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.
February happens to be Heart month in a number of countries, Canada, United States and UK all have devoted this month to raising awareness for heart health.
I think this is an important topic for singers. After all your body is your instrument and if all parts of it are healthy it will serve you better.
A couple of years ago I was interviewed about singers’ health and one of the topics that came up for discussion was why did some of the great singers of history like Enrico Caruso lead less than healthy lifestyles – the so called “good life” of rich foods, smoking and alcohol – yet they had these amazing voices?
The truth is a healthy lifestyle will not necessarily make you have a great voice. This comes from genetics, dedication to honing an impeccable technique, and the ability to communicate to and touch an audience.
What a healthy heart will give you is the optimization of your instrument, your body, to be able to have the energy, stamina and health to deal with the demands of a singer’s life.
It will pump blood full of nutrients to you larynx for optimal functioning and recovery. And pump blood to your brain for an alert mind. It will keep you healthy so you won't miss a gig. It will get through hours of rehearsals in the evening after being at your day job 9 to 5. It will give you the endurance to be weeks on the road performing. It will let you sing well into your twilight years.
And here’s the thing, many of the GREAT singers did not make it to their twilight years. They died young. If we understand how lifestyle choices can affect our heart health we can prevent that fate and look forward to a long life of singing.
Heart disease is the number one killer in the world with 17.9 million deaths a year. Risk factors include:
Aside from Enrico Caruso, whose death at 48 years of age is mostly attributed to his smoking, drinking and poor eating habits, there are many other great singers of the 20th and 21st century who died of heart disease. Sadly most of them died while still in the prime of their careers. Though it is impossible to conclusively say whether their deaths can be attributed to lifestyle without knowing more of their personal lives and health habits, given the above statistics it is quite possible that these deaths could have been prevented through lifestyle changes.
Of course this is not limited to classical singers. Many contemporary artists have suffered early deaths due to lifestyle as well.
One demographic that seems to have a very high proportion of young deaths is hip hop and rap artists. Some dying of heart disease in their 20s!
This is largely due to the unhealthy relationship that they develop at a young age growing up in food deserts (impoverished areas where there is limited access to affordable and nutritious food, especially fruits and vegetables). This was highlighted in the film Think Rich – Health is the New Wealth. It is heartening to see that many of these artists are now leading the charge to bring awareness to the benefits of a healthy, holistic lifestyle.
In the past year with COVID-19 it has become apparent that those with underlying cardiovascular conditions are at greater risk of dying or having severe complications from the virus. And the complications from that for singers can be devastating.
What you can do
You are a singer. You have a passion to share your gift. You have choices to make.
Some of the risk factors such as age and family history we have no control over. However, most of the risk factors are within your control. A healthy lifestyle can go a long way to reducing most of the risk factors. Things you can do are:
Heart and stroke disease is preventable and some evidence even suggests that with proper nutrition and lifestyle it is reversible.
It’s never too early to start on your heart health either. Arterial plaque build up can start in children as young as 10 years old and by the teens there may be plaque build up that will hang around through your life and potentially only get worse if lifestyle changes are not made.
If you want to be a resilient singer that will be able to sing for many more years to come, then you can book your free Singer’s Wellness Strategy Session with me. You can book it here.
May you share your gift of song with the world for many, many more years to come!
Disclaimer: The Fit Singer does not give medical advice nor claim to cure any medical conditions. If you do have a medical condition, any dietary, exercise or other lifestyle changes should be made under the supervision of your family doctor.
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.