Be The Calm In The Storm

As an organization that serves many different clients, it of course came to mind to write a piece relevant for the current crisis that we are all facing as a global community. But then I thought to myself that all of the do’s and don’ts must have already been delivered by the various agencies where our community of students and clients work. Not only that, if they, like me, belong to other mailing lists (lists which seem to daily and independently multiply in my inbox) they must also have received such notices from those organizations as well. So, I have made the assumption that most people receiving this newsletter are already well informed. If I am incorrect in that assumption, then I urge you to please visit the Centre for Disease Control website (BCCDC can be found here – BCCDC COVID-19, along with the information translated into other languages here – CDC Translated Content) for critical information on this virus. Do NOT trust information that does not come from a reliable source (no, FOX News is NOT a reliable source).

Moving to online, virtual programs and courses now seems like even more of a positive step in the right direction given the additional benefit it brings when we are encouraged to keep a “social distance”. While people are at times hesitant to try online courses, they soon find that it can be a very pleasant and easy option. However, the daily work of interpreters is rarely all online – which means that interpreters will travel to many different settings, meet many different people, often be in close proximity to others, and of course, for those interpreters that work in healthcare settings, be exposed to a variety of contagions. But all of this need not lead us to fear and withdrawal.

As I started thinking more about the nature of freelance work, the “gig-like” economy of it, I was struck by how, if we allow it, such a way of working can lead us to be in a constant state of reaction, anxiety and maybe even fear – if we let it affect us that way. And perhaps now is the time to not simply react but realize the personal and community benefits that interpreters bring and allow that to guide us in an informed and rational way. In a multilingual community, interpreters are an integral part of the service continuum. The services you provide links essential services to individuals and families in need of those services.

The spread of COVID-19 is a very serious situation and we must treat it as such. There is NO denying that. And that is not what this blog post is about. It is more about recognizing that there will always be something that can become an obstacle, situations that can make us anxious and fearful and that become bigger than our rational, thinking selves. But when, and it will be ‘when’ not ‘if’, our amazing scientists and health care personnel find a way to tame COVID-19 and add it to the growing list of infections, diseases and conditions that humanity has learned to manage, another crisis will come our way (many of us can well remember SARS – from which Canada learned many lessons applied to our current situation, or the AVIAN Flu – and other similar epidemics). Will we also react with fear, or will we be ready to wisely manage the situation, without losing our sense of control?

The nature of working as a freelancer, or even more broadly in self-employment, means that we live with an abundance of uncertainty and with a work life that may change more often than we wish. Even when balanced with the positives of freelance work – such as the freedom and autonomy that it brings – such a situation can cause stress and anxiety. What can be done? They say that the anecdote to fear and anxiety is knowledge and preparation. How can freelancers prepare? Taking the current situation as not only an example, but also as an opportunity for evolution, we can use this time to reflect, plan and prepare. Think about:

  • What is causing you the most anxiety at this time?
  • Why are you feeling this emotion?
  • Can you think about things that could have been done in preparation for such an event?
  • What might you do differently next time?
  • What do you need (resources, connections, people, etc.) for you to be able to better face any future, similar, situations?

It does not need to be a global pandemic to affect us as the COVID-19 is currently doing. And while I do NOT want to understate the importance of taking this corona virus spread seriously, we are also vulnerable to other circumstances: what happens when we are sick and can’t work? what about if our children or spouses are sick and we need to stay home? what happens if a complaint is made against us and the work is suspended for a time? or what if we lose a contract? or the agency we work with has a decline in appointments and we are getting fewer assignments? These are all situations that may expose us to undesirable consequences. But it doesn’t have to be that way. So, let’s take this time to learn, converse, engage, and evolve so that next time we are not reacting in fear. With that in mind, we’ve scheduled a special session of The Interpreter’s Lab Online – Professional Development session on Thursday, March 19th  as part of our free monthly sessions.Join us this Thursday: What COVID – 19 is Teaching Us: An Open Forum on the Effects and Impacts of Crisis on Interpreters.

A colleague of mind recently wrote a beautiful piece about her reflections on the current situation, and I want to share some of her article with you. Ashley Avinashi is the Founder of Raising Humanity – a global village focused on supporting the change we wish to see in the world, in our children and beyond. I particularly like Ashley’s last positive point – to build our own immunity. As our students know, we continuously say that the best interpreter is a healthy interpreter – in mind and body.

“The survival state has a funny way of bringing up what is truly important for our humanity to thrive – it’s not the productivity, not the mass consumerism, not quick fix-band aid solutions that has us ‘progress,’ but rather an authentic regard and mindful attention towards self and community.

As humans, we tend to respond only when situations become elevated and we HAVE to do something about what is in front of us. We take a great deal for granted. We are passive until we are not – and then, our hyper vigilance tends to become aggressive. From this fear-based state, no productive change can come about. We become caught in a deeply reactive cycle as a humanity, looking for the next external upset to tackle. Our reactive approach to live does not give us relief from the ongoing struggle, nor does it create a strong, sustainable foundation for future generations. Only healing the disconnection within will do that.

With that, I share some ‘survival’ tips that come to mind

  • Take precaution. It is not a time to be naïve nor defiant (these are also old childhood patterns!), whether it be this global recalibration or any other. Understand the impact of your fear management on your own well-being, and that of others. How do you model dealing with ‘crisis?’ Particularly in the presence of our vulnerable populations – children and elders?

  • Allow yourself to not ask WHAT this is all about, or WHY it is happening, but HOW can you move through it with awareness and ease.

  • If you do feel safe to venture out, explore the natural world around you. You will find that you are not alone. The animals, the trees, the grass is supporting you at every moment. At no point are you alone in your journey.

  • Hold grace and compassion for those who are riding the wave of fear, without wallowing in their fear with them. Allow them to face their inner beliefs as they may. We are all in different places on the path – some, to model what’s possible.

  • Honour this day today. Be grateful you are alive and well,

  • Last but not least, take your health seriously – BUILD YOUR OWN IMMUNITY. Eat nutritious foods. Stay well hydrated. Sleep with ease. Dance. Play. Laugh. Set intention for how you wish to experience your day. Get your Vit D outside and ground in nature. Breathe in good air amongst the trees. Surround yourself with others who take responsibility for their own well-being and have honest conversations. Accept the fear that may be moving through you, so you can process your emotions, pains and past hurts.”

Looking for more strategies for calmly living through these challenging times? Below are links to an article on Bustle and a Podcast by Global News called “Wait, There’s More” on the current situation:

Article: Coronavirus Anxiety Is Everywhere. Experts Explain How To Feel Better.

Podcast: Wait, There’s More

To quote one of the experts recently heard in a CBC interview – now is the time to be a citizen of your community. As a community of interpreters, let us work together for a better tomorrow.

Join us on Thursday, March 19 for our free Online Professional Development Session: What COVID – 19 is Teaching Us: An Open Forum on the Effects and Impacts of Crisis on Interpreters. Let’s start the conversation on what we can do and how to get it done.

This forum will be co-hosted by Angela Sasso and Annike Andre-Barrett