Ever since I launched my own business as a full-time Voice artist, I am super conscious about staying safe from germs, colds, and viruses. Admittedly, this new protocol is a far cry from the days when I would take advantage of paid sick days off from my employer. I mean, now that I am the boss (and let me just say I am super tough to work for! :), my health very much directly affects my livelihood! Now, as I am aging <gasp>, having the ability to work in good health - both physical and mental - has become more important than ever - not only to handle revenue for living expenses and have income to put away for my retirement, but also to keep my business growing and help provide jobs for my staff. So a healthy instrument (and a healthy me) is critical for my business. We may not always have control over when an illness or virus strikes, but I have learned some things along the way that you may find helpful.
First Things First. Try Not to Panic.
I know, I know, this is much easier said than done. I am probably one of the most hypersensitive people I know when it comes to illness. If my husband even starts to sniffle a tiny bit, I will get out the Lysol and start spraying (and this was even before the pandemic). But one thing I do know - and this is 100% absolute - your mind and body are a team. We’ve all experienced stress headaches, or shoulder tension when we’re stressed. Our mind thinks, and our body responds. So try not to panic. And please - don’t immediately rush to Dr. Google. I mean really - walk.away. from the keyboard! I have fallen prey to this temptation too many times, and I always seem to self-diagnose myself with the very worst diseases.
Start by helping yourself calm down by taking at least 3 deep diaphragmatic breaths. Breathe in through your nose for 3 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 6 seconds. As you breathe in, your stomach should extend outward. This, by the way, is super healthy for you! It helps you to relax as well as get a full beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. This type of breathing can also help lower or stabilize your blood pressure. Not only that, but it's also a great exercise for in the booth to calm yourself before a session, as well as help navigate those run-on sentences in your copy like a BOSS. :)
The Little Black Bag
There can be so many reasons you aren’t feeling 100%. Pandemic, allergies (Is it allergies or COVID?), stress, lack of sleep, dust, diet, just to name a few, the list goes on and on. One way to keep calm is to make sure you are stocked up on all the things you love and know make you feel better. (aka your Little Black Doctor's Bag) One thing that always makes me feel better when I am under the weather is herbal tea - I LOVE Darlenes's Roobios Tea - it's naturally decaffeinated and is full of beneficial vitamins, and it always soothes my sore throat. My favorite flavors are the Blueberry Bang Rooibos, Bourbon Street Vanilla Rooibos, and Georgia Peach Rooibos! They are also great iced.
I also use my line of VOcal Health essential oil remedies to help protect my immune system and help with my overall oral health. I have been using essential oils for years and decided to create this line of products since they helped me so much. I use my Vocal Throat spray pretty much daily in the booth to help soothe my voice for sessions as well as to help boost my immune system. And if I feel the sniffles coming on, I use it every few hours as needed to lessen the severity of my symptoms.
Other items I like to keep on hand include Honey, Zinc lozenges, Sugar-free cough drops, Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, Zicam, and Lemons. These are just some of the common remedies that have worked for me in the past. You might also try Slippery Elm Root, or something spicy to help clear out your sinuses. Hot sauce, garlic, wasabi, anything to open up and help you breathe. The bottom line is to be prepared; it will help you to stay calm while you’re figuring out your next steps.
The Dr. Is In
As voice actors, we have to take care of our product and take the health of ourselves and our voices seriously. This is no time to be in denial if you are feeling off. At the very start of something, make sure to get yourself in touch with a professional. This includes getting treatment for both your physical and mental health when needed. Because our primary product is US, taking care of US is necessary and important. Right now, I am LOVING telehealth. You can talk to a doctor, therapist, or medical expert anywhere you are by phone or video. It can help to get preliminary questions answered quickly and help to alleviate any stress you might be having about prognosis and next steps. For medical non emergencies, it is surprising what can be accomplished without even having to go into the office. That being said, I would much rather have a doctor look at me sideways for coming in, than have something more serious that I missed because I waited. I say this with all sincerity and heart to all of you as a cancer survivor. I made a commitment to myself a while ago to always try to be proactive rather than reactive about my health. That meant that I was always scheduling regular checkups with my doctor. And I truly credit my doctor(s) with saving my life by detecting my cancer early during a routine screening. I am so thankful and grateful. The faster you get a jump on treating your illness, the faster you’re going to be able to get back in the booth.
Honesty is the Best Policy
One of the things that can be scary as voice actors, is the feeling that if we’re sick, we are letting our clients down. How many times have you gotten that awesome gig or important audition from your agent, and then all of a sudden feel that sore throat coming on? Yup. Panic time! I've been there many times. Here's the thing that you have to remember, we’re all human. And as humans, we get sick sometimes. You certainly didn’t get sick on purpose. In fact, just about all of us are doing everything we can to NOT get sick. Just be honest. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at just how many clients will be understanding and be willing to wait for you to get better. I know I was always so grateful - and after all these years I only had a couple of clients who couldn't wait for scheduling reasons. Guess what, they are still my clients to this day! More than likely, your clients and agents will understand and appreciate your honesty.
Timing is Everything
I would imagine that this isn’t the first time in your life you’ve gotten sick. You kinda know yourself and how your body responds. Take advantage of that. In the early stages of not feeling well, if it is affecting your voice, you might not sound as bad as you think you do. Unless your voice is completely gone, it’s very possible to get through a job by using some of the easy home remedies mentioned above. Don't forget to always hydrate as much as you can. Suck on a lemon, spike your tea with hot sauce, whatever works to get you through. You might only be able to record one line at a time, but you can make progress. Conversely, if you know that you always feel the worst in the mornings, give yourself some time to be awake and feel better in the afternoon hours. Then when you’re finished, hit the sack! Get some rest and let your body power down and heal.
The Lights Are on, But the Voice isn’t Home.
Often, when you’re on the backside of an illness, and you’re mentally feeling better, it can take some time for the body to catch up. There are many times when I’m on the upswing of an illness that I feel fine, but my voice just isn’t back yet. This is a great time to catch up on all the other aspects of your business, like admin work, marketing, or how about finally refreshing that website? Consider it the perfect time to get all that non-voice work done and still be productive and growing your business!
When we are finally able to get out of our pandemic bubbles and be out and about again, it might be prudent to keep up with some of our healthier habits that we have established: Keep hand sanitizer with you, carry around wipes, wash your hands frequently. Use Telehealth to help you get an initial prognosis quicker And above all, so whatever it takes to always take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. And in the future, even if you do have to take a break to get back to 100%, it will be ok. I'm confident that you will come back strong and healthy rocking your business like a BOSS.
Much love and Keep on rockin' your health and your biz!
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.