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16-Second Stress-Relief for Sign Language Interpreters

Where do you hold tension and stress in your body, and what do you do to relieve it?

Image: mural painted in bright colors blue and red, of a man with an open mouth and hands by his face. The photographer's note reads: When we visited Utö, the most outer island of this beautiful archipelago in the place we call Finland, I allowed myself to be guided by the incredible energy of Inca, the daughter of the family we were visiting there. She took me to a series of abandoned bunkers from the times this island was a military strategic point and there I found this graffiti that represent very well the feeling of all that has to do with military, war, conflict and drama. With love from Korpo. Tag: stress-relief interpreter

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Whether you’re in wildfire land, hurricane territory, or somewhere in between, you’re likely feeling tension and stress in your body.

Tension is energy trapped in the body.

Potential movement that, on its way somewhere else, got stuck. Tension signifies the places in our bodies where we’re resisting reality internally, but not yet moving to act in a helpful, empowering way externally.

Internal resistance opposing external stagnancy can create a fixed mindset, sense of disempowerment, and bodily discomfort. It often feels like we’re gripping something tightly.

Stress-Relief for Interpreters: Move the Body, Free the Energy

Movement can be a powerful tool for healing, when we’re suffering from tension and stress.

This can look like: shaking – parts or all of your body – gently or vigorously, bouncing, dancing, stretching, massaging, scraping, pleasuring, flexing, and so much more.

In order to tend to our tension, we must first know it’s there. Developing mindful awareness in your daily life can help you to become more responsive to your body’s cues so that these spots don’t stay stagnant for so long. 

Breathing is an accessible and easy way to bring gentle movement into areas of tension. Here’s one quick and powerful way to do it, even while interpreting.

Triage Care: The 4×4 One-Breath Body Scan

This practice is a combination of two techniques. Let’s look at each separately first.

Part 1: Square, Box, or 4×4 Breathing

This breathing technique has many names, because it’s just that good. And it’s super-simple. Square Breathing stress-relief for interpreters. Image: solid teal background, white square outline with arrows pointing clockwise and a countdown timer from 4 to 1. Every 4 counts, different words are highlighted. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Hold.

  1. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
  2. Hold that breath for a count of 4.
  3. Exhale through your nose or mouth for a count of 4.
  4. Hold empty for a count of 4.

That’s it. 

Practice this a few times, syncing your breathing pattern with the visual, and you’ve got it. As a side note, notice how your body feels after a few cycles of this breath.

Part 2: Body Scan

Typically the body scan is taught as a longer relaxation experience – and it’s fantastic as that. When my kids were little, they would ask me to guide them through this as they prepared for sleep. A good body scan can take 10 minutes+ to go through, and can leave you feeling as soft as warm putty when you’re done. It goes like this:

  • Get centered and grounded. Feel your connection to the surface beneath you. Feel it holding and supporting you. 
  • Bring your awareness to the top of your head, feel your scalp, forehead, face, jaw, ears, and back of head. Notice any area of tension and let it relax. Don’t force, just allow.
  • Slowly move your awareness down your body to each part, one after the other – noticing any tension and allowing it to release – until you get to your toes.

This practice can take as long as you want it to. It’s especially good during a long break or just before bed. But sometimes we need more frequent and short ways to care for ourselves.

Here’s where the triage care magic is: put them together.

  1. While inhaling through your nose for a count of 4, let your awareness scan your body for areas of tension. As you practice this, the breathing + scanning becomes more automatic – it might feel clunky at first. That’s ok. Over time you’ll get to know the areas where you hold your tension, so you can hone in on them more quickly and easily. When you find those areas of tension, start directing your breath right into them, like a funnel. Find the center of the tension and imagine that you’re filling it like a balloon with healing, supportive oxygen.
  2. Hold that breath, letting the oxygen do its work in each area of tension, for a count of 4.
  3. As you exhale through your nose or mouth for a count of 4, allow each balloon to deflate, carrying with it the tension that was stored in that muscle. 
  4. Hold empty for a count of 4, focusing on the relaxation of each spot.

If you take 4 seconds with each part of the breath, this has taken you 16 seconds.
Can you take 16 seconds to care for yourself a few times today?

Tag: stress-relief interpreters. Image: black circle outline remains static, while inner blue-filled circle expands and contracts in the 4x4 rhythm  


Monthly Live Burnout Proof Academy Workshops are in the works!

In case you missed it, registration is open for Burnout Proof 101! This one-hour live webinar will be a great introduction or refresher to some of the foundational Burnout Proof practices like:

  • solidifying new habits
  • making time for yourself
  • prioritizing joy
  • the magic of budgeting your energy
  • why boundaries are so essential to good self-care
  • how to feel better about saying “no.”

September 30th is the only time I plan to teach this class live, so don’t miss it!


The Secret to Triage Care

Triage care isn’t helpful if you don’t practice it. This is where your habit-solidifying skill comes in! BJ Fogg, habit-creation researcher and founder of Tiny Habits, teaches a simple three-part approach to making healthy habits more automatic:

Cartoon drawing of a person lying on their stomach on the ground. Thought bubble above first image says "I should really do some exercise.". Second image shows person with arms outstretched to reach a bag labeled "snacks", with a thought bubble above that says, "That'll do." Credit: Gemma Correll Tag: stress-relief interpreters

  1. Make your new habit tiny – 30 seconds or less. Our 16 second one-breath body scan fits the bill!
  2. Anchor it to an existing habit – brainstorm some current habits or things you do daily automatically. For example: turning off the morning alarm, hitting ‘start’ on the coffee maker or teapot, using the restroom, washing your hands, turning on the computer, listening to the phone ring on a VRS call, waiting for a consumer, sitting on hold, brushing your teeth, or pulling up the covers at night. There are a million more. Pick one and use it as a trigger to remind you to do your one-breath body scan. For example: When I push the button to turn on my computer, I do my one-breath body scan.
  3. Celebrate – just like clicker-training a puppy, every time you complete your tiny habit – celebrate! This gives you a cascade of feel-good hormones that rewards your brain and brings you joy, making it more likely that you’ll remember and be willing to practice your habit again.

Celebration Partying GIF By Booksmart Tag: stress-relief interpretersHere’s three resources for practicing triage care and solidifying your new habit:

  1. This is not business as usual | Self-Care Strategies for Interpreting During a Pandemic
  2. Make Time for You – online self-paced course to help you build your self-care habit 5 minutes a day. 0.3 CEUs.
  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:

In what areas of your body do you hold tension, and what helps you to soothe it?

The equitable world we are creating begins with treating ourselves well. Thanks so much for being here with me, on this journey to taking better care of your precious self.

 

How to Add Subtitles to Your Videos

As ASL interpreters, we know our videos must be captioned and accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing people – now more than ever. Subtitles are also good for hearing people who are in noisy places and can’t hear the audio, people who are in quiet places and don’t want to disturb those around them, English language learners….

Basically adding subtitles to your videos is good for everyone!!

But how do you make subtitles happen?!

I’ve been learning through trial and error over the last few years, testing out all the no-cost options I could find, and here’s what I’ve learned.

Get ready, this post is loooooong. You might want to bookmark it now to refer back to as you need it, and take breaks as you go through this. You know, self-care!

Here we go!!!  Continue reading

Out of TP? Try this

UrbanHippieMama, circa 2009

Once upon a time, I was UrbanHippieMama – a Mommy Blogger.

I wrote about my daily life with three small children, as a crunchy-attachment-parent – we are a special and tired breed. Blogging helped me feel connected to other full-grown humans, while that season of life required 110% of my energy and attention…kind of like a shelter in place order may.

When my dear, toiletpaperless, friend called the other night to ask about my experience using “family cloth,” I realized my crunchy roots may be helpful to a more mainstream audience right now. If you don’t know what “family cloth” means, read on. If you already do, feel free to stop at any time – that is, unless you have run out of toilet paper and have resorted to paper towels or leaves collected from a nearby wildlife area (yes, people are in fact doing this). What you are about to read may actually be the saner, more sanitary choice – and it’s definitely a hell-of-a-lot more gentle on your behind.

So without further ado, I bring you UrbanHippieMama, with all of the details you never thought you’d want to know about “family cloth.”


February 20th, 2008

As most of you know, we exclusively use cloth diapers on our boys, and what is known as “family cloth” for the rest of the members of our family. Some of you might recoil at the thought of cloth diapering… I can’t imagine what you did when you clicked on that link for family cloth, and realized that we wipe our bums with a piece of fabric (our favorites are terry, sherpa, and flannel).

To dispel one commonly held false belief: No, we do not all share the same cloth. We don’t even reuse a cloth. We get a fresh cloth EVERY time we wipe! There…I’m glad I got that out of the way.

Back to the recoilers: I know that different people have different tolerances for different substances that seem gross or dirty or just plain smelly. I get that. But, to tell you the honest truth, the only thing that I think anyone would really cringe about is the actually dunk, swish, and wring-out of the poopy diaper in the toilet…that is really the only time I come in contact with the poo. And, if I really didn’t want to, I wouldn’t have to–there are plenty of nifty gadgets out there that will do the poop-removal for you. I just have never minded enough to go spend money on one of those things. But, even if you did, the investment you make in cloth diapers and gadgets for them would still FAAAAAAAAAR outweigh what one would spend on disposables. (2020 note: this may or may not be a factual statement when you run the numbers – depending on many factors – but I do appreciate the gusto). And that doesn’t even take into consideration what those plastic diapers are doing to our earth. Ick.

Anyway, I didn’t come here to convince you to actually try any of our methods (although that would be a nice bonus)… I promised a description of our system. So, here is what it looks like:

Cloth Wipes

Next to each toilet there is a small trash basket with a flip-top lid that is filled halfway with water and a few good squirts of Bac-Out. After you use a cloth wipe, you open the lid, toss it in the water to soak, and close the lid. About once or twice a week I take off the lid, pour off as much water as I can into the toilet, and I dump the wipes straight into the washing machine with the dirty diapers.

**A side note about the functionality of the wipes for #2: they rock. Rich even admitted to me last week that he hates to use TP now, just because the cloth wipes are so much more comfortable and you get so much cleaner. It is probably a step towards how I heard a woman who grew up in a European country with a bidet explain her first experience after moving to the US and her astonishment and disgustedness when she had to use toilet paper, feeling as if she was just “smearing it all around.” Ewwww.

Back to the wash: so, all of the diapers and wipes are in the washing machine. I put in a little less than the recommended amount of Charlie’s soap (we also have used Country Save and SUN Free & Clear…(although the latter wasn’t made for HE washers so we stopped using it), set the machine on it’s sanitary cycle (which is pretty cool as far as ease of mental stress about whether the diapers are really getting “clean” or not, but is actually totally unnecessary and really probably wears our diapers out much faster) with the extra skin care rinse (to get out alllllll of the detergent–the most important thing about washing cloth diapers), and let her rip. Sometimes I will add a pre-wash with non-chlorine bleach, or an extra rinse with white vinegar, but this is our standard routine.

After they are done doing their thing, I (currently) toss them all up into the dryer with NO dryer sheet or fabric softener or anything (this leaves a residue that makes fabric not absorbant–the opposite of what we want our diapers and wipes to be!) and set them on the hottest setting. After we move I will hang them on the clothes lines out back, instead, and then maybe give them a little fluff in the dryer afterwards.

It was very easy for us to incorporate family cloth, since we were already washing diapers anyway–but I have contemplated whether or not it will continue after the boys are out of diapers, and I do believe it will. (2020 Note: It did not. But it may make a guest appearance now!) The wipe laundry would constitute about a load a week, and since our washing machine knows what size the load is, it should use the appropriate amount of water (which is not a whole lot). It is definitely worth it to us for the comfort, savings, and reduction in paper product usage.


If you give some version of cloth TP a try, I’d love to know how it goes and what you learn! Take good care, my friend. Be well.