It's called a cognitive itch or sticky tune, but I like the more evocative earworm: music that gets stuck in your head and keeps repeating as if on a loop.
Webster's online makes it sound like an annoyance (intercom tunes at the supermarket), but I found my earworm comforting, prescriptive even, in the early days of my layoff.
Oh breathe, just breathe
it told me as I walked my neighborhood.
Rather than jogging, I walk to stay in shape and clear my head. But while I had been doing the 2-mile circuit on weekends for years, I now could ply the route daily because I had no job to report to. Over the summer, I became a statistic in the Great Recession and a Paper Cut in the newspaper industry.
At that point, I was having regular panic attacks (WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!) that made my heart race, that clutched at my throat and filled my eyes with tears. Then the refrain would do a loop: breathe, it said, just breathe. And I would.
I'm no music aficionado or CD collector; I don't know why the lyrics came to mind. In fact, I had to do a Web search to find out what my earworm was.
The song, "Breathe (2 AM)," is from Anna Nalick and her debut album, "Wreck of the Day." YouTube has it by the artist here. I suspect, though, that I owe my earworm to the TV show "Grey's Anatomy" (yes, I'm a fan):
The daily panic attacks have subsided, but I still find the Nalick refrain comforting. The complete lyrics are here.