8 Ways for Sandwich Generation Caregivers to Beat Stress
Anyone who’s part of the “sandwich generation” probably already knows it. Unlike other generational monikers, this one has less to do with the year you were born, and more to do with your current level of family responsibility. Caring for both aging parents and your own children — all while holding down a job and managing a household — is the definition of sandwich generation, and it may eventually lead to sandwich generation burnout. That’s not a good situation for anyone’s physical, mental or emotional health. Ironically though, despite feeling overwhelmed as a family caregiver, there’s still more to be done — namely managing stress for the sake of your own health and well-being. Take a few minutes now to read these eight ways sandwich generation caregivers can better manage stress while still helping their aging parents and loved ones at home.
The health risks from caregiver burnout
Assuming the role of multigenerational caregiver on top of responsibilities as homemaker and working professional is flirting with serious health repercussions. Too much pressure to stay on top of too many assignments will consume more time than you have. It will lead to chronic stress, which in turn may trigger anxiety, sleep deprivation, difficulty concentrating, digestion issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, clinical depression — the list goes on. A good caregiver can’t afford to neglect his or her own needs.
1. Find ways to share responsibilities
The tendency for most family caregivers, especially sandwich generation caregivers, is to take everything on themselves. Instincts and emotions run high when it comes to our parents and children, but that doesn’t change the fact that we all have limits. Resolve to find the support you need — from siblings or other family members, friends or fellow church congregants, or by enlisting professional caregivers or senior living community residency counselors. Lakewood’s Assisted Living is located on a beautiful Richmond, VA, campus. Assisted Living means they’ll enjoy a robust and independent lifestyle by the best design of all — theirs.
2. Reclaim some time for yourself
Caring for parents and your immediate family simultaneously is time-consuming and draining, likely leaving you feeling there’s no room in the day for anything else. But to give parents and family members the best care and attention possible, we have to take care of ourselves first. Make it a priority to do something fun, relaxing or interesting, just for yourself.
3. Make sure you’re eating well
The body needs high-grade fuel to run properly. Empty calories leave you feeling lethargic, whereas nourishing food provides energy and keeps your blood sugar and mood stable. Make every effort to eat a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fiber carbohydrates like lentils or beans, whole grains and protein from lean meat. Don’t forget to hydrate with plenty of water. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel, and your immune system will thank you.
4. Always get 7 to 9 hours sleep
Who has time for that? It’s absolutely vital to make time. Sleep deprivation leads to poor thinking and poor decision-making, irritability,and higher risk for such chronic conditions as heart disease and diabetes. There’s a much better chance of accomplishing more and helping your loved ones by starting each day well rested.
5. Exercise and physical activity
The body requires it. Even 30 minutes of light- to moderate-intensity exercise each day improves mood and concentration. It’s like taking a natural antidepressant. Find a doable option — walking, a stationary bike or treadmill, yoga-style stretching at home — your overall health and outlook will start to improve immediately.
6. Develop the meditation habit
Though there are different meditation techniques, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Meditation is associated with reducing blood pressure and pain and improving digestion, sleep and more. Mindfulness meditation involves being aware of the present moment without judging whether it’s good or bad. Just taking a bit of time to calm the mind and body will trigger the relaxation response — the opposite of the stress response. Reserve a time each day when you can find a quiet space for just 10 to 30 minutes.
7. Consider journaling
This is a way to process one’s emotions in a safe space. Putting thoughts and feelings into words is cathartic, providing perspective that eventually may lead to unexpected solutions.
8. Stay connected to close friends
Social connections are crucial for good health. They help us through stressful times. Even if you’re pressed for time, try to reconnect with friends via text, phone calls or in-person engagements. The dividends will be evident immediately.
Remember, you’re not alone.
Don’t allow caregiver stress or guilt to claim your physical and mental well-being. Lakewood Senior Living is a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Richmond, VA, and is here to help. Our experienced team can offer information and guidance regarding any family caregiver situation. You might start with understanding family dynamics when parents move to assisted living.
Being a sandwich generation caregiver indefinitely may not be the most sustainable solution. Finding good care for parents doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. Residency at Lakewood offers maintenance-free living and support as needed, allowing residents to explore the freedom of retirement and family members to go back to being sons and daughters. Contact us today to learn more and schedule your personal tour.