The time between Thanksgiving and New Years Day can affect not just our waistlines, but also our mental well-being. Both our physical and mental well-being will affect our voices.
This is definitely not the time to have vocal troubles with all the concerts, caroling, party gigs, church services and so on that occur during the month of December. It’s one of the busiest times for a singer!
This is on top of the other extra seasonal activities like Christmas shopping, parties and receptions, children’s concerts and family to deal with, which even ordinary morals have trouble coping with. We are not ordinary mortals – we are SINGERS!
Trying to do it all can put an unmanageable mental load on us leaving us feeling overwhelmed and affecting our health. It can lead to:
This will definitely have a toll on the voice, whether from illness or potentially causing straining, which can do damage to your vocal folds.
So here are the top 10 tips for keeping your voice and your sanity this season.
1. Ditch, Delegate and Prioritize
It’s important to set some boundaries and ask for help if needed. First thing is to prioritize what needs to happen this month. Your day job and singing gigs are at the top of the list and don’t forget some ME time. Family commitments should be in there, whether kids’ concerts or family dinners.
Any chores, like laundry, vacuuming, grocery shopping, meal prep and so on should be delegated if you can. If you live alone you may decide to ditch some things like vacuuming or meal prep (I don’t recommend you ditch laundry – those around you will not thank you for skipping it).
You may also have to ditch some parties. Don’t feel you have to make three parties in one night or drop in after your show is over. You need your rest to keep singing!
2. Keep it Real
Keep your expectations of the season real. It will not be a scene from your favourite Christmas movie. You do not have to have everything perfectly wrapped up with fancy bows and a jug of mulled wine waiting for unexpected company. You probably don’t have time for it. Your home does not have to look like a page out of Better Homes & Gardens.
Also realize that you will not get to do everything or go to every party. See Ditch, Delegate and Prioritize.
I’m not talking kisses under the mistletoe. Keep It Simple Singers! If all you have the energy for is to make it down to Walmart to the gift card rack, so be it. If you have a bake exchange you’re going to, try an easy no bake recipe or a simple brownie recipe. Expected to bring some goodies to a potluck? Don’t be ashamed to buy something pre-made.
4. Put the Fork Down
Did you know that the average Christmas dinner is 1700 calories? That’s a full day of calories in one meal!
Occasional overeating may not be too much of a problem, aside from the turkey coma and a headache the day after, but constant over-indulgence through the whole month can affect your body’s insulin response and throw off your hormone balance. This in turn can lead to more over-eating, poor sleep, lack of energy, reduced immunity, stress and anxiety – another downward spiral.
If you’re a singer with acid reflux issues, this can be a nightmare of a time and a danger to your vocal folds!
Try to limit yourself to one plate of food, no seconds. Keep in mind your portions: Meat should only account for ¼ of the plate, carbs (potatoes, stuffing, rice, bread) would be another ¼ and veggies should take up half your plate.
Allow yourself one indulgence at every meal or party you go to. It may be your aunt’s very rum soaked Christmas cake, your friend’s tipsy eggnog, your mother-in-law’s famous pumpkin pie, or your grannies shortbread cookies.
5. Curb the Cravings
Cravings hit us for a few reasons. It could be that your hormonal balance is off or you are deficient in a nutrient or you skipped a meal or snack. Eating regular meals of healthy foods is important to staving off hunger. It will keep your blood sugar balanced. It will also ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.
6. Grab and Go
The reality is that as we rush from day jobs to gigs and try to juggle the Christmas shopping and other chores in between, we are seldom at home to have homemade meals or even to prepare something to take with us.
Some good options for eating out or for take out are:
Sushi – avoid tempura and order brown rice if available
Salads with lean protein – dressing on the side
Sandwiches – choose whole grain breads. Pitas and burritos can be good options.
7. Move it!
Stay active. Whether it’s yoga to clear your mind or a good sweat inducing HIIT workout, it’s important to exercise. It will keep your body in shape for singing, improve mood and energy levels and help burn the extra calories you’ve been indulging in.
Even in this busy time, aim to schedule at least three workouts a week to maintain your strength and cardio, they can be as short as 20 minutes if you’re short on time. This is time you must prioritize for YOU! Your voice will thank you for it.
Daily walks are good for you too – and not just walking the mall as you shop. Movement throughout the day will keep your mind focused and relieve stress.
8. Your Gift to You
Aside from exercising, which, if we’re honest with ourselves, doesn’t always feel like ME time, it is important to schedule time to de-compress from all the activities. Schedule a mani/pedi or a massage.
Or maybe a soak in the tub with essential oils, Epsom salts, candle light and a glass of wine. Or stay in one night to watch your favourite Christmas movies.
Whatever takes you to a happy place. You’ve worked hard and you deserve it!
9. Wet your Whistle
Stay HYDRATED! As singers we all know the importance of hydration, yet many still aren’t getting enough water. With the colder weather and being indoors where the heat is blasting, it can be very drying. Always have your water bottle with you and depending on your size and activity level drink 2 to 3 litres of water a day.
If you do attend a party and wish to have a drink or two, drink one glass of water after each alcoholic drink. Alcoholic drinks are dehydrating, so my alternating with water you are ensuring you are staying hydrated, as well as slowing down the imbibing.
10. Pre-Sleep Wind Down
Whether you were out late performing or at a party, it can take time to wind down. If you try to go to sleep right away, quite often you’ll end up with a disrupted sleep, especially if you’ve been drinking.
Try not to eat or drink alcohol at least three hours before sleeping. Late night eating will affect quality of sleep.
Having a bedtime routine can help.
Chamomile tea is touted as a good sleep enhancer. You can also try eating two kiwi fruits an hour before bedtime, which has been shown to have a positive effect on sleep quality (an exception to the no eating rule).
Take all electronics out of your bedroom and avoid looking at a computer or phone screen just before bed.
Diffusing some lavender essential oil can be calming and promote better sleep.
Getting a good sleep will help you feel energized, focused and less stressed. Your voice will be rested and restored for another round of performing!
Follow these tips so the you can enjoy the season!
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