These are disruptive and worrying times to be sure. We are holed up in our homes as many countries, states and provinces have issued shelter-in-place orders. Singers and other performing artists are losing their income. And it’s not just from cancelled performances. Many singers work a second job in the hospitality industry. The closures of restaurants, lay-off from airlines, these have a far reaching effect.
I’m hearing from doctor friends about the severity of it. The life or death choices they are needing to make. And here’s something not mentioned often enough in the media - if you do get it and survive you may get permanent lung damage!
All this is scary stuff!!!
All these worries and isolation can also end up affecting our mental health. So this is a time more than ever that we have to keep looking for the positive.
If you look you can see people showing great amounts of love.
The list goes on if you look for it…
In my neighbourhood, some thoughtful soul dotted the pathways with pinwheels full of posititve messages like “Be Kind”, “Laugh”, ”Smile”.
But don’t forget to show some love to yourself, as well.
This is an especially critical time. Parents trying to juggle working from home and looking after their kids. Loss of jobs. Self-isolation. These are all hard on our emotional, mental, physical and social health. So making time to show yourself some love is important.
Here are a few suggestions for your self-care.
This Too Shall Pass
Remind yourself that these are unusual circumstances, that humans are highly adaptable and that this time will pass. The arts community is already adapting with live streaming concerts, balcony concerts, etc. And when this all blows over - you can bet people will want to celebrate! And celebrate BIG! What’s a celebration without music? Start working on your cover of “Happy Days Are Here Again”.
Be Kind to Yourself
Know that you are doing the best you can in the current situation. Forgive yourself for not dealing with the stress and trauma as you think people expect you to. We all have our own ways of coping. Give yourself some grace.
And don’t forget that everyone else is dealing with it too. Sure some people may be acting in an irrational manner to our way of thinking, but they are scared and people react in different ways. Give them and yourself some slack. It will take a burden off your mind.
Stick to a Schedule
Maintain some form of schedule. Keeping busy and practicing some self-discipline can keep your mind occupied. Don’t use this as an excuse to binge watch Netflix and sleep the day away. If you usually have a morning routine, stick to it. Keep meals as regular as possible. Make time to get outside for a walk. Those working from home with kids may need to make creative schedules. For example parents can work in alternating 90 minute blocks; while one parent works the other is looking after the kids.
If you have more time on your hands, this can be a great time to try new recipes or work on improving your nutrition. Plan out some meals and do a day of meal prep. Even though you are at home there will be times that you just don’t feel like preparing anything, but that can lead to stress eating crappy food, which will just make you feel worse in the end. Having healthy food already prepared is the best way to beat the impulse eating. Healthy eating can help boost immunity and help regulate hormones related to stress.
Whether it’s a stroll through your neighbourhood, dancing to your favourite songs in your living room or doing, yoga or an at home HIIT body weight workout, keep moving. Exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants to boost mood. It will also protect you from back pain that can occur from being too sedentary. As well, you want to keep your alignment and core singing ready!
Now is a great time to get into better sleeping habits. Reset your circadian rhythms for better health. Go to bed at a regular time. Get your 7 - 9 hours. Allow yourself to wake up naturally without an alarm clock. A good night's sleep can help reduce anxiety, boost your mood and strengthen your immune system.
Though the term started out as social distancing, what we are really doing is physical distancing. Humans are social creatures. Our well-being is derived, in part by our social interactions. Having meaningful relationships is key to that. For extroverts especially, being in isolation can be hard. So stay connected. Video chats are the best way, because we get more out of the interaction by seeing other people's facial expressions. Have a Zoom Happy Hour with some friends. Skype with your parents or grandparents. Even a good ol’ phone call can do the trick. Going out for a walk can also help even if you aren’t stopping to talk to other people and staying 2 metres away - you will feel less alone.
Learn Something New
Take the extra time you have to try something new. We all have something we have always wanted to learn, but don’t have the time. This is the perfect opportunity to start. Start learning a new language, learn to knit. You can even have a game with your family - learn one new fact every day and share it.
Whether you make time for meditation or do household chores in a mindful way this is a great way to show yourself some love. There are some great guided meditations on self-love, self-esteem, gratitude, tranquility, stress relief - whatever you need it’s out there. That the time to just BREATHE.
As a singer you are already a creative being at heart. Using that creativity during this stressful time is a great way to vent feelings. Write, draw, make music, do an interpretive dance. Whatever feels right to you in this moment. Journaling is a great way to get feelings out and a place to put down some creative thoughts. Your soul needs this.
Do Something Indulgent
Some indulgence is good for your self-care. I’m not talking about eating a bag of chips and washing down with a bottle of wine for dinner. That kind of indulgence is numbing and self-destructive. I’m talking about taking a long hot bath (with ONE glass of wine if you like), giving yourself a mani or pedi, take a day to relax and binge watch a series. If it makes you feel happy, something you can savour without numbing yourself, then it’s probably a legit indulgence. Before reaching for that glass of wine or eating a pan of brownies ask yourself this question. “Am I doing this because I’m bored or stressed or am I doing this because I want to relax and savour the moment?”.
If you are already someone who suffers from anxiety, depression or trauma, this can be an even harder time. Make sure you seek out professional help from a qualified healthcare practitioner if you need to.
We are all here to lift each other up.
If you need someone to talk to or help staying on track with healthy habits please feel free to contact me. I’m here for you. You can contact me here or join my Facebook group Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice where I offer a weekly challenge to keep you on track.
Stay safe my dear singers.
Hydration is one of the most well-known tenets of vocal hygiene. You know you need to keep those folds hydrated well to keep the surface lubricated so that the friction that occurs from the folds constantly beating together won't end up in injury.
You may also know that hydration also has to hit the deeper layers including the vocalis muscle. We want hydration at the cellular level of all parts of the vocal folds to keep them flexible for optimal performance. Did you know that studies have shown that a 1-2% drop in body water can impede performance?
A dip in hydration at this level can also affect your cognitive functioning and you need a clear mind for singing. No time for brain fog when you have to remember all your words, rhythms, choreography, listen to your accompaniment, and the list goes on - all while maintaining good vocal technique.
And let’s face it, the Vocalis Muscle is not a high priority area for the body, so you may feel the effects of dehydration even earlier at your vocal folds. On top of that, your body doesn't register the fact that it's thirsty until you reach the 2% dehydration mark. So staying on top of the hydration game is really important.
You've probably heard the adage "pee pale", however, that might not be telling you everything you need to know about your hydration. You can have clear urine and still be getting dehydrated!!!
Here are 15 things that may be making you dehydrated:
Many medications can cause dehydration. Some of the most common medications that lead to dehydration are:
One of the symptoms of diabetes is the frequent need to urinate. When blood sugar levels get too high the body tries to bring it back down by flushing out the excess sugar through peeing. If you are frequently thirsty or take too many trips to the washroom see your doctor.
3. Insufficient Fibre
About 97% of the North American population is fibre deficient. They don’t get anywhere near the recommended daily requirement, which is about 30 g of fibre per day. That in itself is far lower than what our bodies are actually designed to handle. Aside from the many other health benefits of fibre, eating fibre and water rich-foods like fruits and vegetables can help hydration. It also will allow it to be absorbed into the body more slowly for deeper hydration.
4. Processed Foods
Ultra processed foods have a number of things going against them. First they are devoid of fibre.(See point 3) They can make your blood sugar levels rise making you feel thirsty.(See point 2). They are often very dry foods since water has mostly been removed from them. And they are high in sodium. If you do eat processed foods drink more water to make up for lack. Better yet stick to water-rich whole foods..
5. Your period
Estrogen and progesterone influence your body's hydration levels, and when the two are roller-coastering, like when you're in the throes of PMS, you may need to increase your fluid intake to stay hydrated.
Women who experience heavy flows will need to hydrate extra, too, since you are losing fluid. And remember the dehydrating effects of medications - Midol a commonly used medication for menstrual cramps may be making matters worse.
We all like to have the occasional post show drink with our castmates, but you have to keep in mind that alcohol has well-known diuretic properties. If you do have a drink or two make sure to drink a glass of water for every serving of alcohol..
7. Herbs and Supplements
Many herbs and supplements have been shown to increase urine output, which could potentially lead to dehydration. Among them are parsley, celery seed, dandelion, and watercress. Small amounts as a seasoning in food should not be a problem as part of a whole food diet, but if you are taking therapeutic amounts of herbal or other supplements, check with your naturopath. Natural does not always mean safer.
8. Low Carb Diet
Carbohydrates are stored as energy in your body in the form of glycogen in your muscles and liver. Each glycogen molecule is linked to 9 water molecules. That's why when you start a low carb diet you drop a couple pounds of water weight. The number on your scale might look good, but it's not great for your hydration levels. Fruits, which are often shunned because of their perceived sugar levels are richly hydrating (not to mention all the other nutrients they provide). Plus, since whole carbs such as oatmeal, whole grain pasta, and brown rice all soak up water during the cooking process, eating them can actually increase your hydration levels. If you cut them out of your diet you could be reducing your fluid intake, too.
9. Indoor Environment
In the heat of summer or the cold of winter we often head indoors, but air conditioning and heating can both have a drying effect. Probably moreson than the outdoor weather. Who has ever experienced the chapped lips and dry skin of winter,yet you barely spend any time outdoors except for running from your door to your car and back. It’s the heating that’s drying you out!
If you exercise you will perspire, but the length and intensity of your workout will dictate how much body water you are losing through sweat. It’s important to adjust your water intake to match the intensity of your workout. Endurance athletes especially are prone to dehydration. A good way to make sure you are getting enough is to weigh yourself naked before and after your workout. If you are hydrating enough you should weigh the same. If not, top up with the deficit amount in your post workout drink.
I mentioned our indoor environment, but of course our outdoor environment matters, too. Extremes of heat, cold, low humidity and high altitudes all can impact your hydration levels. If you’re in a desert-like climate with extremely low humidity and high heat you can feel the water being sucked right out of you (that’s how it felt to me in Las Vegas with temperatures of 110F. The dry cold of a Winnipeg winter, where I live, can be dehydrating as well. High Altitude is also somewhere where you may need to adjust your water intake.
12. Irritable Bowl Syndrome and Irritable Bowl Disease
Digestive issues like irritable bowl syndrome, irritable bowl disease, diverticulitis and other problems of the gut can be debilitating enough on their own (believe me I know I have colitis, which still flares up if I eat wheat or broccoli, my two trigger foods), but their symptoms which can include nausea and chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration, In the search of relief, many people who suffer from these conditions try elimination diets to discover or avoid trigger foods, If you are eliminating whole food groups of fluid-rich foods, you could end up further contributing to dehydration.
High altitude, dry recycled air - air travel can definitely contribute to dehydration if not managed well. If you are flying to a concert gig, you will likely not have sufficient time on the other end to re-hydrate properly, so it’s imperative to stay on top of it before, during and after the flight. Avoid the in-flight alcoholic drinks, which will further complicate matters, drink extra water, and eat plenty of water-rich foods. This is also a great time to use a Humidiflyer or other surface hydration method such as a personal steamer or nebulizer.
14. Drinking Too Much Water at One Time
Your body can only absorb so much water at a time. It is better to drink in smaller quantities throughout the day than to guzzle a litre at a time only to have it go straight through you. The danger with this is that it could also be flushing out vital electrolytes that can lead to a potentially life- threatening condition called hyponatremia.
15. Misinterpreting Your Thirst Cue
Often when people feel hungry, it’s actually thirst they are feeling. This can lead to overeating and not getting enough water. If you feel hungry and it’s not close to meal time try this: drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes. If that satisfies you, then it was thirst you were feeling. If you’re still hungry then go ahead and have a snack.
To find your optimal level of water to drink start with taking your body weight in pounds and dividing by two. This will give you the amount in ounces of water to drink daily. From there make any adjustments as needed for the above mentioned causes of dehydration. If you keep your hydration levels up you will feel more energized, alert and your vocal folds will be very happy.
Remember that if you think you are drinking enough and still feel thirsty, you need to seek medical advice.
For more tips of keeping your voice in top shape join the Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice Community.