Ridghaus & Amber Jimerson
We (Amber Jimerson and Ridghaus) just left the NAAP Annual Conference 2021 and started talking about tips for re-entry. Ridghaus, dad, late-discovery adoptee, biodad, and writer/filmmaker has a few plans post-conference, and Amber, mom, biomom, and growing up in an NPE had a couple of things that she added to the mix.
We’ve just spent the last three days surrounded (mostly) by our peeps. “Mostly”, because even in the midst of loving the connections, many of us likely still needed to slip away for a little bit and just be alone. After coffee, lunches, dinners, later-night snacks, and bar/fire-pit time stretching into the early mornings and that 7 o’clock am yoga/tai chi will always come too early, even for a “morning person”. Many of us enjoyed soaking up as much of the laughter, the stories, the physical presence maybe we didn’t know we were missing, and the sense of belonging, as we could in just three days.
Then the conference ends and we all must pull our bags together and head back home. Home, where the next week lacks a conference schedule fluidity, where we probably will not hear a group of friends laughing just around the corner as they approach for the next session or to get some seat time together. This next week will certainly be quieter and much more ordinary. Conference weaves a magical time plucked from normal days and spins a place where we’re more easily understood, where we hear someone say what we thought “only I ever felt thought.” And now that dreamy state gives way to regular life. Validating that we just had amazing and emotional experiences once we’ve left is vital. Here are five tips on how we cope with post-conference emotional hangover?
- Plan the next community time. Ridghaus: I have a group of adoptees who are on “House Party” app with me and we email around and see when we can get on next to just catch up in each other’s life. I also have a few who are in regular contact via text and chats, staying connected as often as I can. We are also planning a ‘friendsgiving’ time together to share a meal and some time in retreat around the holidays after we’ve spent time with our families. Are there ways we all can reach out and continue these connections over the coming year? Several support groups already exist online and in person if you don’t have one right now Male adoptees (MAAIS on FB) have a monthly zoom call; Adoptees Connect has several chapters across the U.S.; Yoffe Celia Center offers online groups; and NAAP has reunion support, recovery and addiction support, as well as regular Happy Hour events.
- Set aside time to process. Amber: I typically expect to come away from a conference with an abundance of new information and resources, and recording those notes is a great way to keep the knowledge organized and memorable. What I sometimes don’t expect, however, are the emotions that surface from the interactions and relationships I have in this setting. Just being in the presence of this group brings up anything from joy and belonging, to anxiety and fear, and everything in between (and maybe all of them at once). Part of re-entry means leaving both those newfound and long-term, meaningful connections after just a few days, and that can also be challenging. Journaling my emotional and relational responses or revelations is equally important to fully understanding my conference experience, honoring those personal lessons learned, and integrating them into my life moving forward. Don’t know where to begin? Was there a recurring thought you had through the conference? Start writing, and don’t worry about it making sense. Other times, I notice a feeling: maybe, like me, you noticed you resisted a thought during Jeanette’s guided meditation. Simply write observations, no long paragraphs necessary. I have pages of a dozen unrelated observations divided by lines…and sometimes later united by previously unseen patterns.
- Take care of YOU. Ridg: I like to take care of me post-conference by focusing on three things:
A. I’m always trying to add fiber to my diet and over the last two years I’ve incorporated more plant-based proteins, but for the week after the conference, I definitely try to have a salad or leafy greens for several meals all week long. Part of the mood drops come from lacking hugs, laughs, and being understood. Since 70% of serotonin comes from the gut, good intestinal health means better mood chemical production.
B. The day after I return (not the travel day) I try to minimize my morning schedule so I can stay in bed until I absolutely feel better rested. Sometimes this takes place at 8 hours after laying down the night before, sometimes this takes place 10-12 hours. By giving myself some morning margin, I get to REST, and recover. I also start doing a few sun salutations or planks and stretches after waking up. Nothing crazy, just moving the body and feeling more in touch with how he’s (my body uses he/him pronouns) coming along after these connections.
C. For my own psyche, I intentionally function more slowly that next week. This happens in two ways. 1) I schedule more time between things and fewer things happen and 2) I spend a few minutes the night before each next day and mentally visualize moving through that day. I take time to collect thoughts before speaking, before typing out an email, or other such slowness. I know that conferences always introduce new things to me and I need that extra time to just understand how it’s impacting me so far.
- Breathe. Amber: How many times over this past weekend were we guided through intentional breathing, collectively? Much of healing involves becoming present in our bodies, and intentional breath is a building block of that embodiment. During this time, I tried to check in and notice my breath, to make time (away from the phone) for deep breathing and stillness. It’s so simple yet so easy to forget. Yoga, mindfulness, meditation: during the conference, we likely gained tools to bring home to our toolkit and post-conference time is really an opportunity to begin or continue our practice with these tools. If you catch yourself holding your breath, or scrolling mindlessly through social media, or if you recognize you’re emotionally activated over something, pause. I tend to practice the breathing I learned during one of my pregnancies: slow deep breath in through the nose to the count of four. Hold for seven. Exhale through your mouth, emptying your lungs for a count of eight. Repeat, noticing the changes in your body.
- Make a thing. Ridghaus: I will often journal post-conference with ideas, quotes, and new stuff, but sometimes, I also make a thing. Reflecting on my recent experiences and then try to manifest an artistic piece that represents where I am. These can be paintings, collage, ceramic, drawings, poetry, or other writing. There’s no limit, but making a thing to memorialize the conference experience transmutes intangibles into beautiful reminders. You do not have to consider yourself an artist to benefit from taking that which is inside you and finding a way to express it, give it a home, outside of yourself. We are all artists of sorts, in that we each have a world inside of us desiring external manifestations
So there we go. Five of our tips for knocking that re-entry edge down:
- reach out,
- take care,
- breathe, and
Finally, of course, the bonus tip we could never forget: plan the next conference trip. In addition to NAAP 2022, several organizations offer both online and in-person events. Happy post conference decompression and see you next time!