Tip #6: Relaxation Techniques
In this article I’ll go over a bunch of different strategies for not only dealing with those moments where the stress and anxiety seem to overwhelm us, but also activities I recommend doing every day. Of course, you don’t have to do them all. In fact, you don’t have to pick any one of the ones I mention here. I’m just recommending that you take some time out of your day, every day, to focus on a little bit of self care. Mitigating stress as it builds up is the only real way to ensure you don’t have a complete breakdown.
Find a Creative Outlet
STOP! Even if you’re reading this headline and rolling your eyes because you don’t have an artistic cell in your body, I have solutions for you. So bear with me and read this section too, even if you’re not the creative type. I’ll start with the easiest activities and move on up to the ones that will be more difficult for those of us who are creatively challenged.
Watch People Make Art
I told you I’d start off easy. I find watching Bob Ross incredibly relaxing, but the fact is that I’ve probably seen every episode of his shows. The beautiful thing is that YouTube has so many artists posting videos of them creating art. Here are some search terms you can type into YouTube’s search bar that will be sure to turn up a gazillion results:
The most difficult thing for a lot of folks when it comes to coloring is getting caught up in what colors will “look good” together. Because I’m an incredibly methodical, Type-A person, I have a process:
- Start with a color you like.
Ok, I like purple, let’s go.
- Next to the areas you just colored, go with a color that falls next to or near that color in the rainbow. It might be helpful to think of the rainbow as a cycle that starts back at red when you pass indigo.
Let’s go with blue.
- Repeat step 2 until you finish.
Since I went with blue in the last step, the area next to it will be a slightly different purple.
Then I progress to red, pink, orange, red, purple, blue, green, lime green, blue, purple… etc.
BONUS: If you find this process too boring, pick out only a set range of colors to work with. For example, you can decide you’re only going to use cool colors, or just pick out your favorite colors.
If you watch all the way to the end, you’ll see some of my previously completed mandalas!
I used to be the person who would groan very loudly and obnoxiously every time someone would suggest exercise for my depression or anxiety. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to appreciate just how much exercise can be great for your mental health. In fact, I asked my husband for an inexpensive exercise bike last Christmas and try my best to incorporate using it into my daily routine. I find myself actually having more energy if I exercise halfway through my workday, especially since I’m more stationary now spending a lot of time in my home office.
While it’s a good idea to incorporate some cardio and weightlifting into your daily routine a few times a week, you don’t have to do something intensive to get the stress-relieving benefits. It can be something as simple as a walk or what one of the hospitals I have interpreted at refers to as “mindful movements.”
These mindful movements are quite simple and not as complex or intimidating as yoga can be. You also don’t need a lot of space to do them or any special equipment. You can easily watch the video and mimic the movements. Even if you don’t have the motivation (or time) to do any serious type of exercise, simply moving around like this can help put your mind at ease. Not only are you moving, but you’re focusing on your breathing which is proven to help reign in your anxiety.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention yoga as a stress and anxiety-relieving activity. It’s been proven to increase serotonin levels, as well as decrease monamine oxidase, which is an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters. You may dismiss it as “crunchy” or “new-agey” but there’s a reason many behavioral health facilities and departments implement it in their treatment program. Yoga is also useful for so many different things in addition to stress and anxiety reduction including:
Guided meditations on YouTube are my go-to for pretty much anything. Having trouble sleeping? Guided sleep meditation. Consumed by anxiety? There’s a meditation for that. Compassion fatigue? Yep, I have the perfect meditation saved for that too. Don’t have a lot of time to meditate? No problem, this one’s ten minutes. I even have a meditation I turn to when I’m doing remote interpretation and the provider or patient treats me like… well, like I’m not even a human being.
All of the meditations I’ve linked and the playlist I’ve provided above are immersive, active meditations designed for your full attention. If you still have to get stuff done or can’t lend your full, undivided attention to a guided meditation video, listening to soothing music can be a powerful form of what I like to call “passive meditation.”
Again, there’s no shortage of free content on YouTube. A simple search of relaxing or ambient music will turn up tons of results. I personally love traditional Japanese (and it turns out: Chinese) music, and you can find the playlist I listen to in my office here!
I could go on for quite some time exploring different relaxation techniques and other ways to mitigate stress and anxiety in your life as a remote interpreter. But the fact of the matter is, different methods work for different people, and all the effort I put into writing this impossibly long post could be in vain if not a single one of the methods I delve into is helpful to you. So I apologize if I haven’t touched on something that you’ve considered incorporating into your repertoire of relaxation, but I’m about to go into something that everyone (and I mean everyone) should work on: getting support.
Therapy or Counseling
Yep, I’m going there. We’re going to talk about therapy. I know some people are dead-set against it, but I’m dead-set for it. In fact, I met my husband in group therapy when we were both going to college. While therapy isn’t for everyone, I highly encourage everyone to give it a try at least once. You never know what you’re going to learn about yourself and how it may help you.
BetterHelp is an online therapy service that connects you with a qualified counselor remotely. I signed up for it a few months before the pandemic because even though I had been doing very well, there were some things that I felt like I needed to work out. Lo and behold I chose the perfect (worst?) time to start focusing on my mental health because the COVID-19 pandemic hit and not only was my entire world turned upside-down, but so was everyone else’s. All of us are pretty much going through a collective traumatic experience right now. It’s hard to say where I’d be emotionally without therapy during this time, but I’d venture to guess I probably wouldn’t be doing so well.
How it Works
When I signed up, I was given the opportunity to give a little bit of background about myself and why I was seeking out therapy. Within less than 24 hours I was connected with a therapist who specializes in addiction, among other things. While I am not an addict myself, I have a history of alcoholism in my family, which impacted me greatly during my upbringing. Needless to say, my therapists’ specialized knowledge serves me well in our sessions together that we have once a week over the phone. I also have the ability to message my therapist at any time if issues pop up in-between sessions and she usually responds before the end of the day.
Talkspace was another similar service I was looking at, but it was way more expensive. BetterHelp works out to be $65 per week if you pay for it on a monthly basis (it’s more expensive if you pay for it weekly). They actually offer financial aid based on your income and I’m honestly really humbled by how they handled my request to cancel therapy when my husband was suddenly out of work as a result of the pandemic. When I requested to cancel with an explanation of my situation, they not only applied financial aid for all future months if I decided to stay, but they credited me the difference of what I paid retroactively for that same month.
Interested in Trying BetterHelp?
If you sign up through my referral link, we each get a free week of therapy! To be clear, I’m not being compensated for my recommendation. I already use this service, have found it to be helpful, and if you decide to sign up both you and I will get a free week of therapy. That’s it!
Therapy with Insurance
I signed up for BetterHelp because my insurance offered no meaningful mental healthcare coverage. However, in a short period of time, the telehealth landscape has changed drastically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and virtual counseling is quickly becoming more widely covered by insurance benefits. I’m hesitant to go down this road right now myself because I’ve honestly developed a meaningful bond with my therapist that I’m not comfortable with moving on from right now. But if you have insurance, I highly recommend calling your insurance company and seeing if they cover virtual counseling.
Therapy without Insurance
Of course, Betterhelp is suitable for folks with or without insurance, but I can understand cost being a barrier, especially right now. If you don’t have insurance but are interested in getting counseling or therapy, my recommendation is to ask your local free, low-income, or sliding scale clinics. I used to work for one and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that even if the clinic itself doesn’t offer any such services (or services are at capacity), it usually has a great list of resources for people looking for mental health care.
I’m well aware that therapy isn’t an option for all of us. Even with therapy, peer support (that is, the support of friends and/or colleagues with similar shared experiences) is essential. Without therapy, peer support can be an even more vital lifeline. Peer support for interpreters can range from a short list of former classmates you’re close with from your university’s interpretation program, to a close-knit group of fellow distinguished linguists with whom you’ve worked with on many projects. The important thing is that the peers you rely on for support are capable of understanding the unique challenges you face.
Note: I’m focusing on challenges as an interpreter (specifically as a remote interpreter) in this series of articles, but you can seek peer support in any number of areas, such as shared mental health issues or shared identities (LGBTQ, BIPOC, veteran, etc.).
The fact is that while I am a member of many interpreter groups that offer professional advice and best practices, I have yet to encounter a resource for interpreters that is geared towards the unique mental health challenges we can face. I like to consider my group Queer-Friendly Interpreters and Translators a modest success in terms of creating a safe and accepting space for linguists to engage on LGBTQ topics, but it just isn’t the right space for mental healthcare discussions centered around us as interpreters.
I decided created a Facebook group called Interpreter & Translator Peer Support Group to focus on the mental health and wellness of linguists. I’m hoping for it to be a space for fellow interpreters and translators to seek some much-needed emotional support from their peers, as well as share self-care tips. The focus of the group is not centered on professional development, but rather on how to cope with the unique mental health challenges people in our field face.
Subscribe for More!
Thank you for joining me for my first multi-part article series! I don’t plan on this being the end of the discussion on interpreter self-care and mental health. This is an incredibly important topic that is unfortunately overlooked far too often, so I plan to continue posting. Be sure to subscribe to my site’s articles or follow the KGH Interpretation Facebook page to stay informed of new articles and updates. Take care!
Missed the other articles in the series? You can check them out here:
- Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 1: Reference Materials
- Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 2: Call Flow Charts
- Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 3: Track Your Time
- Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 4: Change Your Ringtone
- Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 5: Set Your Space
- Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 6: Relaxation Techniques