Singing…You can ring my bell-ell-ell…Ring my bellll…Ring, Ring it, Ring itttt! School is officially back in for the fall.
Gets on intercom…Welcome to school year 2015-2016! Will all teachers, coaches and trainers come to the principal’s office? No. You’re not in trouble, but you could be.
Is this you?
From the looks of your Facebook and Instagram pictures, educators all over the country have enjoyed a well-deserved time of summer vacation and summer solstice frolicking. Hopefully, you have rested your body, mind and spirit during this defrag time because it’s game time folks! Now, it is back to the schoolyards full of energetic, talkative, and sometimes willful groups of children. Whether they are age 3 or 18, these kiddos definitely have their own personalities and ways they have decided to experience this thing called life that can definitely get in the way of the way you do this thing called your classroom. Some are love school and others are there because they have to be. Nonetheless, they are present and all in your classroom, which could also be hot, small and dusty (smile…you are not being “punked”). It’s the first day of school!
Maybe this is you?
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 3 a.m. preparing for the start of the new school year. You are the coach/teacher combo… two for the price of one if you will! You have morning and afterschool practice plus a full schedule of classes. You make it to work just in time to yell… “Ok team. Get in the huddle! After it’s done, you are pumped. You think to yourself… “Yeahhhh baby! Screw Monday blues…I eat Mondays! Who’s next?”
By now, it’s 10:30 a.m. and you’re running 100 miles per hour and on your third cup of coffee. Fast forward to 6:00 p.m. and all work is complete. You run off to happy hour or to soccer practice with your own kiddos 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? Is it leaving already?” or better yet, “it’s completely gone.” Panic sets in… What do you do?
The better question is what didn’t you do?
If this is not you, it could be you mid semester. Some educators and coaches get hit hard during the winter months also. If you are determined not to let the classroom conditions, 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.
Your voice is your moneymaker. It’s best to invest in yourself and learn the best techniques to help you handle heavy speaking loads. Your voice is the mirror of your soul and further more a sound track of your spirit. The human ear can perceive emotional and physical changes in a person by the way a voice sounds. Learn to Listen to your own voice. Being aware of what your voice is telling you and taking care of it can prevent vocal injuries.
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 voice problems. The care of the voice is called vocal hygiene.
These are the Top Vocal Hygiene Tips to help save your voice:
1.) Bottoms up…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 as well.
2.) Identify your vocal enemies and Avoid them at all costs
An irritant is anything that irritates the vocal folds and voice; therefore, is an ENEMY of the voice. You can help save 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 or phlegm, 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.
- Some other irritants are aspirin and ibuprofen, hormones, birth control pills and fatigue. 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
Correct me if I’m wrong, but was it the late Dr. Myles Monroe who said something to the affect of , “If you don’t know the proper use of a thing, you are sure to abuse it?” The same goes for your voice.
Vocal misuse and abuse are habits or ways of using the voice that stress the vocal folds causing strain and excessive wear and tear. 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; this habit 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
“How ‘bout a nice big cup of Shut the heck up!”— Happy Gilmore inspired
Blowing my voice police whistle… You are under vocal arrest!
Go straight to voice rest. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.—Monopoly inspired
I follow them all, but voice rest is my tried and true healthy vocal habit! Since I’m a speech pathologist, I definitely have a heavy load with a nice little case of allergies and reflux that like to rear their ugly heads at the most inconvenient times.
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 it 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. This can be tough for teachers and coaches who are constantly on the go, but if you use your breaks (as few and far between as they are) as quiet times to respond to emails or just relax without chatting with co-workers you would be surprised at how you could save your voice.
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 (vocal nodule), then you may have to go on complete voice rest which is absolutely no talking at all. (Side note—If you are already in vocal nodule land, see a voice therapist before you decide on surgery. Those nasty little nodules could return without implementing proper voice habits and techniques).
If you are a professional voice user with a heavy load, it’s best to make voice rest or as a friend of mine affectionately calls it “vocal arrest” a part of your 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 the day, lozenges and throat sprays are not the be all end all. They actually may cause you to perform or continue to speak/vocalize while injured and ultimately could cause 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 call 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 and 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 will help prevent voice problems and reduce the risk of your voice betraying you. Truthfully, you are actually 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 care.
What do you do take care of your voice?
What problems are you having with your voice after a heavy load of speaking?
Contact me today to get a vocal regimen that will start your year off right and save your voice!!!
Office: (832) 356-1419
Now registering: Voice training workshops for teachers, speakers, coaches and trainers begin September 12, 2015. Small, intimate group setting. Only 6 accepted per training for maximum effectiveness. Email me for the link to register.
Shulunda Gibson, MA, CCC-SLP owner of The Speech & Voice Care Center of Houston is a Speech & Voice Specialist, Corporate Trainer, Speaker, Author, Voice Over Actor and Founder of the Conversation Starter Movement. She is on a mission to help the world speak better! She is letting the people know, “It’s Sexy to Speak Correctly.”