You take a breath and you’re ready to talk. Air from your lungs is a necessary first step in the whole ordeal, so you exhale and the air comes up from your full lungs on its way out of the body. Since you’re planning on talking, though, your body pulls two flat muscles together (called your vocal folds, if you wondered) like a gate in your throat before the air can make it’s way all the way out.
Now the air has nowhere to go, and there’s a lot more air pushing behind it to get out, too. It’s probably a nightmare for the air! Like a Black Friday stampede. More and more air builds up behind the gate until the pressure is strong enough to push the gates open and the air rushes through with a shout (it’s more of a tiny, fraction-of-a-second-long buzz, actually). The gates slam shut again since the pressure’s subsided and the whole ordeal repeats again hundreds of times each second till you stop talking, singing or humming.
Let yourself process that. Ideally those small, slimy little muscles in your neck perfectly respond to and process pressure. They don’t just let the pressure slip on by either; they use it to make something incredibly valuable: your voice.
When you are under pressure, what is your response? Do you slink to the sidelines to escape the pressure? When a patient’s vocal folds have that reaction, we classify it as a breathy voice. The vocal folds aren’t there completely to capitalize on the pressure and make voice, so the sound that’s made is too quiet, and largely ineffective for communicating.
Or do you let the pressure build up until well past when it should be relieved, causing unnecessary stress on yourself and those around you? In the voice, undue stress mixed with improper care of your vocal folds leads to nodules, which are essentially bumps on the folds that only grow as the abuse continues.
Taking a hint from your vocal folds, it would be wise to deal with the pressure that comes into your life in a timely manner. Not shirking from it so that it leaves you (because that helps no one), but facing it head on and making something of value from the pressure. Treated correctly, pressure can be one of your biggest assets.
What are your biggest areas of pressure right now? Mine is grad school! How are you learning to deal with and make something of the stress and demands of that pressure? Let me know in the comments.