Today’s world can be incredibly hectic. In addition to taking care of ourselves, we often find that we are supporting our children. Whether it’s teaching them to drive, helping them navigate their finances, or encouraging them to pursue their goals, it can be stressful watching your children make life-changing decisions. As if that isn’t enough to manage, many Gen X and baby boomers find they are supporting aging parents who are also going through life-changing situations.
If this sounds familiar to you, then you are probably one of many who fall into the category of the “sandwich generation.” The sandwich generation is often described as the generation of people who care for their aging parents while also caring for their growing children. According to the Pew Research Center, one in eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 are simultaneously holding down a job while raising a child and caring for their aging parents.
Being part of this group can be stressful, making it hard to find a sense of balance in your life. So, what can you do to keep your stress at bay while focusing on your children, your parents, and still remembering to take time for yourself?
Here are a few suggestions to help you find and maintain that mind-body balance and feel less like you’re being pulled in a million different directions.
- Ask for help! This probably sounds a lot easier than it is, but asking for help can be beneficial for finding a sense of balance in your busy life. One place you can start is in your own home – with your kids! If they are old enough, ask them to help out with household chores. It could also be a good idea to ask your siblings to help out with your parents, by taking turns driving them to doctor’s appointments or picking them up for family holidays.
- Review your finances. Concerns about finances can generate a huge amount of stress. If finances are an issue, talk with your parents and/or kids. If needed, seek assistance from professionals. Create a budget that realistically looks at your short- and long-term goals. Knowing your action plan puts you more in control and can help reduce stress.
- Identify your priorities. Make a list of what you need to get done in a day, then look at that list and decide what the most important items are. It never helps if you feel like you have a hundred things to do and only two or three of them are important. Knowing you don’t have as much on your plate as you thought can help ease your mind and decrease your stress. It could also be helpful to download an organizational app on your smart phone to help you prioritize while on the go.
- Take a timeout. When you’re stressed and trying to find some balance, timeouts aren’t something just for children. Sometimes, adults need to take a few minutes to regroup. Try taking some time for yourself daily, whether that means hitting the gym or the yoga studio, sitting quietly for 20 minutes and reading a book or magazine, or grabbing a meal with a friend. You’ll find that once you start taking some time out of your busy week for yourself, the down time will help you process the busy parts of your life, and help your brain relax, enabling you to make better, thoughtful decisions.
- Take care of yourself to better care for others. Eating healthy, nourishing meals helps your body have enough stamina to deal with your day. Sleep, like nourishing food, is vital for mental clarity. Exercise can help you retain vital muscle and joint mobility so that you have the physical strength to deal with whatever comes your way. Making self-care a priority can help you successfully deal with feeling overworked and overwhelmed.
Caring for multiple generations can be exhausting, but it can be rewarding too. Caregivers note that spending time with family, sharing values, helping others, and being empathetic are all great ways to lead by example and to contribute to a solid family legacy.
Are you “sandwiched?” What other strategies are important to share with others in the same situation? Share your thoughts by commenting below.