How to keep your voice healthy during the holidays

Make sure to get enough sleep: With so many obligations during the holiday season, it can be tempting to add extra hours to your day by staying up later. Remember, your vocal mechanism is a smaller part of your whole body. Caring for your voice starts with caring for your whole body. If you are exhausted, you’ll have less mental and physical energy to devote to good vocal hygiene practices and healthy voice production technique. Those who don’t get enough sleep are more susceptible to illness. Sleep is also when our body works to repair overworked muscles. Decreased sleep equals decreased healing and immunity-building time. Strive to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day so that you consistently get 8 hours of shut eye.

Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!: “Water is your voice box’s favorite drink!” Being well hydrated keeps mucus thin and keeps the vocal folds well lubricated so that they vibrate efficiently. Aim to drink a minimum of 64oz of water a day, supplementing this with steam treatments. Keep drying agents such as caffeine, alcohol, and antihistamines to a minimum.

Practice good hand hygiene: Unfortunately, the holiday season falls right in the middle of cold and flu season. Practicing good hand hygiene is one of the best ways to both prevent getting sick and spreading germs to others if you are sick.

Adhere to dietary and behavioral reflux precautions: I always ask new patients to describe how their voice problem began. All too often I hear the following from singers: “I had a cold/cough/infection and was a little bit hoarse, so I had to push through it for this performance…” If you are sick, particularly with an illness affecting your vocal tract/upper respiratory system, chances are your vocal folds are swollen and inflamed. The BEST thing you can do for them during this time is treat the illness, rest, and hydrate. If you have any degree of laryngitis, it is best to avoid overusing your voice in any capacity with speaking or singing. Better to sit out some rehearsals or a performance to let it resolve than to push through it and risk a more serious vocal injury.

Don’t forget the warm-up (or the cool-down): Your vocal mechanism is essentially a muscular system and it responds to principles of exercise physiology the same way other muscles do. Physical athletes always warm up before activity to avoid injury and stretch/cool down afterward to give the body time to readjust to the change in requirements following intense physical activity. Singers, or vocal athletes, need to do the same thing. Warm up to stretch your vocal muscles, get your breath going, and prepare your mind for the act of singing. Use gentle hums on simple downward scales and glides to cool down, help calm your vocal muscles, return your voice to the less intense demands of normal speaking, and prepare muscles to rest.

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