I used to love baking.
One thing that fascinated me about baking is the chemistry of it. You have all these ingredients that you have to put together in a certain order in specific quantities to get the final baked deliciousness.
One of the hallmarks of a good baker is getting a perfect meringue. Light and airy, crispy on the outside with just a bit of chew on the inside.
But there are so many things that can go wrong along the way.
No fat can touch them, so that means that you can’t have a speck of yolk in the egg whites. No oil residue in the bowl or on the beaters. Otherwise the egg whites won’t beat up properly.
Then the beating itself - you have to add the sugar just so, so they don’t end up grainy, and get the whites to form perfect peaks. Beat too long and they start disintegrating again.
Then the preparation of the sheets for baking - it has to be parchment paper. Oven temp and baking time. They ALL matter.
The point of all this is that, like with getting the perfect meringue, looking after your voices so that you have a well-balanced instrument has a lot of components to it, too.
And like the meringue a lot of things can go wrong along the way. These are the stressors in our lives.
Often when we think about stress we think about the emotional overwhelm that we feel from situations, but there are actually many other stressors that you may not be aware of and may not be causing an obvious fight or flight response.
Accumulated stress can cause the throat to constrict and prevent you from being able to fully and freely express yourself through singing, so it’s important to stay on top of it.
There are four main categories of stress.
Psychological, psycho-social and psycho-spiritual stress are clearly in the realm of the mind and the first thing most people think of when you mention stress.
The mind and body are often thought of as separate and because of that physical stressors are often overlooked in how they impact the mind and voice. When talking about stress it is more usual to talk about the impact stress has on the body than the other way around.
However, a preliminary study showed that physical and psychosocial stressors interact to increase stress in ways not explainable by the stressors alone. And over time these acute stressors can accumulate to cause chronic stress, more tension, illness and vocal issues.
Increasing your capacity for a reliable voice
That’s why looking after physical health is so important to able to cope with stress and sing with a reliable resilient voice.
The stronger and healthier your body is, the greater your capacity to deal with the stress of a busy singer’s life. And let’s face it, the past year with the pandemic has been a very stressful one.
Are you looking after your physical health to improve your stress resilience for freer, more confident singing? If you’d like to explore a holistic approach that includes work on body, mind and voice then download my free e-guide Top Tips to Release Tension and Lift Energy for Singers.
So much of vocal and physical health is all about habits and actions, but where do these all stem from? What if we don’t have to make as many changes as we think we do? What if there was one powerful thing that makes a lot of difference?
That thing is mindset.
Mindset is sometimes called “the story we tell ourselves.” It’s our attitude toward things in our life. And we have control over our mindset.
For singers mindset is a powerful tool to help free your voice for more vibrant, confident singing. And yet, it's mindset that can hold back so many singers from complete artistic freedom.
And research is showing that mindset may be far more powerful than we thought.
Very interesting health mindset study
Here’s a quick story about a fascinating study.
Researchers at Stanford University looked at a bunch of people's health and wellness lifestyle habits, as well as health markers.
What they found was that the people who thought they were a lot less active had a higher risk of death than the general public. And, they also had up to 71% higher risk of death than people who thought they were more active. Even if they actually weren't less active!
How is this even possible that people who simply thought they were less active had higher risks, even if it wasn’t true?
There are a couple of ideas why. One is that maybe if we feel like we're less active, it may make us feel more stressed. And stress isn't good for our mental or physical health. Second, there may be a bit of a mind-body connection where the body embodies what the mind visualizes.
Researchers don't know why, but what matters is that there is a good mindset. So, let me give you a couple of strategies to boost your mindset for healthier, more confident singing.
Health mindset strategy 1 - Recognize your inner voice.
No one is perfect. That's just a fact.
No one sings perfectly and almost no one is perfect with their self-care seven days a week. It's inevitable that obsessing over the quality of our sound, how and what we eat or hydrating enough isn't necessarily a great mindset to have.
Yet, too many singers feel they are not good enough, always assume what others think of them and their voice, and they discount the positive to focus on the negative, especially in performance situations.
It can bring on shame, and guilt - none of these are great ways to get be healthy in voice, body or mind. We want to get healthier by making better choices and building better habits. And these are usually best done incrementally - one step at a time.
So, learn to recognize that "voice" that's taking a black and white approach where everything is good or bad. Then you will be able to see the triggers and anticipate it.
Health mindset strategy 2 - Make a choice
When you're striving to make healthy lifestyle changes to support your instrument it's easy to fall into the trap of judging yourself.
For example you may be eating clean during the week, but then have a gluttonous weekend.
And that's not awesome because the mindset starts to lay in with the judgement that you've failed or that you aren't good enough.
The thing is you have a choice. You can listen to the “voice” either judgmentally or as a challenge to step up your skills or effort.
Just live as though you're trying to do well and self-nurture yourself every single day. Like you care about your voice and wellness.
This will empower you to make better choices, instead of perfect choices.
Health mindset strategy 3 - Talk back to your inner critic
When you find yourself stuck in negative self-talk, it's not always a matter of aiming for good enough because that inner voice keeps screaming at you.
And when you’re constantly bombarded with this kind of talk, it just adds to the emotional stress and you end up in a vicious cycle of stress and tension that’s not helping you free your voice.
So it's time to talk back.
If your negative Nelly voice is saying, “What if you fail—you’ll be a failure”.
Then you talk back to it and say, “Most successful people had failures along the way.”
Re-framing your thoughts in this way to a more positive context will allow for growth.
Mindset for health can be a powerful tool that can be applied to singing. There’s a proven mind-body connection that research can measure.
Thinking positively, and dropping the black/white and good/bad labels, can help you reach your goals for performance and vocal health.
How is your mindset for singing? Which of these tips resonate with you the most? How are you going to implement them in your life? Let me know in the comments below.
Hi, I'm Elizabeth! I'm your guide on your vocal journey. I work with singers - Voice Students of all ages, Singing Teachers and Choristers - basically anyone who LOVES to Sing and wants to free their voice.