frisson or the kind of chills you get when listening to an amazing song or you're caught up in an inspiring moment.
All of these things sound wonderful to a person plagued with anxiety, so how does one find a way to attain this ASMR? Well, that would be in a very strange corner of YouTube, and it's kind of hard to explain. I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks back, the only friend of mine who had even heard of ASMR, let alone watched any of the videos. And we decided that it would be easier and less embarrassing to say you were actually watching adult films, than to admit to watching things like hair-cut role-plays on the internet. It is like the kind of stuff we used to do as kids, pretending to cut someone's hair. And perhaps that's why there's something to it, because ASMR brings you back to a feeling from childhood that we no doubt forget as adults.
But it's not just role-plays that make up ASMR. There is also videos full of sounds, like tapping or brushing. These are the kinds of videos that I get more into. The role-plays are all about simulating personal attention, as some people find that relaxing. And if that sounds crazy, believe me, I know. When I first started watching these videos I thought I was watching people who were completely off their rocker, but then it all began to make sense. My ASMR buddy told me that as far as she's concerned, Bob Ross (the dearly departed artist on PBS who used to paint "happy little trees"), was the first "ASMRtist" – which is what people who make these videos like to call themselves. Everyone loves Bob Ross, even if they've only seen one of his episodes. I have a feeling that he was the most chill person who ever lived and the Earth did not deserve him, but somehow he spread the message that anyone can paint. He made it look so easy, and even turned his mistakes into images that totally worked. He didn't slam his paint brush down if he drew a line too crooked. Nope, he'd just paint a crooked tree instead and made it look like it was always supposed to be there. Such a great metaphor for life. And his voice was always soft and soothing, never harsh. I used to watch his show as much as I could as a kid, even though I was 6 years old and Fraggle Rock was my favorite TV show. All ages loved him. Bob Ross' shows just soothed me, and I believe that's why he was so damn popular, and still is. He simulated gentle personal attention that was so relaxing, that you could easily turn your mind off and just watch him paint beautiful landscapes while he hung out with you.
The other type of ASMR video are ones comprised of very satisfying sounds. ASMRtists have gotten pretty creative as to how to achieve them. They use special microphones and collect props that create the best "tingles". Some of them I love (like hair brushing or crinkling paper) and others I despise (like mouth sounds such as kissing and eating). I think perhaps this could also come from childhood. I remember that I loved the sound of typing as a kid (and I still do), and the sound of raindrops on a roof or windows. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing more soothing to fall asleep to. I also loved the sound of my mom rummaging through her makeup, and there are so many makeup rummaging videos out there, that this must absolutely be a thing. I thought I was alone in loving these sounds, but I'm not.
So lately what I've been doing is listening to a good "tapping" video after work to wind down, and it honestly does wonders. Then perhaps just before bed, I'll fall asleep to the sound of makeup brushes being swept across a microphone. It's definitely become an everyday thing and has certainly helped with stress and insomnia. And the best part is, these videos are totally free. You might have to watch an ad, but these people making the videos work so hard at bringing relaxation to the masses. I had never heard of it up until a few months ago, but I lately have been living under a rock, so maybe it's more well-known than I thought. Most of the artists are pretty young though, so perhaps it's just not as popular with my generation.
If you find yourself stressed out, try going over to YouTube and start listening to some very satisfying sounds, such as this 2 hour video of delicious tapping.