As I’m writing this, it’s nearly the end of March. Spring has started to appear with warmer weather, lots of rain and the daffodils are coming up!

As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time in my garden office, and I'm based in the North East of England. So I can see the bulbs sprouting in the flowerpots and the trees getting buds outside my window, especially now we've had warmer weather. But I just spent three days further north in Edinburgh, and the weather change was like going right back into winter again! I went from a balmy 13 degrees right back to a freezing cold 4 degrees, in the same day. Good old UK weather!

Now, I am not a person who deals well with extreme weather. I like heat on my own terms - when it’s cold I like a hot water bottle or a hot cup of tea, and I invariably have the seat warmer on in the car. When it’s hot I like ceiling fans, cold water and cool showers. And all of this works fine when I’m in the UK - which is where I live. But when I go to other countries where the weather is more extreme, it upsets my balance a little bit. 

For three years in a row I attended a voice teacher’s conference in the USA, in April. April in the UK tends to be cold, wet, rainy, and generally a bit miserable with subtle signs of spring/summer. In California and Las Vegas where we were, it was warm, dry and averaging over 30c - far hotter than we are used to in the UK at any time of year! The buildings all had air conditioning so inside it was cool, but outside it was baking hot. And as much as I Ioved being there, my body and mind did not cope so well in the first few days. First, I am asthmatic and two of the things that set me off wheezing are quick temperature changes and a dry atmosphere, and second, my mind and body took a while to get used to the timezone change! I was, quite simply, out of whack, in a place where I needed to be on my A-Game.

Which meant that I had to adapt, and adapt FAST. 

But all this got me thinking - as singers we have to adapt to our environments, not just for performances but for general talking and singing, too. At the conferences, we had a truly international group of voice teachers, and those of us from other countries were simply not used to the environment we were in.

At the start of the week, the air conditioning tended to cause dehydration, which meant our voices were not functioning optimally, so some of us were running into vocal problems. Then we stepped outside, and the heat was like a blast furnace, so it wasn’t much better there either. (And you can imagine that we were almost drinking the local supermarkets dry of bottled water during those weeks!) 

Now, these problems are not the end of the world, they can be resolved with time and tools - in our case we learned what our bodies needed and by the end of the week we were all mostly running on full tanks again. But the awareness this created in us is crucial for being able to adapt to conditions that are not our “normal”. As a teacher, I have a very intimate understanding of the voice and how it works, it’s literally my job to keep myself and my students in an optimal place for voice use. But I know that some singers do not have this awareness, and it can cause problems if it is not addressed.

One of the most important tools we need to have in our tool boxes is the ability to check in with ourselves and adapt to our surroundings.

In my case for the conference, I needed to have my inhaler on me, drink more water, get more sleep and regulate my mindset. As a singer and voice teacher, I knew that I needed to explore my voice in the first few days and not expect my “normal” because I was not in a “normal” situation.

How did I know this? By knowing myself really well. Or in other words - cultivating my self-awareness so I knew what I needed when I needed it.

How did I do this? By checking in with myself every day, multiple times a day, in different situations so I could really learn those things.

I invite you to take five minutes right now to do this exercise.

Sit comfortably, with one hand on your heart, breathe in deep and exhale with a sigh.

Softly focus your eyes or close them, and ask yourself,

“What do I need right now?”

And listen for the answer.

The answer will not be a blustery loud voice, it's the small quiet voice you need to hear. Your intuition, your felt sense, the thing you "just know" - that's the important answer.

And please don’t try to force an answer, because sometimes what you need is stillness! Whatever you get in this moment is the thing you need.

You can choose to act upon the answer - in fact I highly recommend doing so - but the objective here is to slow down enough to ask and listen. And then in two hours time, I want you to do it again. And then tomorrow, try it three times during the day, in different situations. And build it up until you get to a point where you don’t need to set aside a dedicated time to do it - you just know what you need because you have tuned into your body enough to understand the subtle cues it gives you.

I challenge you to try this over the next few days and see how it changes the way you act and react to situations. And as a singer, especially try it when you set yourself up to sing. Ask yourself, what do I need right now? What you need might be different to what you had planned - it’s always your choice to act upon the information you get, but trust me when I say listening to your intuition is the right answer.

If you feel compelled to share what happens for you with this practice, drop a comment below or send me a DM on Instagram. I’d love to know how this works for you! 

Until next time.