Self-love in the Time of Corona

Dear Colleagues,

Well, goodness me. It would appear that since my last blog post, the world has spun a teensy bit sideways. All of my own carefully made plans have been turned upside down, along with the plans of…every single person I know. And the rest of humanity. It is certainly an interesting time to be alive.

I pondered quite a bit about what I could write this week. I’m sick of hearing about this virus, and I’m sure you are, too. At the same time, it would be a bit weird to make this just another post about interpreting, especially when most of my normal topics are not quite relevant at the moment. Then, it came to me. Stress management. Now that is relevant, now more than ever—for interpreters, and for everyone else. Now and always.

You may not know this, but I’m a bit prone to stress, personally. I’m also a perfectionist. From my own experience, I can say with confidence that most interpreters are. Over the last few years, I’ve made stress management into something of a hobby. I know, it’s not that entertaining, but I’ve decided that if you’re not capable of enjoying life, not much else matters.

So here are some of my tips for self-love in the time of corona, gleaned over several years of my stress-management side gig:

Give yourself time to grieve

All of us are suffering right now. At best, a few plans have been canceled. At worst, our jobs are non-existent, our family is sick, and we don’t know how we will pay the rent next. So make a list of all the things that are making you crazy right now. Big and small, write it all down. Then, play some music. Light a candle. If you are a spiritual person, or a religious one, say a mantra, or a prayer. Either way, breathe. Acknowledge your feelings. Let them out. Grieve your losses.

Carve out space for yourself on the daily

I don’t care if you have to hide in the bathroom for an extra ten minutes. Make sure that you get time for yourself. Use that time to acknowledge your accomplishments, to think about what you want next, and to process feelings of frustration, anger, guilt, depression or irritation. Feelings are running high right now, and you need to process them properly so they don’t burst. Treat yourself like your own best friend. Listen kindly to yourself. Make yourself smile.

Count your blessings

Many of us still have quite a lot to be thankful for. Sure, our life feels topsy-turvy and we’re stuck inside, but thank goodness we have a home to be stuck inside of. Our grateful list doesn’t discount the difficulty of the time we’re going through, but it is a good reminder of all we haven’t lost. Make a list of all your blessings. Review it daily, adding to it whenever you can.

Finally, share your thoughts with your colleagues!

I asked some fellow interpreters how they were getting by right now, what words of wisdom they had to share, and here are some of their thoughts.

Gonzalo T, New Jersey: I have been playing PS4 and hanging out with my dog, two things that I had no time for while I was studying for both FCICE exams last year. (Author’s note: He passed!) My doggy kept getting mad at me last year for ignoring her while studying. Furthermore, studying for the FCICE meant that I went ham for a year practically and took no time off. So, I sleep in and take 1.5 hour-long naps.

Lili S, from Silver Spring, MD: I’m working on my tax returns early for the first time in years! I’m also catching up on Classical Stretch DVDs (Miranda Esmonde-White’s exercise program from PBS that combines ballet barre, Pilates, yoga, tai chi—so therapeutic. Hundreds of streamed videos for every purpose imaginable: frozen shoulder, knee pain, toning, rebalancing connective tissue, etc. Two-week free trial: Interpreting assignments have gone out the window but I’m able to continue my other areas of work: translating, editing academic papers, teaching Japanese and ESL online. Taking half-hour walks with my stepdaughters is also rejuvenating.

Elizabeth P from New Jersey:

1) Working on my thesis. I will finish my Master’s this semester!
2) Studying to retake the state exam and improve my level.
3) Applying for several job openings.
4) Exercise! Working out at home!
4) Meditation. It is a great time to reflect on how fragile and strong we are at the same time. The sense of losing our independence, income, and “security” defies us as human beings. For me, it has been an excellent time to be with myself and connect with my inner God.

Agustin D, Florida:  I’d say as interpreters we need to gear up for new reality.  Embrace VRI. It is now here to stay. Prepare yourself to meet the high demand for qualified, trained, professional interpreters who also kept up their studies through online education 😊.  Attend NAJIT conference online (if it happens that way). Finally, keep in touch and communicate with your peers taking advantage of all technologies that, until recently, were only good to brag about the beach you were visiting or the amazing tacos you just had!

Sonja S, Washington DC: This is a difficult time of abrupt and unexpected change in our profession. But I have been struck by the incredible solidarity and creativity of my colleagues as we support each other in finding a path forward.

Please share your own thoughts in the comments below. Stay safe, stay at home, and here’s hoping we’ll be back to normal soon.

[Also published for on April 10th, 2020]

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