Tag Archives: brain integration

This is not business as usual | Self-Care Strategies for Interpreting During a Pandemic

This is not normal. 

Interpreting during a pandemic, especially a VRS shift, is like entering a war zone. People are stressed, frustrated, in pain and completely freaked out – with good reason

Don’t treat your shift or yourself like this is a regular day. It’s not.

This is a triage situation. 

As interpreters, we can’t expect ourselves to be 24/7  enjoying our #quarantinelife, productive, #blessed, #handlingit, checking things off our bucket lists and doing our work like it’s business as usual.

This is not business as usual.“Interpreters are first responders who cannot respond.” - Babetta Popoff Tags: interpreting during a pandemic, covid-19

We are on the front lines, witnessing the lives of many people in crisis on a daily basis

Facilitating communication between people who are calm and connected is hard. Facilitating communication between people who are triggered, afraid, sick and overwhelmed is exponentially harder. It can be helpful to name why this is so hard. Let me offer a suggestion:

It is hard because you care.

Connect to the humanity of it. Seeing another human in pain (fear, frustration, anguish) causes us discomfort. It hurts because we care.

This hurt is compounded by the fact that we’re each personally going through hard things, so witnessing the pain of others lights up and intensifies our own personal pain.

Stress affects brain integration.

ID: 40 year old woman with short brown hair and mulitcolored sweater, pointing to her hand in a "4" handshape, symbolizing the brain as it dis-integrates. Tags: interpreting during a pandemic, brain integration, interpreter, self-care, flip your lid, freak out

Brain Dis-integration

When we’re calm, our brain is in a state of integration where all its parts work together to balance and support the other parts. We’re able to problem solve, understand different perspectives, organize our thoughts, and carry out our plans.

When our pain is lit up – when we’re stressed, overwhelmed, outraged, anxious – our brain’s connections dis-integrate, and we lose our ability to do all of those things. 

This video explains integration and disintegration with a ‘handy’ visual that you may just want to teach everyone you know. When you and those in your life have shared language for what’s happening inside, you can lean on it when times are rough. And boy, are they rough. 

Give yourself triage care whenever you can.

Identify ‘check points’ that remind you to scan your body for tension and breathe deeply into it, allowing it to release and relax. Even 5 second check points throughout the day can do wonders. During a VRS shift some check points could be:

  • During your setup process, just before you log in to take calls
  • While ringing or waiting for a caller to answer
  • While on hold
  • Between calls
  • When you log out for a break
  • When you return from a break
  • At the end of your shift

Make self-care a habit.

During this crisis, as interpreters we must have time and practices built into our lives to care for ourselves – to be able to handle the stress we’re exposed to and experiencing. This includes time to cry and grieve and scream and break down. Time to laugh and connect and time to just let ourselves be

Daily reflective practice allows our nervous systems a chance to decompress and rest, and builds stronger connections toward integration.

You wouldn’t ask your car to keep running without giving it gas. Don’t ask your heart, mind, or body to show up to work without having what it needs.

A daily self-care practice creates stronger connections for brain integration.

As you flex this muscle of integration, over time you will find it easier to stay calm through the hard stuff. When those around you are in disintegration, or when things are tough for you personally, your brain will naturally maintain integration in more and more difficult situations for longer periods of time.

The goal is not to become immune to disintegration, it’s to notice it.

We are human. The ability of our brain to prioritize safety when necessary is a very good thing. The goal then becomes a growing level of consciousness, where we’re able to shorten the time it takes to return to integration when we’re not actually in danger, and where we’re able to be gentle with ourselves and others throughout this messy process of being human.

In this integrated state, we become a true source of support for those around us, and are able to act with more compassion and empathy – for ourselves and others.

May we make this state of integration, compassion, and empathy the new normal. 

Self-Care Quickie: Brain Integration | Self-Care Strategies for Interpreters

Brain integration, dis-integration, why it matters to your interpreting and how self-care can help.

This information comes from Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, and I teach it to interpreters because it can dramatically alter our ability to attune to ourselves and regulate our emotional responses, attune to our consumers – allowing us to act with empathy and compassion, and it can also strongly impact our consumers’ ability to regulate their emotional responses.

Brain integration has a powerful impact on our interpreting interactions

Start with the hand model of the brain. 3 Parts:
PFC + Cortex – upstairs brain – executive function
Limbic Area – emotions and memory
Brain Stem – fight/flight/freeze, autonomic function

brain integration - interpreter - self-care - flip your lid

Flip-your-lid

When the brain is in integration:
Cortex, Limbic, Brain stem all connected
Cortex is regulating, soothing, and assessing all impulses from limbic and brain stem  areas/downstairs brain.

When downstairs brain overwhelms the capacity of the upstairs brain, cortex tries to hang on, to maintain integration – you know what it feels like when cortex loses its grip – FLIP-LID – in a matter of seconds we have lost our ability to regulate our emotions and behavior.

Disintegration is contagious

When one person has lost emotional equilibrium, it’s much easier for the other to lose it. You may feel this when you are interpreting – especially if it is a topic, attitude or behavior that is particularly triggering to you personally. During times of crisis, disintegration is even more common. 

Good news: Integration is also contagious

Integration is like a muscle, and involves several skills.

Any work that you do to create stronger connections in your brain promotes brain integration and will support you during times of stress and help you maintain integration with others who are experiencing disintegration.

Hand Model of the Brain. Flip your lid. Brain Integration as Self-Care for Interpreters

From: The Whole Brain Child, by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

Self-care strengthens the muscle of brain integration

  1. In the moment – BREATHE – Deep, slow belly breathing, in and out your nose
  2. Reflective practice – meditation, mindfulness, conscious breathing practice trains the brain toward integration

Three resources for integration practice:

  1. Follow me on Instagram – in my story and highlights I share short mindfulness practices
  2. Self-Care Resource Page – links to free and accessible self-care resources to support brain integration
  3. Put On Your Raincoat: Energetic Protection for Sign Language Interpreters – online self-paced workshop worth 0.5 CEUs – includes a 7 day mindfulness practice

I’d love to know:
What helps you flex your brain integration muscle?

Thanks so much for being here with me. Take good care of your precious self.