How To De-Stress For Your Voice's Sake
With the holidays right around the corner we are bound to have a fabulous end to the year. Often, with all of the excitement that the holidays bring, there can be stress involved as well. During these times teachers’ voices might become raspy. Business people feel the tension in their face, neck or shoulders drop away as soon as they walk out of the office. Tense actors notice that the effort to use their voice is demanding. When stress of any kind is at its peak, it can be hard to recover in the middle of it all. Why not go into this holiday season armed with the knowledge and tools to de-stress along the way so your voice doesn’t suffer.
So what’s the very first thing we can do? Breathe! It seems silly because we breathe all day everyday but when we are stressed our breath inevitably is held. Let’s do a little exercise. In a seated position, take one hand and place it on your heart. Place the other hand on your belly. Take a breath in. Which hand moves – the one on your heart or the one on your belly? Hopefully your answer is the one on your belly but too often the answer is otherwise. It’s surprising how many people take breathing for granted and are only breathing into their chest! Are you guilty of being a chest breather? Let’s do another exercise. Keeping your hands on your chest and belly, breathe in through your nose. Ask your body to relax. Ask your body if it will allow your breath to drop a little deeper. For example, if you felt your breath in your chest, maybe it will now drop into your upper belly and if it was in your belly already maybe you imagine your breath reaching all the way down into your hips. Sounds pointless because we all KNOW our lungs are not as low as our hips but using your imagination goes a long way. If you continue to breathe in this way inevitably your breath will settle, your heart rate will slow and you will begin to feel less stress, maybe even grounded. This exercise works even better if you are lying on the floor with your feet on the ground, your knees in the air and your eyes closed.
We can’t JUST focus on our breath and expect all of the stress to slide off our backs. When we hold tension anywhere in our body, it stifles sound and muffles articulation. Tension, even in our toes, can radiate throughout the body and find its way to our vocal folds and cause them to work harder. The body working too hard to overcome the consequences of tension is a common cause of vocal fatigue. Effective voice use takes relaxed readiness and focus. We have to actively release the tension in order to have a free, clear and dynamic voice.
We have to enthusiastically DO something to combat the stress on a daily, or sometimes bi-daily (or sometimes TRI-daily), basis. Going to get a massage is a great way to release tension yet it can be expensive and take a lot of time. Here are 10 easy ways to de-stress right now:
Take a 10-minute walk outside to connect with nature.
Do ‘Yoga with Adriene’ to clear your head and boost your endorphins (she has FREE classes online).
Meditate (for even 3 minutes) with the Mindfulness app – for FREE.
Escape to a different world by reading that book you’ve had on your shelf for far too long.
Close the door and take a luxurious bubble bath.
Be in the moment and light a candle.
Diffuse essential oils with scents like lemon (to help brighten your mood) or lavender (to help you sleep).
Rest your eyes for 10-minutes after applying a facemask.
Cook a meal you’re proud of for yourself and a loved one.
Turn your favorite song on really loud and dance around your room.
In feeling more relaxed your limbs will hang loose, your facial expression won’t be held and the tension in you jaw will begin to melt away. A deep, slow, steady breath will allow you to think clearer, feel more peaceful and your voice may even drop to a lower pitch than usual. You may notice that when you’re more relaxed and breathing in more air, you will yawn. Keep yawning – yawn all the time. Yawning isn’t just good for you, it’s great because it’s yet another way to release stress and reboot your body!
In addition to actively fighting tension, do remember to take basic care of your voice as well. Drink plenty of water (caffeine free tea and hot water also do the trick), get lots of sleep and warm up your voice daily (check out my Facebook page next week for warm ups). If your voice is something that causes you concern, make your vocal health a priority today. Best of luck de-stressing this holiday season!