Singing…Baby it’s cold outside…
Ole’ man winter is not done with us yet. Oh well. It’s another day in the life… the show must go on and we busy professionals still have a job to do.
You rush out of the house with your cup of coffee in hand, jump in your car and sing along to your favorite tunes in between yelling at the crazy driver next to you while you make your hike to work! You already knew it was going to be a busy day that’s why you stayed up until 3a.m. preparing for the 8 a.m. proposal and the 12p.m. to 2p.m. training you have to lead. You make it to work just in time to start the meeting! After it’s done, you are pumped. You think to yourself…I rocked it! I’m pumped! I eat Wednesdays. Who’s next?
By now, it’s 10:30 and you’re running 100 miles per hour and on your 3rd cup of coffee as you end your conference call. Fast forward to 6pm and all work is complete. You run off to happy hour to have a few drinks with friends before heading home. By the time you make it home at 9p.m., you are exhausted and crash!!! When you wake up the next morning, you start the process all over again but there’s something different this time…. Oh crap!!! Where is my voice? It’s completely gone. Panic sets in… What do you do?
The better question is what didn’t you do?
If you are determined to not let the cold weather or a heavy speaking load get the best of you and your speaking voice, it’s best to learn a few tips to keep your voice as healthy and strong as possible. If your voice is your moneymaker, then it’s best to invest in yourself and learn the best techniques to help you handle heavy speaking loads. The voice is the mirror of the soul and further more a sound track of the spirit. The human ear can perceive emotional and physical changes in a person by the way ones’ voice sounds. Listen to your own voice. Being aware of what your voice is telling you and taking care of it can help you have a longer and more profitable career.
A professional voice user is anyone who uses his or her voice to make a living. Many professional voice users from trainers, motivational speakers, teachers, customer service operators, coaches, athletes, singers, pastors and public speakers often suffer from voice problems like vocal fatigue, complete loss of voice and hoarseness. Taking care of your voice can help you to avoid missing out on opportunities and canceling speaking engagements. The care of the voice is called vocal hygiene. Vocal Hygiene tips include:
1.) Drink plenty of water
Hydration is key for optimum function of the voice. Drinking the recommended 6-8 glasses of water per day will help to provide moisture for effective vocal fold function. The goal is to drink until your urine is pale. Steaming or humidifying provides moisture to your vocal folds for better voicing.
2.) Avoid irritants
Think of an irritant as an enemy of the voice! An irritant is anything that irritates the vocal folds and voice. You can help your voice by avoiding drugs, foods and environmental agents that can irritate your voice by causing dryness, mucous and reflux.
Some examples of “drying” irritants are caffeine (coffee, soda, tea, also found in some energy drinks), smoke or vapor (cigarette, hooka or marijuana), diuretics, chocolate, alcohol, menthol (mints, gum and cough drops) and antihistamines.
Some things in your diet can add to increased production of mucous and phlegm. Avoid eating too many nuts or too much dairy. Also avoid dust and allergens. If you find yourself with a lot of mucous, drink plenty of water to thin it out and allow it to drain.
Spicy, fatty and acidic foods are an enemy to your digestive system. Certain foods can upset your stomach and cause acid reflux. Reflux travels up the esophagus onto vocal folds and irritates the tissues. If you are often hoarse, reflux could be the culprit.
Other irritants could be in your medicine cabinet: aspirin, ibuprofen, hormones, and birth control pills.
Fatigue is not good for your voice voice. Pay attention to your body! When your body is tired, your voice is tired.
Your environment can irritate your voice as well. Many voice users injure their voices by working too hard or competing with noise from loud music, crowds or machines. Avoid or use caution in environments, which are noisy, dry, smoky, cold, dusty, industrial or outdoors.
3.) Avoid Vocal Misuse/ Abuse.
Vocal misuse and abuse are habits or ways of using the voice that stress the vocal folds. They cause strain and excessive wear and tear on your voice. Excessive, loud talking, yelling and/or screaming cause strain on the voice. When done for long periods of time, causes fatigue and is exacerbated by any of the previously mentioned irritants.
Excessive throat clearing is common in people with reflux and thick mucus production. Throat clearing is bad for the vocal folds and also leads to wear and tear. When you feel the need to clear instead, swallow, have a sip of water, or clear silently without allowing your folds to touch.
4.) Rest your voice
Voice rest is a polite way of saying shut up! When you are hoarse and feel your voice is leaving, it’s already too late. Your voice is telling you something, but nooooo you won’t listen! Some people actually think it’s cute or sexy to have a raspy or husky voice. Take hoarseness as a sign that your vocal folds are mad at you and want you to stop hurting them. The best way to reduce strain and fatigue of excessive voice use is to rest your voice for periods of 10 minutes every 2-3 hours. Also, minimizing talking in noisy, smoky environments and peaking in a moderate or low volume reduces fatigue. If you lose your voice completely or injure it to the point where there is a callous on it, then you will have to exercise complete voice rest, which is absolutely no talking at all. It’s best to make voice rest, or as a friend of mine affectionately calls it “vocal arrest”, a part of your voice care regimen.
5.) Learn proper voice and projection techniques
Sorry to say that though they feel good and may numb you so that you make it through a performance, lozenges and throat sprays are not the be all end all. They actually may cause you to perform hurt and make for more problems. You can use all the special teas in the world but if you have poor technique, it will only be a temporary fix.
There are proper techniques that would help you have a healthier, more powerful voice. I consider professional or heavy voice users as vocal athletes. If you are an athlete, you must train like one. Have you ever seen a professional athlete not train or practice during the off-season or skip the pre-game warm up? My guess is no. If they didn’t, their career was short lived. Learning proper vocal hygiene, which is what to do or not do as far as habits, diet, behaviors; proper breathing and projection to give you more power and endurance; and voice use techniques will help prevent voice problems and reduce the risk of your voice betraying you. Or shall I say, you betraying your voice. If you are having voice problems that won’t go away, please see a trained voice professional such as an ear, nose, & throat specialist for an examination and/or a speech pathologist who specializes in voice.
What do you do take care of your voice?
What problems are you having with your voice after a heavy load of speaking?