“A lump in my throat…”
“Feelings getting stuck in the throat…”
“Choking back the tears…”
Many metaphors associated with strong feelings use words relating to our voice or throat. Our body holds and expresses emotions, and our voice in particular is connected at a basic level to our emotions. Just think how easily you can recognise how someone is feeling by the sound of their voice. Given this strong connection, it is not possible to work on voice care or voice problems without paying some attention to our emotional well-being.
Stress and/or anxiety is a feature of many diagnosed voice problems, it may be 1) the trigger, 2) a factor that’s maintaining the problem, or 3) as a result of experiencing voice loss. The degree to which stress or anxiety is contributing to a voice problem can vary hugely, and usually for any lasting change to occur, there needs to be changes in how the person deals with stress. So what to do?
The challenge can be looked at from both sides…changing our voice, or changing our mood.
So, how does our voice affect our mood? Well, when we let our voice and body express how we feel, we can feel better. Children are great at this…One day last summer my son hurt his toe climbing onto the trampoline. He let out a loud ‘ah…’ This lasted continuously (with brief pauses for breath) for around 2 minutes. My natural instinct was to first comfort him and secondly to encourage him to stop yelling…but I stopped…I let him yell. When he did stop, he simply started bouncing as if nothing had happened. It showed me how in tune he was with his own body. He felt pain and anger, he released it, and then it was gone…
As adults we usually suppress that vocal release, and so hold the tension or pain in our body. In my voice workshops, I give participants a chance to reconnect with their natural sounds, the sounds our body makes intuitively, when our thinking brain doesn’t get in the way.
When we’re more connected to our body, the voice can be freer. Approaches such as the Alexander Technique can be particularly useful in this regard.
Looking at the other side of the coin, working on feelings and stress can change your voice. Finding an avenue to look at stress in your life, and/or addressing your mental health, is important. This is often a feature of voice therapy. Other approaches include those relating to the mind-body relationship, such as yoga or the Alexander technique, or addressing thoughts and feelings through avenues such as stress management, or counselling.
Unfortunately, in our current lifestyle, we can’t escape stress, but we can acknowledge it, and instead of pushing it away, notice where we hold it in our body. This is a starting point.
Article featured in March 2014 edition of Connected Communication Newsletter
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