The Ocean Drum Time-Out: Stress Relief During the Holidays

October 31, 2014
Thanksgiving is coming up and then a myriad of holidays follow — from Hanukkah to Christmas to Kwanza and New Year’s. As adults, our memories of the holidays are often mixed with joy, sadness, excitement, anger, and longing. As a parent of a young family, you may experience more demands on you around the holidays than any other time of year:
  • You are trying to create the “perfect” holiday memory for your child while trying to forget some of your own, perhaps, less-than-perfect experiences.
  • You have family coming to visit, or you are packing up to see them.
  • There are spoken and unspoken expectations that are a part of every holiday.
Often the primary caregiver for the child is also responsible for providing all the meals, keeping the house clean, shopping, and coordinating all aspects of a family visit. While having family come to visit is often wonderful, sometimes it can create more stress. Your anxiety will increase, which your child will sense, and how you de-stress is very important.

There are many ways in which you can de-stress: yoga, exercise, meditation, music-listening, deep breathing. These are all valid and highly beneficial ways of decreasing your stress, but may require 15 minutes or more of your time to be effective. As a parent of a young family, this may not be practical for you. Personally, I have found when I am in the moment of having that final “button” pushed, feeling that I’m going to burst, I need something that can meet me where I’m at and help to calm me down. I turn to a particular musical instrument that requires no training—the Ocean Drum.

What is an Ocean Drum?
An Ocean Drum is a tactile, auditory, and visual instrument that fully captures your attention. It can both help you to release some of your stress and relax. The construction is that of a frame drum with two heads: one is Fiberskyn, and the other side is Mylar. Steel pellets sit between the two heads, and they are what make this instrument unique. By rocking the drum gently in your hands, the pellets can create the sound of ocean waves. Shake the drum, and you’ve got thunder. Ocean drums come in three sizes: 12”, 16” and 22”, and can be blank or have a lovely ocean design inside. The larger the drum, the lower and potentially louder the sound. When purchasing, take into account where you might store the instrument, as the size will make a difference. I suggest the 16” since it’s a nice balance with a mid-range sound.

The Five-Minute Ocean Drum Time-Out
So how is this drum going to help decrease your stress level? First, store your drum in a room where you can close the door, possibly lock it, and be by yourself for five minutes, such as the bathroom or a bedroom. Keep the Ocean Drum out of reach of your children — this is your instrument, and when you need a time out, you don’t want to go searching for it.

When you are reaching the end of your tether, try the following:
  1. After handing responsibility for your children off to a trusted adult, or setting them down for their nap time, go someplace quiet with the drum and close/lock the door if needed.
  2. Sit somewhere comfortably and hold the Ocean Drum in front of you horizontally, with your hands at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions on the drum.
  3. The objective is to rock the Ocean Drum gently from side to side, creating the sound of ocean waves. Watch the beads as they move. Depending on the speed of your movements, you will hear the sound of ocean waves.
  4. If you are highly stressed, then moving the drum slowly is not going to help you at first, so move the drum a way that matches your mood. You may need to shake it to sound like thunder or a storm. You can also create the sound of crashing waves. As the anger or frustration begins to leave your body, you’ll find it much easier to slow down your movements. As you do, keep our eyes on the beads as they move from side to side.
  5. If you have trouble focusing, and your mind keeps straying to what is bothering you or you’re still thinking of all the things on your to “do list,” try following one or two beads as they travel around the drum. The attention required to do this, combined with the tactical feeling of the drum and auditory sounds, will help you to focus and eventually relax.
  6. After five minutes or so, you should be able to take a deep breath and return to the realm outside your door or transition to a longer or different mode of de-stressing, such as yoga, deep breathing, or physical exercise.
There are many ways that you can help yourself to de-stress, such as listening to meditative music, walking outside, and taking deep breaths. Sometimes, you can be so stressed that you need to vent the anger before trying to relax. I find the Ocean Drum gives you a tool to do both.

I recommend the Ocean Drum by Remo. The quality and attention to detail (including the type of sound), construction and durability make these my first choice in Ocean Drums. You can purchase them at:
  • This is my go-to online music store. They have great deals and discounts on all kinds of music items.
You can conduct a general web search and find other resources for purchasing. I’m all for buying local, so check with your local music store to see if they carry them.

Michelle Montgomery Muth is a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC) and music educator with advanced certification in Neurologic Music Therapy. Michelle is passionate about music and music therapy. She works with her clients focusing on the whole person and the ability of music to affect change and promote wellness in their lives. She is owner of M3 Music Therapy ( and provider of Sprouting Melodies®, an early childhood music and movement program.