How can translators avoid burnout?

Working as a translator can be a mental challenge. Translators generally work independently as freelancers. They don't normally have an office to go to or co-workers to chat with. They're always learning new things and often work under pressure with strict deadlines. Sooner or later, their long-term overexertion will have a detrimental effect on their mental wellbeing. How can you take care of your mental health in such a challenging and stressful profession?

Spot the early warning signs that you’re heading for a burnout

When we were putting together a new article about the common challenges faced in the translation sector in 2022, we spoke with some translators and one of them brought up a very interesting topic. They see burnout prevention as a real challenge. “The work of a translator hardly ever deviates from day-to-day. They head to their office, set a cup of coffee or tea down on their desk, put their hands on the keyboard and get to work. After a few hours they get something to eat, maybe have a little drink, and then leave their office at the end of the workday. Few translators I know have spent their whole lives doing commercial translations. Constant motivation needs to be found somewhere,” says translator František Vaško.

When your daily routine is so monotonous, it becomes increasingly more difficult for you to find new ways to stay motivated and replenish your energy supply. And without any intervention, reaching burnout is just a matter of time.

Burnout can be described as a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, which occurs as a result of long-term overexertion or stress. “Eventually we experience energy stagnation, we become dissatisfied with our work, and we lose our principles, enthusiasm, and interest in our work, which becomes incredibly exhausting for us,” explains psychiatrist and psychotherapist MUDr. Martin Ondrejkovič from the League for Mental Health, Slovakia.

Burnout contributes to lower productivity and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and cynicism, which can lead to you feeling as if you have nothing more to bring to the table.

What thoughts and feelings are associated with burnout?

Burnout is not something you feel all at once. It's a condition that builds up gradually over the course of several months, usually when you're not paying attention to the red flags and have failed to intervene in a timely manner.

How to prevent burnout

Social support from our loved ones or a community of like-minded individuals

In life, we need people we can share our feelings of joy and discomfort with. An important factor in preventing burnout is having family, friends, or a circle of professionals from your field who share similar problems with you and are willing to lend an ear, give their full and undivided attention, offer advice, give constructive feedback, and/or perform selfless acts of help.

Listen to your body

The body can achieve the impossible through strong willpower and self-control, but when you have too much going on all at once and your energy reserves can’t keep up with replenishing themselves, it takes a toll on your body. The body communicates through various signs and tries to persuade us to give it more time to regenerate. If you’re constantly failing to recover from an illness or if your sleep patterns are frequently impaired, then it’s time to listen to your body’s signals that are begging for a break or change.

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Know your self-worth

It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others. Reading social media posts about how successful other people in your field are can raise doubts about your own ability to do your job well. We all have our own background stories, which are shaped by our various current life circumstances.

Take a look at how far you’ve come and the skills and qualities that you’ve honed up to this point. Your work is no less valued just because it didn’t cause a stir on social media. Ultimately, you can always ask clients for their feedback to get a better picture of the value you bring to them.

Set realistic goals for yourself

In the long run, juggling between the constant pressure to perform well and to overcome yours and other people’s expectations can grow unbearable. According to research conducted by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), as many as 78% of freelance workers in the UK also work while on holiday. Protecting yourself from burnout requires you to slow down, distance yourself from your work, and take the time to rest and think. Be honest with yourself and realistically evaluate your capacity when you have the urge to accept another big project at the expense of a free weekend.

Find other ways to take care of your mental health that are convenient for your lifestyle and will help make you feel better. Translating is a wonderful job, but like many things in life, it has to fit into the overall mosaic that keeps us mentally balanced.

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