Stress is one of the most debilitating factors affecting our lives today. From the stress of losing a job to the frustration of finding a new job, from the strain of running a household to the additional pressure of handling a career, from the stress of raising children to the stress of trying to increase your pay grade, stress comes to each and every one of us in some manner on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, stress can affect your speaking voice. From spasmodic dysphonia to tension in the neck, throat, and/or jaw regions, you may find that your speaking voice is no longer working as it has in the past.
As a voice coach, I am encountering more and more individuals who are having difficulty with phonation, the production of voiced sound: tension in the upper chest, throat and even with the vocal folds (cords) is making it difficult for these individuals to speak smoothly and evenly. They may be gasping for air; their words may be dropped; or they may be unable to even produce sound during their speech.
If something similar is happening to you, it is not something that should be ignored because it will only get worse with time. What needs to be done, first and foremost, is to learn how to relax your body. Exercises are incredibly valuable in helping to alleviate tension which is why meditation and yoga are on the rise.
There is one other fundamental, however, that is more important than anything else if you seriously want to end your vocal disability. Learning to breathe with the support of your diaphragm is not only the best means of reducing your stress but also the only viable means of improving your phonation. By changing the way you breathe, you then reduce the tension in those areas which are being affected. Additionally, you also are then able to use your chest to power your voice instead of just your throat and vocal folds.
The majority of the population is unaware of diaphragmatic breathing because the majority of the population are known to be lazy or shallow breathers. What this means is that they are using only the upper portion of the chest for respiration. That in itself creates stress because this type of shallow or lazy breathing does not allow for the elimination of the toxins in the body.
Those who breathe with the support of their diaphragm, however, are able to reduce and, in many cases, eliminate their stress because diaphragmatic breathing eliminates those toxins. In doing so, the body relaxes. This is why yoga and meditation are so important. However, my advice is to learn to breathe with support and make it a habit. It is then when you will discover the innumerable benefits only possibly when your diaphragm is in play 24/7. It is an amazing feeling; it is a healthier feeling; and, it is the only way to stop the vocal problems you may be experiencing.