It’s that time of year. Cold weather, the flu, the sniffles, all kinds of things that battle your vocal cords and wear you down.
I’m in a few Facebook groups, each of about 10,000 youth pastors, and this question came up today from a new youth pastor.
What do I do when I speak so much and don’t want to lose my voice this winter?
Even just to be able to link to this post, I wanted to take some time and put together my go-to tips and tools for battling winter weather and making sure my voice stays on point all winter long.
And for what it’s worth, I’m not a singer or teacher, but I preach every week. Some of these tips may be more or less than what you want, but I hope they’re helpful.
First things first, make sure you’re drinking enough water. Your vocal cords vibrate hundreds of times per second, and they need to stay lubricated. The more hydrated your body, the better the health of your mucous membrane and the better protected your vocal cords. I aim for about a gallon and a half of water each day, give or take depending on the physical and vocal demands of the day.
On that note, I try to avoid antihistamines as much as possible. These medicines (like Zyrtec, Allegra, Alavert) dry up the mucous membranes. Like we said in the last paragraph, a healthy mucous membrane is important for vocal protection, so drying that up can be detrimental, especially if you are already losing your voice.
But, maybe you’re like me? I went to an allergist this year and found out I’m allergic to dust, cats, dogs, and grass/pollen/trees present in Arkansas during spring, summer, and fall.
So, especially as a dog owner, I’m allergic to my home and my state.
I have an allergy prescription regimen each day which includes antihistamines. So what do I do? I stick with them and take extra precautions at home to make sure I don’t make things worse. If I make things worse and need to up medication to stay healthy and avoid sinus infections and end up losing my voice, that puts me in a lose-lose situation.
So here are some things that I do:
- When I’m playing with my daughters and wrestling, I throw down a blanket so I’m not directly on the carpet.
- I vacuum more regularly than most.
- When I come inside, I immediately wash my hands.
- I shower at night so I’m not sleeping in any pollen or dust from the day.
- I take Flonase after every warm shower.
- I never sleep in anything I wore that day.
- I wash sheets regularly.
I don’t drink coffee nearly as much as I used to (not that my caffeine intake has changed), but I try and avoid coffee, soda, and tea (other than the one below) 1–2 hours before I need to speak.
I don’t swear by this method like some do, but it’s still worth mentioning. The theory is that these are diuretics and lead to an increase in dehydration. I still don’t drink anything but water or Throat Coat before speaking, but don’t see it as the end of the world if I’m craving a Diet Dr. Pepper.
Throat Coat tea.
This is the jam.
Any serious vocalist or speaker I know swears by this stuff. It’s an organic tea you can find in most grocery stores, or you can just buy it on Amazon like I do. here’s the “Plant Story” listed on the packaging.
“The slippery elm tree has played an important role in Native American herbal medicine for hundreds of years. Inspired by its traditional use, we source our slippery elm domestically, where families collect the bark sustainably by hand to protect the trees for future generations.”
You get some water ready for tea, pour it into the mug with the tea bag in there, and steep it covered (I usually use a plate) for 10–15 minutes, squeeze the tea bag into the mug before throwing it out, and sometimes throw in some honey.
What I assume happens as you drink it is billions of micro-fairies invade your throat and join forces to keep it safe, healthy, and happy.
Every winter, I go through boxes and boxes of this stuff. It’s a game-changer.
I’ve never actually used a personal humidifier, but I know plenty of singers who use something like this one. Steam helps you rehydrate your dry vocal cords. Inhaling steam hits the cords immediately, allows them to rehydrate and get back to building up that mucous membrane, and soothes irritation.
Don’t talk. Whisper as needed, but keep it quiet. Especially when something major is coming up and I am feeling the early onset of vocal stress, I take a few days to make sure I’m not overexerting my voice.
Here’s another list of my go to resources:
Apps & Online Services Vital for Work
Game changing services to save precious hours and make work easier
But, as far as keeping my voice healthy during winter, those are my go-to tips and tools, what did I miss? Include it in the responses.
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Austin Walker is a husband, dad, pastor, and college football fanatic who leads a multisite student ministry team in Central Arkansas. He writes about leadership, productivity, team building, coaching, and theology.
If you want to find out more about Austin, listen to sermons, contact him about speaking, or inquire about coaching opportunities, visit www.austinjwalker.com
To see more about his life, follow him on instagram at www.instagram.com/austinjwalker