Saturday, March 24, 2012

Aaah-choo! Speaking while pol-undated

March came in like a lamb here in Northern Virginia, and the month quickly progressed to something resembling the dog days of summer. Consequently, here in the land of flowering cherry trees, all the tree flower pollens and those of other flowering plants have been released much earlier than expected. And my peonies are a month ahead of schedule! In my house, this early onset allergy season caught at least one of us by surprise. We are "pol-undated", inundated by pollen.

I have had a few clients who are encountering their very own SSDs --- seasonal speaking disorders. That is when your sinuses are congested and blocked, and your throat gets scratchy. There is so much pollen floating through the air it turns your blue car green. Think how hard your nasal cilia have to work to filter the air that goes through your nasal passages, your throat, and finally reaches your lungs. They try their darndest, but just can't keep up. Of course some pollen and other irritants get through!

It gets rather hard to speak through all the "crud" that collects in your throat and chest. But of course you can't block out all of allergy season on your calendar and say you won't/can't do a speech or presentation for three months. So what do you do?

You need to do your regular 7-10 minute vocal warm-up (you do have one of those, right?), starting off with breathing exercises to center you, articulation to make sure your consonants are crisp, and resonance awareness. Be sure to spend extra time on the resonance exercises, and do them a tad more slowly and gradually. In case you need a refresher on these: massage your face and gently hum up and down your vocal range to get vibrations going in your sinuses. Hot liquids and steam help move some of the mucus out of there. So warming up in the shower is a good thing, as is drinking hot tea (which for some reason is better than coffee). Avoid the impulse to just plow through. To force the sound out. That would only make things worse. Don't do it! You can stress your vocal folds that way, which can lead to all sorts of trouble down the road.

Take care of yourself. Keep hydrating so you can more readily flush the offending stuff out (the cilia, after all, do sweep it into the digestive system so it can be eliminated). And support your voice. You may not be as tiptop as you would like to be, but don't use that as an excuse to collapse into bad posture and shallow breathing. Let your voice vibrate through clogged sinuses as much as it can, but don't force it.

You'll thank me later.

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