How to Speak Up (Without Losing Your Voice)


How to prevent losing your voice, just when you're beginning to find it.

Last week, millions of people all over the globe came out to speak up and be heard. Marches around the world gave voice to many people who had never marched before. Some were marching for themselves, but even more marched for their neighbors, wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, and grandmothers. We saw 80-year-old women, groups of tweens and three generations of families. In these tumultuous and terrifying times, millions of people are using their voice. If there's a silver lining, that's it. But are you losing your voice (literally or figuratively), just when you're beginning to find it?

As week one of the new administration came to a close, thousands of you voluntarily went out to JFK on a Saturday night. What is this new reality? Mirah Curzer's article, "How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind" struck a chord with many new activists. Self-care has become a necessity and information overload is leading to conscious media breaks to store up and refuel. Many others are struggling to find balance in these changing times and burning out on the regular. Others are literally hoarse with voices that are unable to recover between protests.

As we continue to #resist, here are tools and techniques to sustain and strengthen our voices:

Start meditating: If you don't already have a mindfulness practice, start one now. You can download an app like Headspace or keep commitment minimal with Meditation Lite (where you simply count breaths in and out). Meditating is about training the mind and fixing and releasing attention—not about getting rid of fears/thoughts/feelings. Practicing presence can help stave off downward media/despair spirals.

Know what you want to say: While you're endlessly calling your Reps, think about what you want to say. Rather than sticking to a script, have more ownership by articulating the essence of what you want to ask. Be specific and practice saying it a few times while improvising and changing up the words.  Include stories, which change the brain by activating the Trust molecule. Most importantly, make a connection with the person on the other end of the line. Not going great? Luckily you'll be calling daily so try again tomorrow.

Amplify your voice:  Ever wonder how babies can scream for hours and not lose their voices? Tension builds up over decades and inhibits and strains our vocal cords. If you're newly protesting and you're exhausted, you're doubly at risk for losing your voice. And bottom line: If you don't have a voice you can't be heard.

Losing your voice is real, but it can be avoided with preparation. Practice three-dimensional breathing and speaking from your diaphragm. Bring an amplification device, like a bullhorn or cardboard tube. Drink water and stay hydrated to prevent vocal fry and exhaustion. Practice Amplification: Speak out for others and let them speak out for you. 

Take breaks: Declutter your phone, and put it away for a while. Take mindfulness breaks. Practice Square Breathing. Seize opportunities to get out of your head and into your body. Cherish friends. Hug your family. Smile at a stranger and invest in your community. These are strange times, but speaking up and empowering others to do the same is the best way to get through it.