I vividly remember the first time I felt I was locked in a sandwich.
My youngest was home from preschool with a fever, and I had not slept properly in three days. I had not taken a shower in four. Then the phone rang, and my dad needed me to pick him up from the doctor’s office.
I literally sank down to the floor and started to shake – how on earth am I supposed to take care of both of them at the same time?
When I tell you that nearly half of all adults aged between 40 and 50 have a parent older than 65 and children they need to take care of, you’ll realize just how many of us there are in this sandwich.
Let’s now discuss how we can cope with it and not drown in the mayo.
Have An Emergency Plan In Place
I ended up calling my sister to watch the baby, while I hopped in the car to pick up my dad, thanks for asking.
What the situation has taught me is that we need to have a plan in place for the unexpected: whatever that may be.
Talk to your parents, spouse, and siblings, as well as neighbors and friends, and come up with an emergency plan of action in case someone needs to be rushed to the doctor, and the kids need to be managed at the same time.
What I mean is, write down the contacts and working hours of everyone who could volunteer in case of emergency. That way, you won’t have to go through half of your phonebook to find someone who can stop by.
Take A Load Off Your Mind
One of the major sources of stress for the sandwich generation is that nagging question: what happens when I am not there?
If your parents live alone, or away, you will worry every time they don’t answer the phone in three rings – what if something has happened?
The same goes for the kids. What are they up to at home, can they hurt themselves when they’re alone, and so on and so on.
While there are certain things we can never predict, we can always enact some due diligence and fix what we can.
Do everything in your power to make your parents’ home a safe place to age. Babyproof and childproof your home to the best of your ability. Teach your kids about safety, and try to get your parents to understand they are no longer as fit and healthy as they used to be. Help them realize that some things might now be out of their reach.
Focus on yourself
Caring for someone else often leaves us depleted and prevents us from taking care of ourselves.
Even when things are super hectic, and you need to be there for someone else, you still need to find the time for yourself, to detox and decompress.
Schedule in this time every week, as you would any other obligation or meeting. That way, you won’t just be able to skip it in favor of another activity.
Take yourself for a walk, take a bath, read a good book, put on some headphones and listen to your favorite jams – whatever helps you unplug and unwind will do the trick.
Don’t let yourself believe taking time for yourself is in any way selfish. After all, if your own batteries are empty and you’re running on fumes, how can you hope to help someone else?
Try adding a yoga or meditation routine to your day as well, as both of these practices are great for relaxing and managing stress levels.
Give your body what it needs
And on that note, make an effort to sleep, eat, and move well every day.
Sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice when we have too much to do, but it is also the worst choice we could make. The less sleep we get, the worse we will feel, and the higher our stress levels will rise.
If you fuel yourself with sugar and caffeine, the downs will become worse and worse. Your body will no longer be your friend, but turn into a frienemy that tries to trip you up more often than not.
And finally, don’t forget that the human body was designed to move, not sit around all day glued to a screen. So find a way to add at least a walk or a light cardio routine to your week to keep stress at bay and your energy levels up.
While the sandwich may seem daunting at times, when you exercise these tips, you will find it can also taste pretty good.