The Beach Boys circa 1964
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Image
3 Songs That Are Helping Me Manage My Mental Health During Quarantine
Music has always had the power to transcend reality to an ineffable place. That’s why we listen to music, go to live shows, find ourselves playing the same song over and over again. For a period of time, we are enraptured and forget about daily life. Though I’ve always loved music, quarantine and a global pandemic have given this old reliable source of transcendence new power and meaning. And as the isolation of being alone at home with ourselves makes the importance of mental health more pronounced than ever, certain songs have become our much-needed friends and sources of strength. Here are three songs that bring me relief and comfort during these challenging times.
1. “In My Room” by The Beach Boys
I grew up listening to the Beach Boys. My parents took me to see them when I was a kid, and they were the first band I ever saw live in concert. I’ve always had a fondness for them, and their music fills me with a certain nostalgia that reminds me of easier times.
As a kid, I didn’t quite grasp the impact of the famous Beach Boys’ 1963 song “In My Room,” but now the song feels revelatory. During these times of quarantine that require so much isolation, the song proves to be a balm to the soul.
From the very beginning, "In My Room" transports you to some ethereal, unknown place. The song starts with a chime — with a timbre so pointed and precise that it feels like it’s casting a spell on you.
Shortly after, the glorious sounds of a harp cascade, opening the pathway to the sonic delight that is the signature Beach Boys harmonies. The voices coo a message that is so dearly needed right now.
“There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to/ In my room/ in this world I lock out all my worries and my fears”
The song feels like a trusted message — a prayer even, for dark times. In my room, I can create a world that I want and dream and cry and feel safe. Measure by measure, it takes the very ideas of space and place and isolation and transforms them into something magical. In that magic, there is room for hope to flourish.
The song feels like a trusted message — a prayer even, for dark times.
Dealing with the anxiety and depression surrounding the current circumstances, it’s easy to feel stuck. I’ve found myself regressing in what I thought was progress. I get scared about all of the uncertainty and fear. But "In My Room" not only gives me hope — it also gives me courage.
“Now it’s dark and I’m alone but I won’t be afraid/ In my room.”
During quarantine, when I have no choice but to be in my room, this song is a reminder that my room is not the enemy. My room is a playground for my imagination and my inner world — a solace and a source of comfort in an uncertain world.
2. “Trouble in Mind” by Nina Simone
We are living through a collective trauma in real-time while trying to manage our individual day-to-day challenges. There is a daunting sense that everything has changed, and the mental health toll is real for nearly everyone.
But for people like me who suffer from depression and anxiety, the toll is magnified. Spiraling into that dark space can feel bleak, but through music's ability to connect on a deeper level, you can ground yourself.
When I’m feeling that way I dive into jazz and blues — nothing else captures the desire to lament current circumstances so vividly. In quarantine, I listen to the “Trouble in Mind” by Nina Simone.
The song opens with a sassy piano intro and a bluesy feel with Simone singing:
“Trouble in mind I’m blue, but I won’t be blue always...cause the sun is gonna shine in my back door someday”
Lyrics sway effortlessly from note to note in that vibrato tone only Simone can do so well. For some words, she extends the note to accentuate the emotion. Notes appear as a frustrated yell or a disappointed surrender, but ultimately Simone delivers a hopeful reassurance that things will get better.
The way she sings “but I won’t be blue always” reminds me that feelings aren’t facts and feelings aren’t forever. Listening to “Trouble in Mind” I get that “I’m not alone in this” feeling and also a much-needed perspective shift.
Notes appear as a frustrated yell or a disappointed surrender, but ultimately Simone delivers a hopeful reassurance that things will get better.
Yes, I have trouble in mind now and it feels so dark and blue but eventually, things will turn around. Like the sun rises and sets every day, Simone's unforgettable performance reminds me I can count on the fact that one day the sun will shine again.
3. “In the Garage” by Weezer
Though I don’t have a garage of my own as an apartment dweller, another song that resonates with me and is helping me is “In the Garage” by Weezer. When I listen carefully, it’s almost like I can see the lineage and inspiration from “In My Room” by the Beach Boys to “In the Garage” by Weezer.
The song opens with a melodic harmonica, a simple drum beat and a driving riff, creating an infectious noise that makes it nearly impossible to not bang your head and tap your foot in sync. "In The Garage" invites you into its little world and paints a pop-culture-party picture of a safe space and the comfort items that make it so special.
“I've got a Dungeon Master's Guide, I've got a 12-sided die
I've got Kitty Pryde, and Nightcrawler too
Waiting there for me, yes I do, I do
I've got posters on the wall, my favorite rock group KISS
I've got Ace Frehley, I've got Peter Criss
Waiting there for me, yes I do, I do”
You get a sense that in the garage, you’re not alone. As each item is listed, each album or poster feels like another character in the story. Similarly to “In My Room”, the garage is a special place carved out as a place of creativity and exploration. Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer of Weezer, sings:
“In the garage, I feel safe/ No one cares about my ways/ In the garage where I belong, no one hears me sing this song/ In the garage.”
This song offers a place of belonging and safety. When your mental health feels threatened and everything feels uncertain, these things are the backbone of feeling okay.
Listening to this song, I am reminded that I’m not really alone. I have my books, my art, my music — all of which are vehicles to leave my home and explore anywhere where I want to without moving an inch.
When your mental health feels threatened and everything feels uncertain, [belonging and safety] are the backbone of feeling okay.
Often I feel like before the pandemic music and art seemed auxiliary but not necessary. It is clear to me now that these things are not purely entertainment but for many people, a mirror to our emotions, a lifeboat when feeling stranded and a place to travel to when it’s impossible to go anywhere.
During quarantine, I find myself going back to these songs again and again. I relate to them in a completely new way and they offer hope and solace when the supply of these things feels scant. It’s important to find things that ground you and make you feel comfortable — something that helps you make any sense out of all of this.
As we are asked to stay at home longer than any of us have imagined, you can use music to go to places and remind yourself that you are never alone, even in isolation. You can use this time to deeply listen, headphones on, volume all the way up. This can be a therapeutic experience. You can find songs that illustrate your current emotions or songs that transport you elsewhere or simply help you get through these uncertain times.
Melanie Lockert is the author of the book Dear Debt, podcast host of The Mental Health and Wealth Show, and is a full-time freelance writer. Her work covers personal finance, small business, mental health, and relationships and has appeared on Business Insider, VICE, Allure, and more. Melanie has an M.A. from New York University, is passionate about music, boxing, and mental health and lives in Los Angeles with her two cats, Miles and Thelonious.