These are stressful times for the Sandwich Generation. You want to care for your loved ones. But with demands from every direction, the pressures of nurturing multiple generations can be overwhelming.
With empathy and clarity, you see that each member is a part of the family’s continual change and renewal. As you manage the challenges of aging parents and growing children, be compassionate with yourself. Here are practical tips on how to do just that:
Embrace change. Keep a journal about your core values and what you want for yourself. Notice emotional shifts as you come to terms with feelings of frustration, anger or sadness. And try to reconnect with old dreams and passions. Be willing to go beyond what’s comfortable to explore your creative side. When you set goals and take small steps toward them, you’ll begin to feel more centered.
Create balance. Find a happy medium between caregiving responsibilities and self-care. Make nurturing yourself a priority. Carve out time for yoga, swimming or whatever brings you peace of mind. Talk with friends who understand what you need as you work through changes in your family life. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins and a good mood can help you make more realistic decisions.
Build resilience. Although you can’t prevent what happens to you, you can control how you handle complicated issues that cause anxiety. Change your mindset, establishing limits that work for you. As you reframe negative thoughts, you’ll have the power to turn worry into energy. A positive attitude makes a big difference in recognizing the lessons in what you’re going through.
Find support. When you take smaller steps than you would like, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. During the tougher times, find a role model who encourages you. An objective opinion from a family therapist or life coach can provide awareness and direction. As you step back, you may be able to see a difficult situation from a different perspective.
Trust yourself. Remember that past is prologue as you prepare for what lies ahead. Look back at the insights and strategies that have worked before. And as with any transitions use your tried and true coping strengths. Be fiercely curious and determined to find solutions, no matter what. Listen to your inner voice and focus on what’s important as you continue to integrate moral standards into how you live your life.
Whether you’re confronted with a crisis or transitioning to the next chapter, expect a cascade of feelings – anxiety, the desire to hold on, resentment, fear, and eventually a sense of freedom. This emotional roller coaster is normal. If you find the courage, you can’t help but grow from the experience. And be aware that your children are watching how you support your parents.