Singing during a Global Pandemic (or anytime of great loss)
At this unprecedented time, most of us have been feeling the shock waves of anxiety, uncertainty, and grief. These feelings can often give way to either hyperactivity, or to a complete stopping of normal routines. As a singer, it is important that you make room for both ends of this spectrum. Of course, as a voice teacher, I should say: "You should be practicing as much as possible", but the reality is that may not be the healthiest option vocally and for the psyche. You see, the voice is tied intimately to our thoughts and emotions. It is practically impossible to separate them. (As anyone who will tell you that has tried to sing when crying, it is a futile endeavor.) We also know that the voice is a muscular and neurological machine in which habit formation happens in a relatively short amount of time. So, if you are practicing with unchecked tension, this will start to become a habitual reflex in your singing.
These two facts make it extremely important that we observe our physical and emotional state before singing. Notice that I ask to observe both physical and emotional states. I say this because it is very possible that your emotional state may feel normal, but you may notice a sudden kink in your neck that hadn't been there before, or a strange pulling in your hip flexor, or a tightness in your jaw. All these are indicators of emotional stress manifesting in the physical body. It is crucial that you notice these manifestations early on so you can employ methods of release before the problem snowballs.
Release the tension . . .
As many of you who work with me already know, I am a huge advocate of yoga. If you don't already have a practice, or are unfamiliar to the tradition, I recommend you take this time to discover yoga online. One of my favorite practices is on Youtube: Yoga with Adriene. On her channel, you will find many foundational videos of yoga, including her 30-day yoga challenges which you will find on her playlist. In addition to the many Youtube offerings of free yoga, you might also check out your local yoga studio and see if they are offering online classes currently! (It's a great way to support local businesses).
Going hand in hand with yoga, is meditation. Now, I know a lot of you are thinking: "I can't sit still for one minute, never mind 20!" However, that my friends, is precisely the point. If you can't sit still for one minute, chances are you need a meditation practice even more. I won't go on and on about the scientific proof about mediation (a quick google will bring up all the info you could possibly want), but suffice it to say that mediation can bring about positive physiological changes in the body. The mind becomes quieter, physical tensions release, thinking becomes clearer, and so much more. A meditation practice ultimately becomes tied with breathing practice. We tune our attention to our cycles of breath, and thus direct our focus on that simple action instead of the Netflix disaster unfolding in our head. There are many resources to help you meditate, including apps and youtube videos. For beginners, guided mediation is probably the best bet, and you want to look for something that takes you through basic steps of mediation and creates a relaxing atmosphere. I highly recommend the guided meditations of studio member and Youtube influencer: Mei-lan Maurits who combines sound therapy with her guided meditations.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) aka "Tapping"
Another technique I use to release anxiety, tension, and depression is the Emotional Freedom Technique. This system uses acupressure points which are activated by "tapping" on them in a systematic blueprint which verbally exploring stressful ideas with yourself. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will leave a video here which explains how exactly to "tap". As I have told some of my students before: I highly advise privacy before embarking on a tapping session. This surprised me greatly, but the first time I used tapping (quite skeptically, I might add), a tidal wave of emotion rose up and I cried and cried for a long time. Afterwards, I felt like a new woman. This is the power of this technique, which is also great to use also for blocks in the practice room. If you are having trouble with a particular technique or passage of music, "tapping" about the issue can help release the emotional blockage around the passage and free you up physically. I know there will be skeptics out there in the audience, but try it with an open-mind and you may just be surprised with the results!
To sing or not to sing . . .
Now that you have released your physical and emotional stress, then it is time to evaluate if you have the energy to sing. If you feel ready to dive back into practicing, then by all means, GO FOR IT! But if you still feel lethargic, it is OK to take a little time to get back. Make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of liquids (no, Bob, beer doesn't count)
Keep doing light exercise and listening to music. At the very least, the act of listening will help keep your internal ear exercised for when you are able to practice again. Also, get LOTS of rest . . . chances are you have the time. But most of all, be easy on yourself. The practice room will be there waiting. . .