As I write this in June 2021, I live in Melbourne (a pseudonym for ‘the lockdown capital’), so I may have a distorted perspective, but I think I am not alone in believing this Covid world, full of uncertainties, is responsible for a common thread of anxiety. Whether you have lost your job, have no customers, or are holding onto your position by a thread, the disquiet runs deep in our psyches and affects us all. So, how can voice help?
We often think of voice as just a tool for speaking, but there is so much more by recognising voice as a signal of stress within us all. You just need to know how.
To state it plainly, voice is our barometer of mental state. We are all born with a voice of huge range and quality, and we alter that throughout our lives according to our nationality, our state of residence, our school and social environment and also our health. These often diminish our vocal tone to a limited range and quality that is part of who we are.
Critical is that our voice alter with stress and if that is not captured and managed it leads to a chronic vocal adaptation that in turn perpetuates the emotional trauma.
Once you are aware, you start to hear certain sounds. Anxiety will often send your voice tight, high and you can easily run out of breath. Depression closes a part of the throat called the ‘false vocal folds’ and gives you a raspy sound. Psychological withdrawal can cause the mouth to shut and the flow of breath to stop, whereas aggression can tilt the vocal folds to a belting position, and we may slam the vocal folds together into what is called a glottal attack.
This is not about words.
This is not about the words we say. It’s about vocal tone. Words and vocal tone are managed by different parts of the brain. Words activate the frontal lobes, whereas vocal tone is closely associated with the unconscious emotional mind and managing it is what I call ‘Vocal Intelligence’.
Having recognised it, can you really change? The answer is yes.
Of course, there are some things you can not alter. If you are a woman you have a higher voice than a man (whose voice is approximately an octave lower). This is a huge challenge for transexuals, when the voice needs to match the new gender preference, but there is still a huge range of opportunity for change in us all.
We don’t want to change ‘everything’. You are looking for changes in your vocal tone in the moment, not just analysing the ongoing habitual patterns.
So, listen and feel for changes and also ask those around you if they are hearing a different sound in your voice. Sometimes others, close to you, will pick it up more readily.
To take action, just realise the voice is simply air flow out of the body. We have to re-set a clear passage for that air to flow unhindered from the lungs to the outside world.
To get your heart and lungs reworking, here are seven tips to release your sound:
- Stand up straight
- Have your head on your body, not jutting forward or tilted back
- Breathe low in the body
- Open your mouth wide and get your tongue moving
- Open your arms and body
You will hear the difference immediately.
You can’t stop the emotion rattling your sound. It’s too fast and strong a response. But remember, you can take control.
Change your mind and change your voice
Change your voice and change your mind.
The tool for a better life is right under your nose.