July is Sandwich Generation month. According to a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center, close to 30 million Americans are unpaid care-givers for their aging parents. And many of them are still raising children or supporting a boomerang kid.
If you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation, you know that there's a lot to chew on. When your secretary says there’s a nurse on the line, do you wonder if it’s the school or the cardiac care unit? It can be a struggle when you’re worried about your family, your folks, and how you're going to pay for it all.
This month, when we honor those sandwiched between growing kids and parents in decline, it’s the perfect time to play catch-up with yourself. You can create new scripts instead of resorting to old thought patterns that bring you down. Here are 7 ideas that can help change your perspective and your quality of life:
Attend to your needs. Let frustration, exhaustion, resentment or guilt wash over you but don't give in to them. As you assume greater responsibility for your parents, make nurturing yourself a priority. If you’re feeling centered when your teens are pushing the limits, you’re better able to meet the challenges. You deserve to take better care of your emotional self.
Release emotions. If you have pent up feelings about particular family members, writing can be cathartic. It helps you regulate negative emotions and savor positive ones. Let go of judgment and you'll open up to a deeper, more expressive experience. Read between the lines of your journal and trust what you discover - ways to resolve conflict, to gain closure, to find inner strength.
Seek solitude. Set limits by saying 'no' to others and 'yes' to yourself. A physical place with little opportunity for distraction will free up your thoughts. Try not to worry about mistakes from the past or what the future will bring. Carve out quiet time each day and discover what brings you peace of mind.
Create balance. Find a happy medium between your caregiving responsibilities to others and to yourself. Take a break for a long walk, a nap or a yoga class. Spend time with a friend who makes you smile. Release tension by watching a sitcom or a funny movie. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins and a good mood helps you make better decisions.
Start a play revolution. Think about your fondest memories of playing as a child. There must be similar activities you could integrate into your life right now. How can you reconnect to your creative and playful side? And how far are you willing to go outside your comfort zone? Just imagine the potential benefits to your physical health, level of happiness and feelings of wellbeing.
Build resilience. Although you can't prevent what happens to you, you can have some control over how you handle it. Work on changing your mindset. If you reframe your pessimistic thoughts, you can turn anxiety into energy. A good attitude can make a difference, so look for the lessons in what you're going through. And if you don’t feel like you have control over your life, set some limits that work for you.
Embrace change. As you set goals and move toward them, continue an active process of getting to know your true self. Write about your passions as well as what you really value, care about and want. An unused journal won't help make your dreams come true but a well loved and often used one might do just that.
Of course, you want to care for those you care about. But, at times, the stress of nurturing multiple generations can be overwhelming. The best way to have patience and compassion for your aging parents and growing kids is through learning to be patient and compassionate with yourself.