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Protecting Your Vocal Health – Tips from a Voice Coach

As a seasoned voice actor, you need to make sure that you are protecting your voice at all times. This means that you have to do the right kinds of vocal warm ups in order to protect your vocal health and ensure the longevity of your voice acting career, as well as maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Voice Actor and Coach, Susan Berkley, has been in the industry for over 30 years and is the author of the book Speak to Influence: How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice. She shares the techniques, health tips and vocal warm ups that you should build into your everyday work life, to ensure that you are treating your voice in the best possible way while still being productive and successful.

Understanding Vocal Health

Here are the 5 main tips and aspects of your vocal health that Susan recommends you should focus on in order to take your vocal health seriously:

  1. Diet
  2. Work Hours vs. Downtime
  3. Overall Health
  4. Vocal Placement
  5. Vocal Warm Ups

Vocal health is something that needs to be tailored on an individual by individual basis.

“People need to understand their own instrument – they need to be warmed up and they need to understand how to speak in a healthy manner for 50 minutes at a time, and not everybody has that ability. But I take this very seriously,” says Susan.

Vocal Health Tip #1: Eat a Balanced Diet

Susan acknowledges that diet is going to vary from individual to individual but when you get to the professional level, voice actors need to start taking vocal health seriously.  When you have to do 4 hours of voice over work each day, you have to understand that your voice is a part of your body – and to treat it in a healthy way.

“Some people think ‘Oh I talk all the time, I’ll be fine’ but that’s not how it works,’ explains Susan. “You’re like an athlete in the sense that you’ve got to be ready for the long haul”

So what are somethings you can do to protect your instrument?

Foods to Avoid Before Recording Your Voice

First off, watch what you put into your body.

Top 3 foods to avoid  before your recording session:

  1. Fried foods
  2. Dairy products
  3. Caffeine

Dairy and fried food tend to produce more phlegm, which is obviously not good for recording. And although it may be extremely tempting to reach for the caffeine, Susan recommends not having caffeine right before a session. “Tea and coffee are very drying to the voice. You certainly should not be drinking these things during a session. Give some time before speaking and when you have your caffeine,” says Susan.

Pro Tip: Susan puts matcha in smoothies that she drinks in the morning so that she gets the benefit of tea and caffeine, without having it actually pass over your throat.  

Foods that Strengthen Your Voice

What types of foods should you be eating in a day to maintain your optimal vocal strength?

In order to keep her voice in top shape, Susan tries to maintain a plant-based diet as much as possible in order to keep her voice in top shape.

“If it’s in the morning you might have oatmeal, but don’t put cream on it. [Instead], you can have some protein or some nuts and fruit. If it’s around lunch you eat a lean piece of meat or tofu on a salad and vegetables, just around recording and there will be less phlegm and it will tend to keep your voice clearer,” advises Susan. “And again everybody’s different. You have to address [these aspects of your health] to be not just a successful voice talent but a successful business owner. You must maintain your health.”

It also goes without saying that you should also be paying attention to the amount of water you are consuming in a day – staying hydrated is extremely important in protecting your voice. When Susan wakes up in the morning the first thing she does is drink a big glass of lemon water.

Vocal Health Tip  #2 – Work Less Hours a Day

Once you have your diet sorted out, the next thing to consider is how long you should actually be working in one day.

A common occurrence that Susan has run into in her career is that voice actors – whether they are new or seasoned talent – don’t rest their voices enough. It can be tempting to work many hours a day, especially when working from your home recording studio, however, downtime and rest is equally as important as working hard.

“If you don’t understand what you limits are and how to protect your voice health, you can do a lot of damage, says Susan. “The rule of thumb is [work for a total of] 4 hours each day, with a regular break. Spend 50 minutes ‘on’ and then take 10 minutes off, plus a lunch break in the middle. So you’re really not going strong for more than 50 minutes at a time, but you’re taking a lengthy break in between those two hour blocks of time,” she recommends.

Vocal Health Tip  #3 – Do Your Vocal Warm Ups!

Vocal warm ups are an important part in maintaining your productivity throughout the day.

“Think about your vocal warm ups, those are muscles just like the rest of your body,” says Susan.

Here is an audio clip of some of Susan’s favorite vocal warm ups to get your day off to a great start:

Along with the exercises above, there are other exercises you can do to warm up your voice before stepping in front of the microphone.

Lip Flutters

Susan recommends using the time in the shower to start your warm ups. The warm, moist air from the shower is the perfect time to start lip flutters.

“Lip fluttering is a strengthening exercise for the vocal folds – speech pathologists use it, it helps for breath support as well,” Susan advises.


Fricatives are consonants that are formed by impeding the flow of air so that a friction sound is produced. Common consonants are p’s, b’s and t’s. You can learn more about how to produce fricatives from vocal coaches or from videos online.

No matter the vocal warm ups you use, lip flutters, fricatives or others, they are a critical way to start your voice acting day. If you are not properly warming up your vocal folds each day, you can do serious damage to your voice and potentially ruin your voice acting career.

“I met a gentleman who does a lot of teaching and speaking. He didn’t pay attention to this and he did permanent damage to his vocal folds. That would be a tragedy for any of us as voice talent, so don’t mess around. If you’re hoarse, go to a specialist. That’s what they’re there for and they’re used to working with voice talent and singers and performers like us,” Susan cautions.

Susan recalls a time about a year ago when she realized her voice was becoming a bit hoarse. “This is something a normal person wouldn’t even pay attention to, but for me, because it’s my instrument, it’s my livelihood – I instantly went to the ENT (ear, nose, throat doctor) and had my voice scoped,” Susan says.

Susan ended up learning that she had acid reflux. The cause? She was not breathing properly, which came as a shock to her. “I realized I’d gotten into a bad habit of not breathing in between thoughts in normal conversation, and that was putting undue strain on my voice,” she says.

Susan recovered from acid reflux by changing her diet to exclude certain foods that were just too acidic for her and decided to consume a mostly plant-based diet. She was also instructed to do certain exercises by her doctor to get her back on track.

The main takeaway: If you are experiencing any differences in your voice, seek out the help of a specialist right away.

Vocal Health Tip #4 – Be Aware of Your Vocal Placement

Being aware of how you are speaking can really help to reduce the amount of strain on your voice. The good news about being a voice actor is you are not a public speaker – for the most part you are not projecting your voice – you are up close to the microphone so you don’t have to worry about too much vocal strain. But on the other hand, you also have to be aware of whispering too much or being too breathy, which could also cause a vocal strain.

Susan instructs on the proper way to speak – and it has to do with the vocal mask, also known as the facial mask.

The facial mask area is the area that stretches between the sinuses, throat and larynx. It’s a forward placement of the voice and the way you do that is by humming and speaking at the same time. For more voice placement tips, check out the best vocal warm ups. 

Vocal Health Tip #5 – Take Care of Your Whole Body

Working out your body is equally as important as taking care of and warming up your voice.

“Everybody, first of all, should be working out. Even if it’s just a walk everyday – that’s fine – but everyone should be getting physical activity first thing in the morning for at least 20-30 minutes a day,” says Susan.

You can also use your downtime during the day to get in some exercise. However, it’s starting your day on the right foot that sets you up for success and productivity throughout your whole day.

Susan is a creative professional who doesn’t need to take too much downtime during the day, and the reason is because she starts her day on the right foot. It’s starting your day correctly that sets you up for success and productivity throughout your whole day – and what starting your day properly means to you is something that you can learn from trial and error.

“I’m starting the day in good physical and mental health. I’m getting behind the mic in good shape and I’m mindful of my posture and how my script is hanging in the booth so that I’m not straining,” says Susan. “I stop when I’m tired and I keep myself hydrated. So in my downtime I’m marketing. I don’t need long periods of relaxation – I think work is energizing,” says Susan.

Taking care of your whole body also means starting your day at a time that is suitable for you. If you are a night person, then save any strenuous work for a time of day when you are most energized – there is no ‘right’ time of day for your voice – it’s whatever time you feel most energized. Take it from Susan, an early bird.  

“I’m a morning person, so if I were speaking near the end of the day and I’ve left all my recordings until 10 o’clock at night, I would be at my physical weakest and also exhausted, so it’s up to the person,” she says.

Other Do’s and Don’ts From Susan

  • Do take plenty of breaks.
  • Don’t take aspirin before a screaming session. If you are voicing a video game character, for example, where your might be screaming or grunting for longer periods of time, avoid aspirin as it will thin your blood and make you more susceptible to damaging your vocal folds.
  • Do work with a vocal coach if you are going to be trying out a new gig or new voice strategy (screaming, yelling, learning a dialect, etc). Susan had a friend who hired a singing coach who is used to working with rock singers and he learned how to yell and scream and still protect his voice.

Ultimately, every person is different. At first it may take you a bit of time to discover the habits and routines that work best for you and your lifestyle. Once you find those things that work best for you, be sure to stick to the routine and listen to your body.

About Susan Berkley

A Photo of Susan BerkleyThe Great Voice Company was founded in 1987 by Susan Berkley, a voice talent, former radio personality and author of “Speak To Influence: How To Unlock The Hidden Power Of Your Voice”. Susan is a former cast member on the Howard Stern Show and left radio to pursue her voice over career and start her own business. She quickly became a sought after voice talent, becoming the signature voice of ATT and the branded telephone voice of Citibank.

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HEALTH TIPS: Feel pretty good? Here’s how to feel better – Sarasota Herald

We all know we shouldn’t smoke. That we should swap our sugared soda for water. That we should exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.

Good suggestions. But what if you don’t smoke? If you don’t even like carbonated drinks? If 30 minutes might as well be 300?

There are ways to be healthier right now. Just take a deep breath, tie your shoes and go.

• Keep chewing: Are you eating as you’re reading this? We’ll wait if you want to answer.

“Put down your fork or spoon and just chew for what feels like the longest time,” says yoga instructor Veleisa Patton Burrell. By doing that, you’re not wolfing your food, which can lead to eating more than you need, she says. Added bonus: It helps you pay attention.

• Schedule an eye appointment: Even if you never squint or hold menus at arm’s length, you still need to see an ophthalmologist (physician specializing in the eyes) or optometrist (doctor of optometry).

“Most people don’t realize that signs of serious systemic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even cancer can be detected through eye exams,” says Dr. Robert Chu, an optometrist.

When eye professionals give an eye exam, they’re looking at blood vessels and nerves in the eye, which are connected to others throughout the body. That’s how they can detect those early signs.

• Pick up the phone: Not to check email or watch a video, but to actually do what a phone is designed to do — call someone whose company you cherish.

Having healthy emotional connections with others is life-enhancing, says Ron Stein, a psychology instructor and practicing psychologist at Mountain View College. “It has been documented how human connections, where there is positive emotional support, can actually repair the ends of chromosomes that have been damaged through stressful lifestyles and events.”

• Tell yourself, “For five minutes, I will …”: Then do it, right this very second. Maybe run in place or do jumping jacks during commercials. Or do bicep curls using canned goods. Five minutes will likely lead to more, says Kellie Rodriguez, a registered nurse and director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland Health Hospital System. The key for many of us is just getting started.

• Stand up: “Studies clearly show sitting associated with worse heart health regardless of how much exercise one does,” says Anand Rohatgi, a cardiologist at Parkland and associate professor of cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Aim for 15 minutes of standing every hour while you’re at work, he says.

If you’re standing now, sit down. Then stand up. Then sit down. It’s all about moving, says Dallas-area personal trainer Melissa Spoonts. “The more you can move, not only in your workouts but in everyday life, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, the faster you will reach your goals.”

— Leslie Barker, The Dallas Morning News

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Health Tips: Top 10 Biotin Rich Foods

Biotin is a B vitamin. It is also called vitamin B7 (and even vitamin H) and is one of the B complex vitamins that convert food into energy. Having healthy amounts of biotin is associated with having glossy hair, glowing skin, and sturdy nails.

Here are top 10 biotin rich foods which you should consume in your diet.

Sweet Potato
A half-cup of cooked sweet potato contains approximately 2.4 mcg of biotin.

One cup of raw cauliflower provides up to up to 4 mcg of biotin.

Cheese provides 0.4 mcg of biotin per ounce.

Avocado contains between 2 to 6 mcg of biotin

One medium size banana contains 1.18 mcg of biotin.

A quarter-cup of roasted almonds containing 1.5 mcg.

Half a cup of boiled spinach contains 0.5 mcg of biotin.

A cup of 2 percent milk has 0.3 mcg.

Half a cup of fresh broccoli contains 0.4 mcg of biotin.

One whole cooked egg contains 10 mcg of biotin.

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For many, it’s apple season and we have some tips for getting the most health benefits out of them

Aside from getting outside and enjoying the fall weather, health experts say the apples you’re picking are good for you too.

Registered Dietician Kate Patton says the fiber in apples is a soluble fiber and can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.  

When it comes to choosing which color apple to eat, Patton says try to choose a wide variety.  Some folks like to peel their apples, but Patton says there are nutritional benefits to the apple’s skin as well.

“There definitely is a lot more of those antioxidants in the skin, because the apples have all different colors, so the more color you get, the more nutritional value, and the more antioxidants you get.  So, if you can, that’s great but there is good nutritional value from inside of the apple too.”

If you have concerns over pesticides on apples, either choose organic apples or simply wash them thoroughly.

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Weight loss tips from a health and fitness expert

Losing weight can be a tricky thing; sometimes all the salads and gym sessions in the world feel like they’re doing absolutely nothing for your waistline. But those custard tarts? Just one seems to set you back.

We get it, we absolutely get it. Trying to get into shape can be a tiring and long process (and our 21st century ‘I want instant gratification’ brains do not like having to wait to see results!), but take solace in the fact that with enough hard work the kilos will start dropping off.

To help you shed those last few kilos, health and fitness expert, Voome co-founder and nutritionist, Amelia Phillips, shares three great weight loss tips.

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Top tips for managing your health at university

Students around the world have set off for their first exciting study abroad semester. Going to university can be an overwhelming experience, and many are living away from home for the very first time. With so much to remember and learn in a new and unknown area, it’s not always so easy to look after your health.

Here, Alistair Murray, Clinical Director at Echo – an app that helps you track medication consumption – gives some helpful tips on how to look after your physical and mental health while at university and make the most of your experience.

Source: Giphy

Plan ahead

The first few weeks of university are a whirlwind of activity, so use this time now to sort out any necessary health arrangements. This includes signing up for a GP. Most university towns have their own health centre, where the GPs are familiar with issues students frequently face. Whenever you’re back home for the holidays, you can still visit your local GP for up to 14 days of care, but after that you’ll need to register as a temporary resident.

If you have a serious condition that could affect day-to-day student life, be sure to alert the university, including those in charge of your accommodation and department ahead of time.

Make sure your records follow you

GP services don’t necessarily pass on your records when you sign up to a new practice, so once you’ve registered, ask for your files to be shared with your new GP. This is particularly important if you have a repeat prescription, as it will make life easier when it comes to ordering your next set of medication.

Extra preparation is needed for students going abroad

Students going to university in another country must be aware of the new healthcare system you’re entering, as well as what this might mean for your health condition.

For example, in Scotland, prescriptions are free. Do some research into the country and if you can register with a doctor do so. If you take medication, make sure to bring a note from your doctor with you alongside your prescription. Having these translated will also be beneficial if you’re going to a non-English speaking country.

Keep to your routine

A routine can be difficult to maintain at university- particularly for those who have very few contact hours in their degree. But routine can be important for some health conditions, especially if you take medication for it. Some must be taken at a set time each day. Setting reminders through an app like Echo can help you keep track of your medication.

Source: Giphy

Take advantage of technology

University will often be the first time you have sole responsibility for your health, with no Mum and Dad around to make sure you pick up your prescription or take your medication. But technology has the capacity to help you.

Along with the apps helping you track your lectures or find out about local club nights, apps like Echo help you manage your medication by sending out reminders for when to take it, and when to order more – delivering the medication straight to your door. This leaves you to enjoy the student experience to the max!

Tell your friends and flatmates

If you have a serious health condition, allergies or take repeat medication tell at least one friend or flatmate. In case something goes wrong you’ll want someone close by that knows and understands your condition.

Don’t keep it to yourself! Source: Giphy

Find your support network

According to YouGov, one in four university students suffer from a mental health condition. Stress and anxiety can be common as you deal with challenging work, tight deadlines and living by yourself.

If you have or develop a mental health issue during your time away, just know you’re not alone. There are a number of groups that can support you during these times from your GP, to wellbeing services to student-led support groups . Make sure you’re aware of the groups available to you and use them as you need. This will also mean you are equipped to advise and support others.


Consider new prescription costs as you progress through university. Unfortunately, it’s an expense that’s likely to rise as you grow older. To reduce this cost, look for pre-payment deals such as monthly or yearly charges if it;s an ongoing medication as this could save money. Also check that any medication you’re prescribed isn’t available for less over the counter.

Source: Giphy

Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk

Increased alcohol consumption can inhibit the effectiveness and increase the side effects of medication, so whilst it’s important to have fun, don’t put your health at risk! Monitor your alcohol intake and by aware of any unusual effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, headaches or a loss of coordination.

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HEALTH WATCH: Florida Department of Health Gives Tips for Choosing Whole-Grain Foods

By  //  September 24, 2018


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September is Whole Grains Month

You can’t shop at a grocery store, sit down at a restaurant or read through a health magazine without seeing the words ‘whole grains.’ (Florida Department of Health image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – You can’t shop at a grocery store, sit down at a restaurant or read through a health magazine without seeing the words “whole grains.”

Most of us know that whole grains are an important part of a balanced diet. Higher consumption of whole grains has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

But, for many of us, there is confusion over how much whole grains we should consume every day and where to find whole grain in foods.

What is a whole grain … exactly?

Whole grains or foods made from them have three key parts (bran, germ and endosperm) that provide essential nutritional components – carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and antioxidants.

The bran contains fiber, along with antioxidants and some B vitamins. Most of the nutrients, including B vitamins, minerals, some protein and healthy fats are provided by the germ. The endosperm provides the body starchy carbohydrates, some protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

According to the Whole Grains Council, refined grains are missing at least one of the three key parts of a whole grain. For example, white flour and white rice are missing the bran and the germ. This removes about one-fourth of the protein and one-half to two-thirds — or more — of the nutrients.

Does this mean I should only eat whole grains?

While most of us consume enough grains, few are whole grains. At least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grains. The amount of whole grains you need to eat depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity.

There are many choices available to make half your grains whole grains.

Consider these selected tips from to select whole grain products and keep them fresh and safe to eat:

  1. Search the label
    Look at the Nutrition Facts labels and ingredients list to find choices lower in sodium, saturated (solid) fat and added sugars.
  2. Look for the word “whole” at the beginning of the ingredients list
    Foods that say “multi-grain,” “100% wheat,” “high fiber,” or are brown in color may not be a whole grain product.
  3. Find the fiber on label
    If the product provides at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, it is a good source of fiber. If it contains 5 or more grams of fiber per serving, it is an excellent source of fiber.
  4. Is gluten in whole grains?
    People who can’t eat wheat gluten can eat whole grains if they choose carefully. There are many whole-grain products, such as buckwheat, certified gluten-free oats or oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice, wild rice, and quinoa that fit gluten-free diet needs.
  5. Check for freshness
    Buy whole-grain products that are tightly packaged and well-sealed. Grains should always look and smell fresh. Also, check the expiration date and storage guidelines on the package.
  6. Keep a lid on it
    When storing whole grains from bulk bins, use containers with tight-fitting lids and keep in a cool, dry location. A sealed container is important for maintaining freshness and reducing bug infestations.
  7. Wrap it up
    Whole-grain bread is best stored at room temperature in its original packaging, tightly closed with a quick-lock or twist tie. The refrigerator will cause bread to lose moisture quickly and become stale. Properly wrapped bread will store well in the freezer.
  8. Know the Shelf Life
    Since the oil in various whole-grain flours differs, the shelf life varies too. Most whole-grain flours keep well in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months and in the freezer for 6 to 8 months. Cooked brown rice can be refrigerated 3 to 5 days and can be frozen up to 6 months.

September is Whole Grains Month and the Florida Department of Health is educating on the positive benefits of eating the recommended daily amount of whole grains.

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Two health professionals reveal their top tips for eating well and feeling great

Amelia: Sip rooibos iced tea. I’m a huge herbal tea fan. It’s packed with antioxidants, helps hydrate us, and prevents mindless snacking.

Rooibos tea is naturally caffeine-free yet tastes similar to black tea.

While it’s delicious hot (with or without milk) in summer, I have it in my water bottle as an iced tea.

Some days I add sliced lemon, other days I sprinkle xylitol (natural sugar-free sweetener) and add fresh or frozen raspberries.

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Local expert gives tips on healthy aging

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) — Joy Wilson, from Right at Home, visited the WVLT Studios Saturday morning to talk about September being healthy aging month.

Photo courtesy: MGN

Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care and assistance to seniors and adults with a disability who want to continue to live independently.

Wilson gave some tips for those hoping to enter their later stages with a little ease.

“For me,” said Wilson, “As I got into my 40′s and 50′s, my lifestyle started catching up with me. I realized at 50 I need to make a change.”

She had a doctor guide her through food sensitivity and heavy metal testing.

“We learned I was sensitive to a whole lot of different foods and when you compile those on top of each other, they can play a huge toll on your health,” she said, “I’m 55 now, and I don’t have any joint pain.”

She said she was also able to drop two prescription and cut another in half.

“I also think we’ve also got to bring more happiness to our life; and how do we find that? For me, it was eliminating negativity and spending more time with positive people,” said Wilson. “Because what you put out there is what you get back.”

Wilson suggested reading can also decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

Lastly, finding a new hobby as you age will help keep your brain and body active.

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