Tuesday, January 8, 2019

6 Ways to Reduce Adoption Anxiety

So you know that I typically write about adoption, but today, I need to talk about something that impacts A LOT of women, and often women in the adoption community.    

We spend A LOT of time worrying and waiting.  We often live in long seasons of confusion, frustration, exhaustion.  And of course, anxiety.   

I've had anxiety for as long as I can remember, which means when it comes to adoption, my anxiety revs up even more.  For my entire life, I've heard things like:

-let go, and let God
-just take a chill pill
-calm down
-you just need to have more faith
-it'll be OK

Let me make one thing very clear:  when you have anxiety, you cannot just "suck it up."  Anxiety can be debilitating.  

Now being anxious in tough circumstances doesn't necessarily mean you have anxiety.  There are different types of clinical anxiety.  However, situational anxiety is quite common among those waiting to adopt.

I'm not going to play.  There are no superficial suggestions here like, just have a "spa day" with a friend, or jet off to Hawaii, or meditate.  Yes, a spa day, a fab vaca, or meditation might be able to help, but my goal is to provide you with practical (and from my experience) help.  

For more ideas, I explore the "waiting to adopt" phase in depth in The Hopeful Mom's Guide to Adoption

1:  Make a list of what helps.

This should be a personalized list of the things you can do to stay focused on peace, joy, patience, and thankfulness instead of on worry and control.  Type out this list and post it somewhere visible.  And then refer to it often!   I promise, this can be very helpful.   I call my list "When Anxiety is Winning." Here are a few things on m list to inspire you to get started: 

-go outside on a sunny day and take deep breaths in of fresh air

-schedule a coffee date with a trusted girlfriend

-drink green or white tea or take l-theanine

-avoid social media (explanation of why)

-listen to my favorite energizing or calming music (depending on my mood)

-organizing something in my home

-diffuse an essential oil (I prefer orange for energy or vanilla for calming) or light a favorite candle

-repeating a favorite Bible verse

2:  Seek the guidance of an adoption competent counselor.

Not everyone gets adoption, so if you choose to go to counseling, I urge you to be picky!  

Counseling was a jackpot for me during my recent breast cancer journey.  My anxiety was at an all-time high, and it seemed like nothing I was doing was "enough" to tame the beast.  I needed cognitive behavioral strategies.   

Most recently, I learned of the container exercise---look into it!  Very helpful to "contain" whatever adoption issues you are wrestling with, the ones keeping you up at night.   

Counseling is great because it's an "outside party" who can listen to you without judgement and offer suggestions and exercises you can do to help your anxiety.  

3:  Join an adoption support group and/or create an adoption "village."

The more perspectives you have, the better.  A great adoption support group will be for all triad members, inviting everyone into the conversation.  It should be an open, welcoming place where you can ask questions and receive responses.   

I've been asked, what about online support groups?  I love that online groups bring about different triad members from all over the world.  I love that you can participate as much as you want or just sit back and read.   However, there are some drawbacks:  posting anything personal means many, many people have access to that information.  There tends to be a lot (a lot) of drama in online adoption groups.   These groups also tend to have a few strong voices that dominate the group's discussion and direction.   

So I'd say, join at your discretion, and remember that nothing, and I mean nothing, is more helpful and beautiful than face-to-face, hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart relationships.   So if you engage in online support, please consider person-to-person support as well (and more importantly).  

4:  Get educated.

Oftentimes, the source of adoption anxiety is ignorance, meaning, a lack of knowledge.  For example, perhaps your social worker has given you a checklist in which you must say what type of adoption you will or will not consider including transracial adoption, older child adoption, and special needs adoption.   

You want to swiftly mark "no" because you are scared.  You are intimidated.  You have a million questions but feel too frozen to seek answers.   But answers are exactly what you need to make an educated, confident decision.

I have talked to SO many adoptive parents who stepped out in faith, after getting educated, and have the children they do BECAUSE they chose to learn, listen, and say "yes."  If you've read The Lucky Few (if you haven't, PLEASE do!), you know exactly what I'm talking about. 

Personally, we swiftly marked "white" on the race openness during our first adoption.  After waiting a year, we were re-evaluating our openness, and I remember looking at my husband and saying, "Why aren't we open to race?"  We spent four months in the trenches of transracial adoption education (and that was just the beginning...we have NEVER stopped our transracial adoption education):  meeting with transracial families, reading books/blogs/articles, talking for HOURS every single night about race, and more.  After those four months, our eyes were opened to the fact that not only could we adopt transracially, but we were as prepared as possible to do so.  Of course, experience IS the best teacher, but there's a lot to be said for proactively preparing.  

Our daughter was born and placed with us shortly after.  And now, we are parenting four transracial adoptees.  

5:  Be aware of possible future struggles, and prepare now.

Again, being proactive is incredibly wise!  After adoption, some women experience post-adoption depression.   A particularly difficult adoption might lead a mama to experience PTSD.   (I shared three trauma experiences you can explore here:  part 1, part 2, and part 3.) 

I don't throw these around lightly, and I'm not a medical expert.  However, I have engaged with thousands of adoptive parents:  and struggling with an adoption before and during is common, and the struggle often amplifies after the adoption, manifesting in post-traumatic stress (though it may or may not extend to PTSD) or depression.  

How can you prepare now?  Constantly "check in" with how your're feeling and doing.  A counselor (see point #2) can help you with this. Also, learn about post-adoption depression and trauma.  If you end up experiencing either of these, you will be able to recognize them and seek help sooner rather than later.  

6:  Don't pause your life.

You NEVER know how long it will take to adopt.  One of the worst mistakes a woman can make is to put her life on hold (AKA:  put her joy, time, peace, energy, etc. on vacation) while she waits for "the call."  

Waiting to adopt is a great time to invest in a new hobby, to "date" your partner, to organize things in your home, even prepare a nursery, make career moves at work, go on that dream vacation, step up your fitness routine, etc.  

Holding out only increases your anxiety!  If you bank everything on "when the baby comes," I've got news for you:  once the baby comes, you will have way less time, energy, and money.  Parenthood is tough!   It requires a lot of you.  It's a shift and requires a lot of adjusting.   It's a welcomed and wonderful shift, but it is hard.   

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