If you are plagued by a great deal of stress on a daily basis, do you know what it is doing to your speaking voice? You are probably aware that it is affecting your sleep, your diet, your mental health, your physical health and your overall well-being. But what do you think it is doing to your voice? Possibly you notice a strangled sound or tightness in your jaw that becomes more apparent as the day wears on.
Stress is not something to be taken lightly and there are hundreds of books, articles, and CDs to help you alleviate the tension you experience every day. How many of these programs, however, discuss diaphragmatic breathing as one of the most important things you can do to lessen, and in many cases, to alleviate that stress?
Yes, you really must learn to prioritize which is a feat in itself. While you are working on defining your priorities, however, might I suggest that you learn to breathe with the support of your diaphragm as well? If shallow or lazy breathing, which is typical of 99% of the population, actually increases stress, imagine what could happen if you learned to breathe with support. It is a known fact that diaphragmatic breathing naturally reduces the toxins in the body which shallow breathing is unable to do.
Your neck, shoulder, and jaw regions would begin to relax which in turn would have an immediate impact on your speaking voice. The voice that is being produced by tense, tight muscles tends to be higher in pitch than it should be, likely nasal, and more strident in nature. Once relaxed, the voice becomes warmer, richer, and, given the right tutelage, deeper in pitch.
It is also much easier to speak – physically – when you are relaxed than when you are stressed because your entire vocal apparatus including your vocal cords, throat, mouth and nasal passages are not under strain. The 5th and most important of your vocal resonators is your chest cavity. If you are a shallow or lazy breather, then I can tell you in no uncertain terms that you are not using it as your primary sounding board.
By learning to power your sound by means of your chest cavity, you will notice a tremendous difference in the quality and strength of your voice without undue pressure on both your larynx and pharynx. And, in the process you will discover the best means of controlling your stress, your nervousness, your anxiety, or your angst just by taking a deep, supported breath.
Don’t let stress affect the way you sound. Learn to breathe; use your chest cavity to power your sound; and listen to what happens to your speaking voice.
If you would like to learn how to reduce the amount of stress in your life and discover your richer, deeper, more mature-sounding voice, join me in Mt Laurel, NJ, October 12 & 13 for my next Voice & Presentation Skills Workshop.