Updated: Oct 20, 2020
As October continues & the days grow shorter there are both familiar & unfamiliar changes in the air. With the current international climate & pandemic many of us are facing this time with new challenges - additional responsibilities at work or home, less allowance for in person interactions, more time communicating on screens, & a different level of emotional labour as we seek to keep balance in our selves & our circles.
These changes affect our voice on the physiological & psychological levels. The colder & drier air (at least here on the prairies) can affect vocal chord lubrication & increase irritation. Beyond the physical environment increased time communicating on screens can leave many of us feeling strained in both our voice & attention as we lack the usual visual & non-verbal cues.
Today’s blog focuses on supporting our vocal health. Soothing our voice does more then just ensure we can keep speaking, it’s a practice of self care - something many of us can benefit from at this time. The tips & tricks outlined here will help you keep your voice & body in it’s best working order. The exercises will both soothe your vocal chords while helping to balance your internal systems, move emotions, & attend to your mental health.
When we are tired, sick, or depleted our voice will be negatively affected. The following foundations are not only important for our vocal health but our health in general.
Adequate Sleep: Sleep is necessary to repair you body, maintain your immune system, & repair cells. Your voice needs rest as you do.
Healthy Diet: A healthy voice needs a strong & healthy body.
Hydration: The vocal chords need to be lubricated with a thin layer of mucous in order to vibrate efficiently. This is achieved most effectively by staying hydrated.
Exercise: Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body & helps to build lung capacity & endurance.
Moderate Temperature: Body temperature affects the ease of movement in our body & our sense of comfort. When we feel comfortable we have more access to our full voice.
Full Breath: Diaphragmatic breathing is beneficial to our body & helps us to speak with more resonance & endurance.
Whether you are speaking more online or just want to keep your voice healthy in general these tips will help improve vocal function & endurance.
Rest Your Voice: When you voice feels tired or your are sick rest your voice. Try to avoid speaking & whispering
Moderate Conversational Tone: Both yelling & whispering create unnecessary strain on the voice.
Avoid Coughing & Clearing Your Throat
Maintain a Tall Posture when Speaking
Don’t speak to the End of Your Breath: If you find that you are out of breath after you speak take note. Breath regularly as you speak & don’t be afraid to take an extra breath.
Things to Avoid & Minimize
Avoid Allergens & Pollutants (including first & second smoke, vaping)
Minimize Coffee & Alcohol: Both caffeine & alcohol can dry the vocal folds
Avoid Fried & Spicy Foods: These can cause acid reflux & affect the voice. Avoid these foods for several hours prior to speaking or singing
Avoid Sugary Drinks
Avoid Carbonated Beverages: Though some carbonated drinks are healthy they may cause burping at inopportune times.
Avoid Dairy & Wheat. These foods can cause increased phlegm production & should be avoided for several hours before big speaking or singing events.
Avoid Iced Drinks: Cold drinks can close the throat
Actively Support Your Voice
Self Massage: Massaging & stretching your jaw, throat, lynx, & even tongue can help loosen the muscles needed for speaking.
Warm Liquids: Drink liquids that are at room temperature or warmer but not too hot. You don’t want to burn your mouth.
Add Honey: Honey is a nice way to coat & soothe your throat. It’s good at preventing vocal strain & has antibacterial & antimicrobial qualities. It is still mostly sugar so use in moderation.
Throat Tea: Certain herbal teas can be very helpful in soothing the throat & voice. Liquorice, echinacea, slippery elm are all helpful for an achy or dry throat
Exercises to Support your Voice & Even Lift Your Spirit
Sound through a Straw: Our voice can be strained by excess air moving through the vocal folds. By singing through a straw we limit the amount of air passing through, build breath control, & sooth the vocal chords. Begin with a single tone, move from low notes to high & then back down. You can even sing for your favourite song through the straw. This practice can be used as a warm up or thought out the day to give added vocal support.
Hum: Use deep diaphragmatic breaths & hum with the exhale. Keep it simple. Use a single tone & place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Repeat for 5-10 breaths. This will help sooth the throat, calm the nervous system, & deepen a sense of presence. When you are complete take a few moments to listen to the silence.
Sigh to Sing: Begin with diaphragmatic breath & exhale with a sigh. Do this several times. Then allow the sigh to expand into a singing tone. The vowel sound “ahhhh” is an excellent place to start.
Sing: Singing is incredible for your body, your spirit, & your mind. Take a 3 minute break & sing a song that brings you joy.These little breaks can have a huge impact on your mental & even physical health. (Learn more here)
* We can also use the above toning & singing exercises as a place for expression. Here we can express even confusing emotions without needing to understand or articulate them specifically.
About the Author Amy Thiessen is a coach, writer, & musician who focuses on helping others find & express a their voice with resonance. Her unique approach works with the wholistic mechanism of voice utilizing somatic awareness, psychology, mindfulness, spiritual practice, & vocal techniques of toning & song.
Want help to overcome & understand your perfectionist tendencies? Book a free consultation to see if In Resonance Coaching is right for you.