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Voice Care for Coaches and Speakers
Guest articles > Voice Care for Coaches and Speakers
by: Catherine Franz
As a coach and speaker, you rely heavily on a healthy voice for your business. In addition, if you give teleclasses, workshops, do speaking engagements, voice maintenance needs a higher priority in your self-care program.
During flu, cold, or allergy seasons, vocal cords become highly sensitized and need ever better care.
Imagine your voice as a rare Stradivarius violin. If you were going to play the Stradivarius in a concert the next day -- same as having a speaking engagement or a full day of coaching the next day -- you wouldn't expose the Stradivarius to a night in a smoke filled room or pour alcohol all over it and expect it not to suffer from the abuse the next day.
Okay this metaphor is a little stretch but you get the point I'm sure.
Many people think antibiotics help viral infections or laryngitis -- a common after effect from a viral infection caused from a cold or flu. Recently, I suffered with the flu with a severe case of laryngitis. I had to cancel a teleclass, lose hours of phone coaching, and a paid speaking engagement. Ouch! The more I self-treated through media knowledge or recommendations, the worse the laryngitis got.
It took over 20 days before I improved and then two weeks later, the laryngitis returned. After all this, I finally visited my ear, nose, and throat specialist, only to learn that everything I was trying was actually contributing the extended suffering.
This is why I'm writing this article, so you don't suffer as I did. Let me pass the tips I learned along this journey. Some of them may be a surprise.
Food and Beverages
Warm or hot beverages work best. Cold beverages with ice produce the voice center to spasm generating more coughing and longer lasting laryngitis. It's best to stick to drinking room temperature water.
Black Currant Pastilles, which are glycerin-containing lozenges for adults, keeps the throat moist. Pastilles are especially great to take before, during, and after flying or traveling from one temperature extreme to another, say New York to Florida in winter. It's best to have ample on hand since they can be difficult to find on the road. Many professional singers use Black Currant Pastilles 24 hours before their performance.
Avoid anything with mint or menthol in it. Throat Coat. Tea, designed specifically for voice professionals, is better than Pastilles. The tea contains licorice root, which is widely used to enhance throat and upper respiratory tract health.
Any beverage that affects your stomachs acid level, like caffeine, will also affect your vocal cords. Caffeine is a mild diuretic and dries the throat and vocal cords. Coffee, including decaf, due to its natural oils causes acidic results that cause vocal damage. This includes chocolate. If you suffer from acid reflux disease, you need to take extra care of your voice since acid reflux causes permanent damage to vocal cords. Sodas also cause acid reflux and damages vocal cords.
Up until six years ago, I drank diet coke and suffered from acid reflux. About three weeks after going cold turkey from diet coke I had no more acid reflux problems and haven't since.
With a cold or flu, we usually drink orange juice. This acidic beverage actually prolongs laryngitis.
One of my favorites is to add lemon to my water. After thinking about it, lemon is an acid. By itself, it doesn't help. However, if you add the lemon in warm water with a small amount of honey it smoothes the vocal cords.
Hmm, I wonder if warm orange juice and honey would work.
Guess what, nope, tried it. It takes terrible.
Dairy increases throat mucus for some people. If after you drink milk, your thought feels heavier with mucus, you may have a mild milk allergy. Milk in your case will affect your vocal health and can lengthen your laryngitis episode. Nuts can have this same allergy affect.
Common Causes of Voice Strain
You probably already know that shouting, screaming, and excessive talking strains voice cords. But, did you know that whispering, coughing, loud sneezing, crying, laughing, and throat clearing could do the same damage?
Emotional or environmental stress causes voice strain as well. Especially major changes like separation/ divorce, new job, kids going off to college, grieving, not enough sleep, moving, and even hormonal changes in adolescents or maturing adults. If you are going through any stressful times, you will need to take special care not to bruise your throat center or vocal cords.
The surprise to these stresses is the damage doesn't show it's physically appearance until three days after the major stress occurs.
The stress could even be a special project at work. You work at a higher pace or longer hours, then the project is completed, and three days later, you feel terrible. Take special note of this and change your work habits so it doesn't happen.
One client of mine had this consistently over five years. She'd worked hard at her job, the project would end, and she'd take off on vacation and be sick for most of the time while on vacation.
When experiencing laryngitis, limit unnecessary talking, and pause frequently to swallow and remoisten your throat, even during speaking engagements.
Relaxation techniques, like yoga always help, yet conscious aware of your posture and breathing during speaking can save further bruising the vocal cords especially if your voice is weak from a cold.
One of my favorite exercises I do every morning or while driving to a speaking engagement is a vowel review. Stretch your neck comfortable upwards and recite the vowels -- a, e, i, o, u -- slowly. Long gate the sound and let the vowel trail off, especially with the u.
Avoid whispering. Whispering actually stresses vocal cords stretching out the recovery period significantly.
If you smoke or visit smoke-filled rooms, triple your maintenance plan, smoke is very damaging.
If you lose your voice, you will have to give it a rest over the next four to seven days. You will need to limit using your voice to 15 minutes a day. I learned there's a bright side to this; my listening skills improved. Keep phone calls brief; avoid all non-speech voice use, including throat clearing, coughing, sneezing, or any odd sound effects.
If you snore, this doubles the stress on your vocal cords. Keep water next to you and drink during the night to keep the cords moist.
Even though they give immediate feeling relief, throat sprays, and medicated lozenges actually dry the vocal cords and extend the recovery period. If go this route because it's an emergency, you must use with extreme care. Herbs can cause side effects. You will want to discuss their use with your doctor or herb practitioner before you have a problem. There are some herbs that help and some that harm. Herbs like barberry reduce inflammation and infection caused from respiratory infections, but can cause an allergic reaction especially if already using another remedy.
Herbs like eucalyptus, German chamomile, goldenrod, goldenseal, licorice, marshmallow, peppermint, saw palmetto, or slippery elm are remedies for vocal cord inflections.
Adding garlic and ginger to your foods reduces cold symptoms including sore throat you don't need any professional advice before using.
Since your voice is vital to your income, you will want to have on your team an ear, nose, and throat physician who is familiar with your medical history and works frequently with singers. With an ongoing relationship, it's easier for them to provide advice especially when you are out of the area.
Last year, while experiencing a mild case of laryngitis, I saw my doctor before I left for a speaking engagement. I forgot to mention I was traveling to a higher elevation. By the time I checked in at the hotel, I was in bad shape. An emergency call to her and I was equipped with new instructions and a fast acting prescription. The next morning I was able to perform normally.
Here's a special note: Taxis in almost all cities will pick up and deliver called-in prescriptions generally at the same rate as a cab ride.
Catherine Franz, a Certified Marketing and Writing Coach, specializes in product development, Internet writing and marketing, nonfiction, training. Newsletters and articles available at: http://www.catherinefranz.com
Contributor: Catherine Franz
Published here on: 02-Aug-09
Classification: Development, Coaching