While much of the attention is on the interpreter in the work environment, stress and anxiety also extends to the home and family. Lisa Dion tackles this space by discussing the regulation of families and how our own emotions may impact our families.
Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S
Lisa Dion is an international teacher, creator of Synergetic Play Therapy, founder and President of the Synergetic Play Therapy Institute, and host of the Lessons from the Playroom podcast. She is the 2015 recipient of the Association for Play Therapy’s Professional Education and Training Award of Excellence and the author of Aggression in Play Therapy: A Neurobiological Approach for Integrating Intensity. Lisa is also a Master Certified Demartini Method Facilitator providing education and support to individuals and organizations worldwide.
Ludmila Golovine is President/CEO of MasterWord Services, Inc., a global language solutions company. As a language professional, Golovine knows first-hand how interpreting, especially in the healthcare, social services, education, and legal arenas, may present challenges such as stress, anxiety, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. For the past 10 years, she has applied her skills as a Certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner and a Trained Demartini Method Facilitator to tirelessly help promote health and wellness to those in the language services industry.
Thank you for connecting. The question that we want to ask today to Lisa Dion is, what happens at home? How do we manage stress at home? Many language professionals work on a regular basis from their home. As translators we work at a desk, as interpreters and remote interpreters sometimes we work from a home office. But today the situation is different. The schools are shut down, kids are at home. Kids may also experience stress and uncertainty. We, as professionals, may have family members that are staying at home and are not able to go to work. So how do we handle this? An added stress and anxiety at home.
Let’s talk about regulating the family. There’s a lot happening right now in our homes. Sometimes things are a bit stressful. Other times, maybe things feel really connected and probably everything else in between. So let’s talk a little bit about what regulating a family means and how do you actually do it.
So, regulating a family does not mean trying to get every single person in the family to be calm, or to stop the stress in some way. Regulating the family means how do we all, as a family unit, work to stay connected first and foremost to ourselves, but then to each other during this challenging time. Recognizing that the ability for the family to be connected in a way that feels safe, and in a way that allows everyone’s nervous systems to just relax is actually one of the most important things that we can be providing right now amidst all of the change, and what feels like a lot of chaos, and unpredictability. So as you are listening and maybe starting to think about this with me, the first thing to recognize is that if I’m going to regulate my family, the first thing is I have to regulate myself. So here’s an interesting thing about nervous systems. The way I describe it is that they like to say hello to each other. So, when someone walks into a room, the activation and their nervous system, let’s say they’re feeling incredibly anxious. Everyone else in the room to some degree is going to pick up on that and is going to feel that, if someone is feeling really down and withdrawn, other people are going to feel it. Now, that doesn’t mean that all of the activation is wrong and that we should get rid of it. But what it does mean is for us to recognize that what happens within us does have impact on everyone else. And this actually puts us in a beautiful position to actually be able to help regulate everyone that is around us in our, in our families. So, I have to regulate myself first, we have all likely either been on airplane or heard about this that takes place on airplanes, where in a time of crisis, the oxygen mask falls and the announcement is, put the oxygen mask on your face first before you put it on the your children or someone else that may need your support. And the same principle applies here when you’re talking about regulating what’s going on in the home. So I have to be able to center myself first. Now, centering myself does not mean for me to arrive at a completely calm state. That right now is a message that can throw many of us off because it’s really hard to attain that right now. So what I’m going to propose is that right now, it’s more about you being able to be connected to yourself in the midst of all of the emotions and the intensity. So what this literally looks like is I check in with myself, I notice I’m feeling overwhelmed and I consciously take a breath. And in that moment of the breath, I’m connecting to myself. I’m telling myself, in a sense, I got you, and this is the beginning of regulating my nervous system. I may then discover that I need to move. Maybe I’m hungry. Maybe I just need to be honest about what’s going on for me. So let me talk about this for a second. As parents, sometimes we are afraid to be really honest about what’s going on inside of us. And yet the reality is is that our children need honesty. That’s not just our children, our partners need our honesty as well. So being able in a poised way, and this is the key piece, being able to be honest and congruent, but in a poised way where we’re not flying off the handle. And ah, because that can actually disregulate someone else even more. But for me to be able to say to my family, “Wow, today was a really hard day, I felt really anxious a lot today and I’m noticing that I’m even feeling a little scared right now. So I’m gonna take a deep breath,” or I’m gonna go take a walk” or “I’m just gonna shake my body out right now.” That has such a profound regulatory effect not only on your nervous system but also on those in your family, because you’re giving the family member’s permission to also be honest about what’s happening inside of them as well.
So this is the first step. Regulate yourself, breathe, move. What do you need to do to stay connected to yourself? And again some of being calm right now, it’s about being poised and centered in the midst of whatever it is that you’re experiencing inside, allowing yourself to be honest, but in a way where it’s a grounded honesty, not a disregulated honesty. Because our nervous systems say hello, as I mentioned, the people in your family are going to begin to feel your regulation, and in a sense, you then become what I’m gonna call the external regulator, where the other family members actually can begin to borrow your nervous system, so they begin to feel your centeredness. They begin to feel your capacity to be ableto stay steady in the midst of all of this, and that actually begins to regulate them. So that’s the first thing that you can do. Regulate yourself. It will begin to regulate everyone else in the family.
A couple other things environmentally. Take the time to really look at what is happening in the environment that could also contribute to disregulation. So, everything from is there a routine in this environment? Have we as a family taking the time to come up with a routine? Have we talked about needs? Have we found a way to honor everybody’s needs, or we just sort of going one moment to the next moment to the next moment to the next moment. Routines are important right now. Predictability is important right now. What about things like, is the news just playing in the background? So we just have all this messaging that is fear based and actually creates more of a sense of anxiety in the home? Is that influencing disregulation? Um, are there other things that are going on that are influencing disregulation? See if you can take the time to identify them and look at what can you do to help actually create a way for the home to actually, be a home where there’s an experience people can actually ground and center in the home. It can even be like, what does your environment look like? Is it just a complete mess? We know that an organized environment actually regulates our nervous system, too, and then the last thing is actually doing things that are regulatory in nature with our family members. So when I think about what do my family members need. It’s not just about food, it’s not just about, um, you know their overall health right now. It’s not just about the routine. It’s also what are their regulatory needs. One of the things that’s been taken away is our ability to really move. And so, everybody has different needs. It’s not just movement Some people regulate through art. Some people regulate through, you know, listening to music. So can you actually identify everybody’s regulatory needs in the family and then find a way to address those? And then also, can you actually provide regulation into your family itself? So, for example, my daughter, whose 14 years old, when she is having her screen time and she’s lying on the floor, sometimes I’ll go over to her and I’ll just say, Hey, Avery, can I help your body right now? If she says, no, that’s fine. And if she’s like yes, because she knows that her her body’s a little blah right now with not being able to move as much as it normally does, and I’ll actually lay on top of her, and I’m actually laying on top of her and then breathing, and then I’m literally grounding her. Sometimes I will ask her to help me. I’ll ask her to push on my arms. Sometimes we just say what our bodies need right now. And then we turn on music and we dance. We’ve made it a point to go on walks, as many as we can throughout the day again. With this in mind, part of regulating my family is making sure that everybody’s regulatory needs are also met within the family system. So, you want to take a deep breath.
Hopefully, there’s some ideas in there that, that can help you. But part of what we can do right now is really play a pretty awesome role in our own family systems by regulating ourselves first and then finding ways where we can offer that, that regulation to our family members, sometimes just being who we are. And then also are there proactive things that we can do in the environment and to them and with them to help them also connect with their own bodies and to connect with, with what they need. Even things like just checking in every day. How are you feeling? What do your body, what’s your body need? Creating time for conversation and sharing about what this experience is like. And then the most important thing of everything is just to know that ultimately the most regulating thing is its connection. Connection with yourself and connection with other. So finding ways to connect. Right now it’s about quality, not quantity. And, um, show up, be real, connect, breath with each other and offer each other that felt sense experience that we’re gonna get through this together.