After it was recommended to me by multiple people, last week I finally got around to reading The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. I have mixed feelings on the book, but there was one quote that really stood out to me and prompted a lot of thinking.
I felt this quote encapsulated so succinctly what true self-care is, not just for our voices and our relationship with our singing, but for our lives in general.
"Treating myself like a precious object makes me strong."
I think this is a particularly important thing to remember, especially during the chronic stress we have collectively experienced during the pandemic. It gets to the crux of what true self-care really is.
Sometimes we feel that in order to become strong, or develop resilience, that we need to constantly push past our comfort zone and work really, really hard. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when many people hear the words “self-care”, their minds may go to an extra slice of chocolate cake or an online shopping spree.
When in reality, a meaningful self-care practice is what leads to strength. Self-care places us in a position where we can explore our full potential and more effectively help others around us.
When you treat yourself as a precious object, you adopt a lifestyle that enables growth. You wouldn’t tell something precious (I like to think of a puppy!) that it’s voice is ugly, it’s body isn’t good enough or work it until it’s exhausted. Nor would you deprive it of movement, hydration or a nutritious diet. You are precious, and you have every right to treat yourself as such.
Your voice is precious
Given the tiny, delicate nature of of your vocal folds, in the most practical sense of the word, your voice is precious. When you then admire its function, that it can sing masterpieces that bring people to tears, it can make speeches that change the world, tell your dear ones that you love them, it can be used to communicate with and teach others... it starts to take on a position as one of our most precious assets.
You can find a plethora of ways on the internet to physically look after your voice. In fact, I've already made a video about it. So let's look at some alternate ways you can treat your voice as a precious object.
Specifically how you are practicing. I like think of singing for self-care in two different modes diffuse and focused.
Diffuse singing is just singing for the sheer joy of it. Sometimes there's nothing more therapeutic than belting out a few tunes and getting the amazing rush of dopamine and serotonin that goes with it. Just be sure to not push past your limits of fatigue, even if you're having heaps of fun!
Focused singing is more the conditioning aspect of voice training that we associate with practice. Ideally you want to be doing this 3-5 times a week. The key however is short sessions, but ensuring those sessions are super mindful and concentrated. I will likely write a dedicated post to this in future, but if you would like a teaser, have a read about the 80/20 principle. Factor in adequate rest. Focused singing could be compared to going to the gym. It's work that will get you results efficiently, much like having good form when lifting weights, but strength and development only comes after a period of recovery. Rest is as equal a part of self-care as activity.
On a more figurative note, treating your voice as a precious object also means freely expressing yourself. It may come in the guise of allowing your breath to release and flow as you sing without fear of holding anything back. It may mean standing up for yourself in a tense situation. It may be telling your story after remaining silent for a long time. Or it could be bringing your own narrative subtext to a song you're working on.
Respect that your voice is an extension of your thoughts and emotions. You are complete just as you are. I did a whole piece on this recently, which you can watch here.
I hope this quote prompts you to have a think about your current lifestyle and how you are treating yourself. I think it's a nice thing to have in the back of your mind, as it promotes balance and listening to your body every day.
Your needs, and therefore the ways you need to engage in self-care, are constantly changing. Sometimes you do need complete rest (or as I call them "potato days"), other times you need a bit of a push to maintain healthy habits. On most days it's a combination of both! If you ask yourself, "how can I treat myself as a precious object to make myself strong?" the answer of what you need will likely be pretty obvious to you.
Happy self-caring! <3 Livia Brash,
Singing for Self-Care