It’s a singer’s worst nightmare: 5 days before a major performance and you wake up with a stuffed up head and a fever. Though I fancy myself Wonder Woman (I have the matching copper amulets to prove it), this happened to me yesterday. I woke up at 5:30 to drive to Los Angeles for my weekly voice lessons and felt a fever and a cold coming on. My voice was ok and I was still half-asleep, so I thought perhaps I just needed to wake up and I’d be fine. I left the house at 6 and began driving, only to find that the longer I drove the worse I felt. After about 45 minutes, I called it quits and turned around to go home and sleep it off. With a performance coming up this weekend, I couldn’t chance hurting my voice or wearing myself out. I headed straight home and began “project get-well.” I’ve been lucky this year. My new daily wellness regiment has kept off any cold or illness for over a year, which is amazing considering I used to get sick 3+ times a year. While my immune system continues to kick it into high gear and get me well at warp-drive, I’m going to share with you my daily regiment as well as my “get-better” process for speeding up the stages of the cold and keeping it from turning into a “my-life-is-over” sinus infection.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, a Ayurvedic physician, or a health practitioner, I am just a singer/yogi/health nut with 20 years of experience trying to stay well and and keep singing. Take what works for you and let the rest go. If you are unsure of anything, check with your own doctor or just don’t do it. Granted, some of these things are weird, they taste funny, they smell funny, they may even make you look funny, but a sick performer doesn’t care what they taste, smell, or look like, they just want to heal as fast as possible. Please also share your findings in the comments, I’m always seeking new things to try.
Daily wellness regiment:
When I wake in the morning, I drink an odd concoction of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and chia seeds all mixed into apple juice so I can muscle it down. My face is not pretty when I chug the shot and I sometimes have to pound the counter just to swallow, but the spices clean out of sinuses, the lemon juice jump starts my digestive system, and the apple cider vinegar keeps my vocal chords happy. I take my vitamins and heat up some hot water to make tulsi tea, a immunity boosting Ayurvedic tea which I will sip throughout the day as well as my morning dose of Natural Calm, a magnesium supplement to keep my mind focused and my muscles happy. I then head into the bathroom where the real fun starts… Neti Pots are a godsend for singers. This is a nasal irrigation system that looks much like a mini watering can. You mix pure salt with filtered water (not tap) into the Neti Pot, plug up one nostril, and let it flow out the other side…. Yes, it’s gross and it’s weird, but it works. You blow your nose and start in on the other side. I’ve been doing this for years, but I find that it only cleans out the nasal passageways and, personally, my sinuses are always the things that get blocked or infected. Enter the next gross/weird thing I do: oil pulling. This is a very holistic process where you take about a tablespoon or so of oil (I choose coconut oil because of its drawing properties), stick it in your mouth, and swish…and swish…and swish. This goes on for 20 minutes. There are lots of positive effects of oil pulling such as whiter teeth, detoxing, etc, but the most beneficial thing for me personally is the suction created from the swishing. This suction draws from my sinuses all the gunk, phlegm, and such which have settled overnight. When allergies hit or a cold is being warded off, this process can be a bit gag-inducing, but if it keeps my sinuses from becoming infected, I will do it. Usually, while the 20 minutes are ticking by, I continue getting ready for my day. When my timer goes off, I spit the oil (and various other gross contents) into the trash (oil isn’t good for your pipes) and then brush my teeth to get the remainder of the oil out. Then, the worst, most painful part of all, I use a nasal spray that is 1-part white vinegar to 2-parts water. It burns, it makes my eyes water, it makes my nose run, but it keeps sinus infections at bay.
All of these things are gross, time-consuming, and sometimes painful, but none of them are as gross, time-consuming, or painful as a cold or sinus infection when you are a performer. I now have it down to a tee so that I can wake up, go through my morning ritual, and be out of the house in 30 minutes if necessary and it is worth it to stay well.
Oh, no! I still got sick, now what?:
While this daily practice helps to keep illness less frequent and less severe, it is not a fool-proof system. Those pesky germs can still latch hold. So, what do you do when that happens and a performance, exam, or work are looming in the future? You go into germ-fighting overload. Again, this system works for me, but only do what works for you. What heals one person, might not help another. For instance, prescription drugs do nothing for me. The Vicodin they gave me when I had my wisdom teeth removed was pointless and I just let myself sleep through the pain instead. The only things that work with my body chemistry are holistic or homeopathic. These are suggestions to add to your germ-fighting arsenal, not quick fixes.
When a cold hits, I continue doing my daily wellness regiment, but kick it into high gear. I add a million different vitamins to the mix including sniffle-free, astragalus, bee pollen, ashwanganda, fenugreek seed, and grapefruit seed extract. Then I add fenugreek powder and thyme to all of my meals (to ward off sinus infections). I drink the apple cider vinegar concoction twice a day, Neti Pot twice a day, and oil pull twice a day. I also gargle twice a day with 1/4 tsp. hydrogen peroxide with 1 cup warm water which acts as an antibiotic. Please do not swallow. Then I do a bit of essential oil therapy with a room diffuser: lemon, eucalyptus, ginger, frankincense, and other oils help to clear the sinuses and keep the white blood cells working. Humidifiers are helpful to keep the illness from settling in your chest, but a personal steamer is a must have for singers.
Settle down with a good movie and keep the steam coming to knock the mucus off the vocal chords. Just beware that people will think you look strange… ah, who cares. Just explain in your Darth Vadar voice that you’re a singer who is sick, and they’ll leave you alone. Of course, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Hot liquids are best. If your pee is yellow, you’re not drinking enough! I’m a big fan of Kombucha as well. Brew your own or purchase your favorite brand. I often drink a half a bottle a day, but I up my intake to a full bottle each day when I’m under the weather. They say that most illness begins in the gut, so keep your digestive system happy and your body will stay happy. Lastly, I visit my favorite local hot springs. If you have a hot springs nearby, make a pilgrimage.
For $12 I can spend an hour in a private spa in heated sulfuric water, amidst the bubbles. The air and steam helps to clear the sinuses, the sulfur detoxes, and the bubbles strategically placed help to clear out any buildup in the chest.
If you don’t have a hot springs nearby, find a bathtub, add 3 cups of epsom salt, and the hottest water you can stand and immerse yourself in the bath for at least 20 minutes. Post-bath or spa, rub yourself down with sesame oil, always rubbing towards the heart or in a circular motion around the navel, elbows, and knees. Leave this oil on for 20 minutes (while you’re at it, put argan oil in your hair to make it soft and shiny) and then rinse off in the shower. Not only will your skin feel supple and moisturized, but you will have drawn the last of the toxins out of your body.
Lastly, sleep. I can’t stress this enough. Go to bed early. Wake up late. Sleep it off. Even if you’re resting all day, there is a big difference between resting and sleeping. This is when your body can go into true fighting mode and focus all of its energy on getting you well.
Stay healthy, be happy, and keep singing. Please share your own success stories and suggestions.
#bestrongin2015 challenge day 27: tucked handstand. There are lots of warnings, but not a one of them say “no handstands”. Fighting off a cold, I visited the local hot springs spa for an hour of soaking in hot water and and getting pounded by the jets. I smell like sulfur, but I should feel better by tomorrow… fingers crossed.