I won’t lie, with a new baby comes a lot of adjustments for everyone. There’s a lot of resting and healing that needs to happen for a new mom. But with two older kids who don’t understand the words ‘mom’s not available right now’, it’s been important for me to heal and recover as quickly as possible. This season of life has made me so aware of the power of what the body can do when we give it what we need, from eating nourishing foods to taking good quality supplements to making healthy lifestyle choices, and so grateful for how quickly my body has bounced back.
Whether you’re a postpartum mom, a college student, an athlete, or working a desk job, supporting our bodies can pay huge dividends in terms of our health and ability to function (especially during a time of year where the elements are against us)! As such, I’ve invited my good friend and colleague Alexi Sanchez, founder of Artist Life Vocal Health, to write in this week's blog about the power of protecting our bodies, and how our health impacts our many walks of life.
Alexi Sanchez is a Northwestern graduate who studied musical theater composing and performing. Her personal journey with vocal nodules during that time sent her on a deep dive to fully understand the voice and good practices for sustaining it. She has since been dedicated to helping professionals with the right lifestyle choices to proactively keep their voices healthy and strong.
Have you ever thought about how your health impacts your career? Like, really thought about it? It’s easy to write those two subjects off as completely unrelated. Your goals are separate - acquiring that prestigious client and eating more vegetables have nothing to do with each other. Your activities are separate - you don’t see anyone in a board meeting also on her treadmill (even if it’s on zoom). They are simply segmented parts of your life that seem to have very little to do with each other. But what if they’re not so separate? Your career can definitely impact your health. Stress from work can impact your mental health, or cause you to eat poorly. Long hours can impact your ability to have the exercise regimen that you’d like, to cook proper meals, or to get proper sleep. A low paying job may make it more difficult to invest in buying organic foods or high quality supplements. But take it one step further - have you ever thought about how your health impacts your career? For most of us, at least this time of year, getting sick ranges anywhere from a strong possibility to a fore-gone conclusion. And if we’re getting sick all the time, or take long stretches of time to recover from sickness, this impacts our careers in several different ways:
(1) Energy & Productivity
Getting sick zaps the energy out of all of us. Even if you’re like me and you do your best to power through not feeling well, our energy and productivity levels are never the same when we’re sick. We end up distracted, thinking more about pushing through than actually doing the work in front of us. Or if you call in sick, you miss out on the productivity of the day completely.
(2) Your Voice
Your voice impacts your career more than you realize. Think about the last time you had to interact with someone who lost her voice - kind of uncomfortable, right? Even someone who can speak but whose voice is strained, has a cough, or is constantly clearing his throat can distract from the words he’s trying to communicate.
Some professions are very directly impacted by the voice - for someone like an actor, a teacher, a lawyer, a pastor, a server, a realtor, a salesperson, or a business owner, the strength of your voice can legitimately make or break your income. For other professions, it may be more indirect, but your ability to communicate with coworkers and clients is a vital part of your career, no matter what your profession! And if you’re sick all the time, your voice is in a constant state of weakness and recovery - not strength.
Growing up, even through my college years, I had issues with colds and sinus infections that would plague me for weeks at a time, multiple times a year. With my background as a singer, that caused a lot of problems. Looking back, I’m not sure which was worse - losing my voice and not singing (which was depressing for me in the moment), or singing through it and developing vocal nodes (which turned into the need for a painful surgery years later).
Being sick does multiple things to damage your vocal cords:
Coughing, sneezing, and clearing your throat effectively slaps your cords together, causing unnecessary damage.
Nasal drip coats your cords, making it harder for them to vibrate together.
A stuffy nose makes it harder to get proper breath support.
A sore or itchy throat often causes improper vocal use.
When it’s tough to use your voice, you’re more likely to fight through to use it, which will probably result in overuse and potential long term damage.
So now that we’ve established that we don’t want to be sick, what’s the best way to fight against sickness?
In my opinion, anyone whose body allows them to should focus first on building a ridiculously strong immune system - all disease, viruses, etc. need a host (aka your body) to flourish - so build the host to bounce sickness at the door!
Getting my immune system and general health in a strong place has been one of the most life-changing decisions I’ve made. It hasn’t just helped my vocal health, but it’s helped in every area of my life. I don’t have to worry about planning for or taking sick days. I don’t have to worry about getting other people sick. I don’t have to worry about when I’m going to perform or speak or go on vacation. Getting sick can ruin any great life experience, let alone a singing or speaking engagement. A lawyer or teacher loses a lot of effectiveness when they’re coughing and sneezing constantly. In the past 8 years I’ve been sick for no more than 7 days, and it’s only been 1 day at a time. My quality of life has improved dramatically, and my voice thanks me for it.
So how did I do that? I believe the best approach involves both a strong defense and a strong offense.
Defense: Make Good Choices!
Trends come and go in terms of how to prevent the spread of disease. Here are some common sense approaches that have withstood the test of time:
Wash your hands regularly (20 seconds to ensure a thorough job)
If someone visibly has cold or flu symptoms, don’t go near them. If you want to protect your voice, don’t put yourself in a position to ruin it.
If YOU have cold or flu symptoms, don’t expose yourself to other people (always follow the golden rule).
When it's cold out, bundle up! It's better to be bulky than exposed to the elements. Though people don’t get sick because it’s cold, being in a constant state of cold can suppress your immune system. I know people who get sick just because they're too stubborn to put on a hat or a coat even in sub-freezing temperatures.
Offense: Supplement supplement supplement!!
I started taking high quality vitamins that actually work. There is no possible way to get all the nutrients you need out of your diet alone, so I found supplements that filled in the gaps...and then I added a little extra specifically to build my immune system. The result? I barely ever, almost never get sick. And when I do I recover with incredible speed! Though good choices and supplements are not guaranteed to prevent or cure any disease, what I’ve found is that they reduce risk.
I’ve chosen the Nutrilite brand for my supplements because I trust their ingredients. They source everything from their own organic farms, so they control the process, maximize the nutritional content, and use sustainable farming practices to help the environment. They also prioritize bioavailability, which means the ingredients actually absorb in your body instead of sitting in your stomach. Because of all that, they actually work! These are the products I used to transform my immune system:
Double X - I swear by this product. This multivitamin/multimineral/phytonutrient is my nutritional foundation, my safety net, and has everything I need to keep my body in a fully functional state.
Immunity Pack - contains Vitamin C Extended Release and Immunity Echinacea. Vitamin C supports the body by eliminating free radicals, and the extended release formula releases over 8 hours so your body can absorb it more effectively. Echinacea is an herb that helps support the body’s natural resistance. I like to add this if I start to feel that “tickle” in my throat.
Go Shield Gummies - a mix of Elderberry, Zinc, and Vitamin C, all ingredients that have been known for years to support the immune system. Completely clean (gluten free, dairy free, vegan, etc) and delicious! This product has given me more security, especially in recent times.
Vitamin D - in the winter time, especially in the Chicago area, we’re all at risk for vitamin D deficiency. And as it turns out, vitamin D is one of the biggest impact players in helping our immune systems fight contagious disease and viruses. Most people benefit from 1000-2000 IUs, or 25-50mcg of vitamin D a day.
Bonus: Immunity Defense Zinc + Holy Basil - I highly recommend this for anyone whose voice impacts their income, because Holy Basil supports respiratory health. Your ability to breathe highly impacts the strength of your voice, so it’s a go-to product for me!
One final piece of advice: Start now! Building your immune system is an ongoing practice, like working out or brushing your teeth. It’s best done continuously and proactively. The longer you work at it, the stronger it gets! And I personally want mine prepared for whatever life decides to throw at me next.