Why you need to look after your vocal health – and how to do it
Your voice is as unique as your DNA. It allows you to discuss dinner plans, flirt, persuade others, share words of wisdom or ask for help.
But like your mind and body, your voice needs looking after.
You’re probably familiar with that rusty voice feeling first thing in the morning. And after a day of talking your voice might sound strained. Nerves and stress can also accentuate the quirks in your voice. And if you overuse it, you can lose it completely.
‘There are two types of voice issues really,’ Nic Redman, spoken voice coach, accent specialist and presenter of The Voice Coach podcast, tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Behavioural, related to physical habits. And psychosomatic beliefs we have about our voice.’
The good news is that simple steps can help you protect your voice and even develop its strength, expressiveness and uniqueness. And ultimately, make you a more confident speaker in any situation.
Here’s how to take care of your voice a little better.
Remember having a voice is a privilege
‘I think we take for granted how important our ability to communicate with other human beings is because we do it every single day,’ says Nic. ‘It’s only when people lose their voice, and feel how stressful and disruptive it is, that they realise it was a privilege to have a voice in the first place.’
In a personal setting, losing your voice can leave you feeling isolated.
‘We all know talking to our friends and social interactions is highly important to our wellbeing, particularly since Covid,’ notes Nic.
And a hoarse voice can have serious impacts in a professional setting.
Nic explains: ‘Your voice is a professional tool, whether you’re an actor, a board member or a barista.
‘If you can’t communicate, connect with people and spread whatever messages you have to share, it can be a huge professional hindrance.’
That’s why prevention is better than cure when it comes to vocal health.
‘It’s much harder to cure [voice loss] than it is to put a few little easy peasy things in place,’ Nic notes.
Release the tension
Whether you’re slumped over your laptop or hunched over your smartphones, posture has a huge impact on your voice. You’ll sound strained and by the end of the day your voice will feel tired.
‘A healthy voice requires a free and healthy released body,’ Nic says. ‘So minimal physical tension, efficient alignment and posture.’
A common problem is people jutting their chins forward to speak.
Nic tells us: ‘By doing that, you’re affecting the alignment of your body and movement of the larynx so speaking is much more effort.’
Remember your voice is connected to your whole body, so try not to slouch and gently tuck that chin down.
Tension can also be a symptom of nerves.
‘When people are stressed, their body tenses up, they can have shortness of breath, their voice can get a bit shaky and they feel like they can’t control what’s going on,’ Nic explains.
Nic has a simple suggestion to deal with nerves when speaking: ‘Make your body really stable. Put your feet on the floor. Breathe out. Open your shoulders and palms. Release your belly. And let the breath drop in nice and freely.
‘A confident stance will trick your body into feeling confident and that will come through in your voice.’
Things like breathwork, sighing and yoga can release tension too.
Hydrate, breathe through your nose and have a voice nap
There’s a few other daily habits that can help your voice.
‘In the voice world we talk about voice naps,’ says Nic. ‘Give your voice regular breaks throughout the day, particularly if you speak a lot.
‘For example, you might want to schedule a meeting for 50 minutes to give yourself ten minutes of silence.’
Another good habit is to keep your vocal folds hydrated.
‘The general guidance is to drink two litres of water a day for women, and two and a half litres a day for men,’ Nic says. ‘Water, tea, coffee, juice all count but alcohol doesn’t.
‘If you suffer from hay fever and take medication, you need to up your fluids even more as the medicine dries your mucus.
‘Breathing through your nose in winter warms the cold air up before entering your body.’
And if your nose and throat are feeling stuffed up, Nic recommends steaming or using a nebuliser.
Learn to love your voice
One reason your voice might not sound confident is because you don’t really like the sound of it.
Nic tells us: ‘I have clients who say “somebody said I’m too loud”, or “my boss won’t promote me unless I get rid of my accent” or “I can’t get work with my lisp”.
‘Ask yourself, is your opinion of your voice your actual opinion, or is it something you believe because other people – the media, or people in mentor or education positions – have been telling you it needs to be a certain way to get ahead?’
No voice is better than another.
‘It’s unconscious bias,’ Nic says. ‘Accents do not correlate with intelligence or abilities. And our voices are born out of the environments that are cultivated around us.’
So how can you love your voice?
‘Reflect on all of the incredible things your voice allows you to do – chatting, expressing your feelings, helping somebody, telling jokes, sorting banking problems on the phone,’ Nic suggests. ‘It’s really important to genuinely reflect on all of the incredible things regardless of what your voice sounds like.’
‘Then get used to the sound of your own voice. People are always shocked to hear themselves back but record yourself speaking for a minute or two a day and listen to your voice. Immersion therapy does work.
‘And finally, ask people you love and trust how they feel when they hear your voice.
‘You’ll be surprised how complimentary they are – that can really boost your confidence.’
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