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Ten Strategies to Maintain Emotional Wellness

by Dr. Mark Lerner 

Chairman, The National Center for Emotional Wellness



1)  Become knowledgeable about traumatic stress. By having an awareness and understanding of the            feelings, thoughts, actions and physical reactions that you are experiencing, you will regain a sense of      control.


2)  Realize that your reactions are normal responses to abnormal  circumstances (e.g., a miscarriage,             “losing” the arranged child, becoming aware of an adoptive child’s medical condition, etc.). 


3)  If you find that stress is causing you to react physically (e.g., rapid heart rate, breathing increase,                sweating, etc.) use quick relaxation techniques to regain control.  Take a slow deep breath by inhaling      through your nose, hold the breath for 3 seconds and exhale through your mouth.  Upon exhalation,        think the words “relax,” “let go,” or “I am handling this.”  Repeat the process a second time.  Use this          technique when you become aware of physical reactions or when your thoughts become                            overwhelming.


4)  Understand that adoption stress may compromise your ability to make your best decisions.  If you            find it difficult to concentrate when another individual is speaking to you, focus on the specific words        they are saying—work to actively listen.  Slow down the conversation and try repeating what you have      just heard.  Don’t make important decisions when you are feeling overwhelmed.  Use the advice my          father gave to me—always sleep on an important decision.


5)  Realize that repetitive thoughts and sleep difficulties are normal reactions.  Don’t fight the sleep                difficulty.  Try the following: Eliminate caffeine for 4 hours prior to your bedtime, create the best sleep      environment you can, consider taking a few moments before turning out the lights to write down              your thoughts—thus emptying your mind.  Try reading or listening to peaceful music.


6)  Give yourself permission to rest, relax and engage in some non-threatening activity.  Take a walk, ride      a bike or swim.  Physical exercise will help to dissipate the stress energy that has been generated by          your experience.


7)  Adoption stress may create a desire to withdraw and isolate—creating a strain on significant others.         Remember that your family and friends have no way of knowing why you have closed down and               pulled away—leaving them to imagine the worst regarding your relationship.  Communication must         continue.  Share your feelings with family and friends and stay connected.  Resist the urge to shut             down and retreat into your own world.


8)  Create a journal.  Writing about your experience with adoption may help you to expose yourself to             painful thoughts and feelings and, ultimately, enable you to assimilate your experience. 


9)  If necessary, seek the assistance of a professional or turn to your spiritual leader.  If you find that the      process is too powerful, allow yourself the advantage of professional and/or spiritual guidance,                  support and education. 


10)  Try to maintain your schedule.  The adoption process can easily disrupt the sense of normalcy.  We         are all creatures of habit.  By maintaining our routines we can maintain a sense of control, at a time         when circumstances may lead us to feel a loss of control.


More important than any strategy, is to understand that whatever happens during peak emotional experiences in your life, the gifts of life and the losses of life, becomes etched in your mind forever.  As an adoptive parent, seize the energy from adoption stress.  It can propel you to set realistic goals, make decisions and take action.  Adopting a child is a gift that will bring a whole new sense of meaning and purpose to your life.





Dr. Mark Lerner

Chairman, The National Center for Emotional Wellness

© 2015 by Dr. Mark Lerner


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