In my last post I wrote about the importance of using silence as part of your overall vocal health. I got a lot of questions about "vocal rest", specifically about how to employ it when you're a busy working professional, and I will attempt to answer them here.
First, a quick review: Vocal Rest means complete rest, as in: no speaking, singing, humming, or whispering. That last one might seem confusing, but although there is no actual vocal tone coming through when we whisper, our vocal cords are still active. Allowing them to FULLY rest is what decreases inflammation.
Clients often ask, "what about sleeping? aren't we resting everything while we sleep?". For an answer, just watch a dog (a fellow mammal with vocal cords) while it's sleeping. Many of us are just as active, if not more, during the night. We talk, hum, moan, and whisper. Some of us are even chronic sleep talkers, waking up with voices that are sore and hoarse. Even if we're mostly quiet during sleep, it's important to schedule regular periods of vocal rest during the day if we want our voice to function at full capacity.
So what to do if you work in a busy office? First, write the words "VOCAL REST" (in all caps) on a blank sticker and apply it to yourself in a visible place (try somewhere above your heart). Now grab a pen and pad of paper (or small dry-erase board), and place them nearby on your desk. When someone asks you a question that demands an immediate answer, first point to the sticker, then to the pad (or board), and write out your response. You can also do all your talking by Slack, or some other inter-office app. Remember: your voice is all about communication, so it's important to let others know that you are still able to communicate even though you're vocally compromised*.
Wear your sticker around the office, even in meetings. Don't be ashamed! Your co-workers will most likely appreciate your dedication, and the fact that you are fully present at work even when you can't speak. Many of my clients tell me that once they start this habit, others pick it up, and it becomes more commonplace and acceptable. Continue to drink plenty of water, use throat lozenges**, and whatever anti-inflammatory assists your doctor may have prescribed. Stay committed to your recovery, and thank your co-workers for their patience once your voice returns.
*NOTE: if you have a job that requires full vocal power, such as sales, teaching, or trial law, consult your doctor for help with reducing vocal inflammation quickly. Most likely you'll be referred to a specialist, commonly called an otolaryngologist, who can help you navigate the next steps.
**NOTE: consult your doctor before using them