I woke up one morning to this urgent text from a good friend of mine.
Has this ever happened to you?
You have something super important coming up – a performance, a presentation, an audition, you’re marrying your friends – and a few days short of the event, you get ill and voila…your voice decides to go on a silent retreat for a week without informing you. You open your mouth to speak and a few phlegmy, painful spluttering sounds come out instead.
This has certainly happened to me!
In fact it seemed to be a recurring theme in my life. Anything significant looming – a recording project, a vocal exam, an important gig – and suddenly I either have laryngitis moving in with me for a week or I have vocal fatigue resulting in hoarseness.
So… what’s the deal?
When we lose our voices from laryngitis or from energetic use, it means that our vocal folds may be temporarily swollen and inflamed. So our body, the kickass healer that is, will send more fluid to the second layer of the vocal fold structure. It does this to protect the folds as well as to heal the inflammation. The drawback is that we end up sounding like Vito Corleone from the Godfather or losing our voices altogether.
What can you do to recover?
When your voice goes missing in action, it is important to realize there are deeper issues at play here. We will get to this, but for now it is important to realize that this isn’t just a case of bad luck or timing. There are tangible things you can do to stop this from reoccurring.
But for now the first step is…
You need to accept the situation, as gut-wrenchingly annoying as it is! If you try to “fight it”, it’s just going to make things worse by putting you and your body under stress.
Acceptance takes the load off. You allow yourself to be in a state of calm and make the decision to simply go with flow. You say to yourself, “you know what, life has my back. If I have to reschedule or miss out, so be it! It’s for my highest good.”
By retraining the mind to respond to these situations with acceptance, you’re teaching yourself not to ‘buy into the drama’. Have you ever noticed that the more you dwell on a negative situation, the worse it seems to get…However when you decide not to worry, the situation resolves itself rather quickly?
2. Stop talking
Seriously, don’t utter another word for the time being. And please try not whisper. There’s a danger that whispering can cause excess constriction and can also have a drying effect on the vocal folds. If you need to communicate, do so via text message, email, any form of social media, sign language or an old fashion notepad and pen. Don’t worry about looking like a diva or a dick or both. Any voice rest will help!
3. Make water your beverage of choice: Drink it and inhale it
Hydration is key. Keep sipping on water throughout the day. Also steam. I have one of those green Bosisto inhalers, which are great if you want to take your steamer on the road with you. But personally I prefer to put my head over a bowl of hot water with a tea towel covering me. If you do this, be careful not to burn yourself. Also don’t be tempted to put eucalyptus or any other essential oil in the water when you steam because this can do more harm than good by aggravating the folds.
3. Drink this warm concoction a few times throughout the day
Warm water mixed with:
- the juice of half a lemon
- fresh ginger finely chopped &
- a generous teaspoon of Manuka honey (the higher the UMF rating the better).
I also like to add a couple of teaspoons of coconut oil although I do acknowledge that evidence of it having antibacterial, healing properties is not conclusive. But I choose to believe that it does and I like the taste.
Actually, why don’t you make this your morning ritual drink for the rest of your life? Ayurvedic medical practitioners claim it’s an effective daily detox. So get those bowels working like a well-oiled machine as well as ward off any seasonal flus. Aww yeah!
4. Take Bromelain Forte
This supplement is a singers’ best friend. It is an enzyme found in pineapple juice and in the pineapple stem and is used to reduce swelling caused by inflammation. It also repairs soft-tissue and is great in managing sinusitis symptoms. I take it daily.
4. Write a love letter to your voice
A few years back, I got outed from the ‘New Age Closet’ by my jazz pianist housemate when he found a letter I had written to my voice. I tucked it away in a book I had lent him and had forgotten it was there. While it was a source of jest for a few days, I believe it attributed to my fast recovery of laryngitis. While I understand the process may feel a bit daggy at first, I challenge you to try it. You have nothing to lose (except for perhaps your dignity when someone finds it). Anyhow here is the letter I wrote all those years ago for the whole world to see! Out and proud!
OK now you have your voice on the mend… how do you keep it healthy
You know the drill. It’s important to have a good nutritious diet, to regularly exercise and drink eight glasses of water a day.
It’s also important to exercise moderation with alcohol, caffeine and chocolate and to avoid smoking, constantly clearing your throat and talking over loud noises.
Aim to keep reflux at bay by cutting down on foods and beverages that are notoriously acidic such as fizzy drinks, tea, coffee, spicy meals, tomatoes and tomato sauces and citrus. Also leave 2 hours between eating and bedtime.
You know…just BE NICE TO YOURSELF!
Voice care is a whole other blog post on its own but the most important thing I want to get across in this article is to adopt a loving attitude towards yourself. A healthy mind equates to a healthy body and therefore a healthy voice.
A list of loving things you can do for yourself include:
- Meditating for 15 minutes a day first thing in the morning will make you feel like a badass for the rest of the day. It does wonders for stress and anxiety. It helps you deal with life in a calm manner and can also allow you to come to your own solutions to perceived problems.
- Take a daily relaxing stroll
- Say nice things about yourself: I’m a big believer that our words shape our reality. So creating positive beliefs about yourself and your voice is imperative. I also believe it is important to speak your truth and to express yourself authentically. So if something is bothering you, get it out of your body by putting it into words. Then follow it up with a positive spin using solution-orientated language.
- Take yourself on an artist date once a week: Julia Cameron author of the Artists’ Way suggests taking some alone time and going to an art gallery or a movie or anywhere that sparks your imagination. This is a non-negotiable date/time that you set aside for yourself. Don’t be tempted to take anyone else with you. This is special sacred time between you and You.
Anyhow the list can go on and on. But I’m more interested in hearing about your self-care practices! What do you do to stay in check with yourself? Also what remedies have you tried in the past to recover from laryngitis or temporary swelling of the vocal folds? Please leave your comments below!