Monday, August 13, 2012

The Power of Breathing

During a crisis, it’s not uncommon for your breathing to change, in order to help you to manage the stress of your experience. At times, your breathing may become rapid, bringing oxygen into your system to enable you to respond quickly to further danger. But this very same rapid breathing may also cause you to feel anxious, panicky and very uncomfortable.

So, what can you do? Let me share a great technique that will help you take control of your breathing so that it once again becomes a positive, rather than a negative, to your physical and emotional well-being.

First, take the phone off the hook and turn off the sound on your cell phone. Sit, or lie down, and make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. For the moment, don’t try to change it, just become aware of, and focus on, your breathing. Some thoughts may come into your mind and if they do, just chase them away, continuing to concentrate only on your breathing. Notice each time you inhale and each time you exhale. With each exhalation, think the word, “relax.”

Next, take a slow deep breath through your nose, hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Do this three times. You’ll find yourself becoming more relaxed with each breath you take.

There’s a reason why people, from athletes to soon-to-be-moms, are encouraged to become aware of their breathing and to build a repertoire of breathing techniques. Learning to control your breathing can become a powerful physical and emotional force that will enable you to cope more effectively with adversity.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Adoption Stress" and International Adoption

Unfortunately, far too many adoptive children have faced traumatic events including, but not limited to, neglect, physical and sexual abuse and various degrees of abandonment. As an “Adoption Psychologist,” I regularly explain to adoptive parents that by having an understanding of the symptoms suggestive of traumatic exposure, we can identify children who may be experiencing traumatic stress reactions. Ultimately, by identifying symptoms early, we can address emotional, social, behavioral and educational needs. As I often say to parents, we certainly don’t wait to address physical trauma. And, in the same way, we must not wait to address traumatic stress.

How is traumatic stress manifested in adoptive children?

In the young adopted child, we see immature and regressive behaviors—behaviors that have been abandoned in the past are often observed again (e.g., thumb sucking, bed wetting, fear of the dark, loss of bladder control, speech difficulties, decreases in appetite, clinging and whining, and separation difficulties). Older children may manifest periods of sadness and crying, poor concentration, fears of personal harm, aggressive behaviors, withdrawal/social isolation, attention-seeking behavior, anxiety and fears, etc.

So, what is “Adoption Stress”? Does it refer solely to the experience of so many adoptive children?

The reality is, when we look closely at adoption, we realize that traumatic stress is pervasive - often impacting several, if not all, of the parties involved. Unfortunately, this traumatic stress, “adoption stress,” is generally not recognized and its impact is misunderstood. Consider the following….

Birth parents, who surrender a child for adoption, typically experience a great deal of stress. Oftentimes, due to their circumstance, they have little choice or control and must surrender their child for adoption.

Adoptive parents often bring to the table a history of stress. For example, pre-adoption stressors, which may include fertility problems, losses and significant relationship conflicts. There is also stress associated with the acquisition of an adoptive child. For example, there may be serious medical concerns, “misunderstandings,” and heartbreaking disappointments. Finally, post-adoption stress may center around the realization of a dream, tremendous life changes with new responsibilities, and a future marked by uncertainty and fear.

Adoption stress is manifested in the feelings, thoughts, actions, physical and spiritual reactions of all parties associated with the adoption process—by birth parents, adoptive parents and certainly, adoptive children. By understanding adoption stress and recognizing the symptoms, we can intervene early, educate and empower victims, and prevent acute difficulties from becoming chronic problems.