ASL interpreting is a highly demanding job that can lead to occupational burnout. As an interpreter, you often work with people of different temperaments and deal with varied situations— some of which can be emotionally taxing. 

Assignments can be triggering or exhausting, leaving you feeling stressed and disoriented. If things go on as they are, you might get burnt out. Before things take a turn for the worse, you must intervene and take the right measures to avoid burnout. 

Today, we explore some ways in which you can avoid sign language interpreter burnout. 

Signs you are burnt-out

Before we discuss some tips to avoid burnout, you must be aware of the signs that imply burnout. 

Physical symptoms include: 

  • Constant headaches
  • Stomachaches or bowel problems 
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or change in sleep schedule 
  • Lower immunity and frequent illness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Altered appetite

Emotional symptoms include:

  • Helplessness
  • Cynicism
  • Depression
  • General detachment
  • Self-doubt

Behavioral symptoms include:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Reduced productivity 
  • Forgetfulness
  • Dissatisfaction 
  • Irritability 
  • Increased dependence on substances
  • Isolation
  • Procrastination

Schedule self-care

Interpreters are at risk of facing compassion fatigue or the “cost of caring.” It is crucial to tune in and partake in mindfulness to prevent feeling overwhelmed. You can achieve mindfulness through yoga, journaling, or meditation.  

Simply taking some time away from work, indulging in activities you enjoy, or going on a long-due vacation can also do wonders to rejuvenate your mind. 

Adopt a healthier lifestyle

Apart from mental exhaustion, ASL interpreting also takes a physical toll on your body. You must look after your physical well-being as much as your emotional well-being. 

To avoid burnout and get healthier, maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Further, you must get in the habit of exercising regularly. Low-intensity workouts or even simple stretching can relax your body and make you feel better. 

Moreover, indulging in physically relaxing activities like massages can help relieve some stress— book a spa appointment or ask a loved one to help you out. 

Join an interpreter’s community

No one can understand your professional woes like other interpreters. Sometimes all it takes to feel better is a little bit of venting to your peers. 

If you find a community of interpreters, you can use that safe space to discuss work and the problems associated with it. Generally, issues like self-doubt, challenging clients, emotionally draining projects, and job growth are felt by all interpreters alike. Discussing these issues with people in the same boat as you can offer some respite. 

These conversations can be seen as an outlet for venting. However, they often play a bigger role and offer solutions and feedback that can help you deal with your professional worries and stress.  

A community of like-minded professionals can help you feel supported in your professional endeavors. The benefits of finding a community are manifold— it can be a great place for networking, growing, and de-stressing. 

Set firm boundaries

The increasing demand for ASL interpreters surpasses the number of working professionals. Due to this, clients may expect you to work unreasonably long hours, or you might be on the receiving end of a ton of interpretation requests. 

Pushing yourself beyond a limit is a surefire way of getting burnt out. As a novice, you might feel tempted to accept all projects that come your way, or your desire to help the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community can make it harder for you to say no to projects, including those involving community work.  

Saying yes to all projects that are offered to you might increase your goodwill and make you stand out in the eyes of your clients. It can also help you satisfy your altruistic desire to create a positive impact. However, this can be counterproductive in the long run since burnout and exhaustion can reduce productivity and job satisfaction. 

You must set firm boundaries with yourself to avoid such extreme exhaustion. Professional boundaries can take the form of limiting the maximum number of projects you accept or determining the maximum number of hours you work in a week. 

Another boundary you can consider enforcing is deciding the type of interpretation projects that you accept vs. reject— some interpreting settings can be more triggering and exhausting than others. 

For instance, if you are a mental health interpreter, you might find some topics (such as those around trauma or grief) more provoking than others. In this case, setting a boundary would mean not accepting work around these subjects. 

Enforcing these boundaries can help you manage stress substantially. 


When you consider the impact of ASL interpreting on the Deaf community, the profession can seem incredibly rewarding. However, it also comes with its share of challenges. 

Interpreter fatigue and burnout can severely impact your emotional and physical well-being. It is also one of the primary reasons many professionals decide to change their career path to something less challenging. 

If you have been dealing with this fatigue, know that all is not lost. There are ways to both avoid and overcome this problem. The tips mentioned in this blog can help you recover and fight burnout. 

Unspoken Language Services is looking for skilled ASL interpreters dedicated to serving the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. As an Unspoken Interpreter, you get to join a community of like-minded interpreters who can support your professional journey. We value your time and unique expertise and strive to make interpreting with us as seamless as possible. Join us to experience a humanistic approach to interpreting. 

Thumbnail Photo Credit to: Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich