Top Ten Ways to Have A Healthy Holiday

With the holidays in full swing, we as singers have to make difficult decisions to protect our health as best we can. The CDC is warning that the combination of COVID, RSV, flu, and other respiratory viruses could strain hospitals by the end of this month, coinciding with holiday celebrations. Take some steps to safeguard your health and the health of others this holiday season.

  1. Plan ahead! I know we’re finishing up our holiday gigs, and some of you may be working on music for next year, which will come quicker than you think. Even if you’re in the throes of finals and caroling and Messiah gigs, take some time to plan ways to safeguard your health. This includes a Plan B if one of your colleagues tests positive for COVID, or if you wake up unable to phonate. Make sure you have plenty of tests, and all of the teas, soups, and OTC medications that you prefer if you catch something.
  2. Accept disappointment. No one likes to get sick, especially around the holidays. If you get sick, be as careful as you can around others with whom you have to interact. It’s not ideal to cancel performances, but it’s unfair and dangerous to put others at risk. Make sure that you have a list of trusted colleagues you can recommend to take your place if need be. If a family member is sick, you may have to live with their disappointment. It’s ok to wear a mask even when others are “over it,” because your health matters. It’s ok not to go to the home of a sick family member. You may have a family member who is angry with you. They’ll get over it, just like they’ll eventually get over their contagious infection. Your instrument is at stake. If they are unwilling to make accommodations for that or demand your presence without safeguarding your health, a friends’ gathering or spending a restful day at home are acceptable alternatives. You don’t owe anyone, including family members, your presence at the cost of your health.
  3. Meditate, rest, and journal, or whatever your preferred self-care activities are. Your mental health is important too, and this is a hard time of year for many people. Reach out to trusted loved ones, and don’t be afraid of sadness at the holidays. It is something many people experience, and as you may have noticed from the news, the world is a sad place. You as an artist are especially in touch with these emotions, and it is important for you to “feel your feelings.” Have a good cry, talk to a friend or family member, and make space for the heartbreaking side of life, because bottling it up isn’t good for you. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, please call 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Your vocal health matters, and so does your mental health.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep! It’s difficult in a busy time of year to get good sleep, let alone enough sleep. You may have to say “no” and decline invitations, take a sleep aid at a doctor’s recommendation, or block out time to be still and prepare for sleep. Also, it’s winter, it’s a time for more sleep.
  5. Don’t skip movement! You may not have time for your typical exercise routine or full workouts, but make movement a part of every day during the holiday season. Skip the elevator or do some light stretches or weight training between your engagements and responsibilities. 
  6. Know your limits. This is a tricky one, and the holidays are a time of indulgence and over-indulgence. That comes in many forms: over-socializing, which can tire you out, and rich foods and drinks that can keep you from being balanced. Limit your alcohol intake, as it can cause vocal dryness, and you may not notice your volume or vocal overuse when over-imbibing. Be careful with heavy, rich, or acidic foods, as those with reflux or GERD can have vocal difficulties. Enjoy the cookies, but don’t skip the veggie tray. You have to know your body, and make the best possible choices to feel good and still sing your best. That said, savor the tastes and fun of the holidays, as experiencing joy is healthy too!
  7. Avoid noisy environments. For singers, we can overexert ourselves vocally in noisy environments. Your spouses’ office holiday party may have very loud music, or you may be too close to the monitor during the concert you have to sing. Be aware of overextending your voice in a noisy environment, and take adequate rest.
  8. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water, especially with all the added performances. There are a plethora of warm drinks to celebrate the season that can keep you hydrated and still be tasty. When you are singing a performance, make sure to hydrate (and take a trip to the bathroom) well before the performance begins. Lozenges and hard candies can help with longer performances.
  9. Get outside. Even if the weather outside is frightful! Get some fresh air. Put on your warmest layers. Get into nature, go for a walk. It can be a quiet one, on your own, in a winter wonderland, or it can be in the meadow, where you can build a snowman with your beloved. Or it can be to the town Christmas tree lighting (but careful, if you’re going home from the big city, you may just fall for a small town Christmas tree farm owner). Jokes aside, time spent outside is good for physical and mental health.  
  10. When all your finals, papers, grading, performances, etc. are over, put on those flannel pajamas and take a break! Taking breaks are an essential part of being an artist, and being a human. Embrace your inner bear and go into hibernation mode for as much as you are able. Enjoy this time, you’ll be back to rehearsals and responsibilities soon enough.
Joanie Brittingham

Joanie Brittingham is the Associate Editor for CS Music. She is also a soprano and writer living in New York City. She can be reached at joanie@csmusic.net. Visit her on Instagram and TikTok at @joaniebrittingham.