Are you like the millions of Americans who, year after year, make New Year’s resolutions that they don’t keep? Have you made a vow to lose 25 pounds, exercise four times a week or save monthly for your retirement? Noble goals – but do you keep them past the end of January? More crucial than setting broad goals is setting achievable ones and then putting them into practice.
Baby Boomers in the Sandwich Generation are especially stressed by the responsibilities they face from both their growing children and aging parents. Miranda feels physically and emotionally exhausted as the year draws to a close and vows to make some changes in the New Year. “I love my parents dearly and want to help them out as much as I can but I need to be there for my kids too. Impossible as it may sound, the only way to do both is to set aside some time for me too. I know that I’m absolutely no good to anyone if I don’t take care of myself.”
Like Miranda, you can set some goals for yourself as you look forward to the New Year. Here are 9 tips for making and implementing meaningful resolutions that will help you deal with the pressures of the Sandwiched years:
1. Use part of the Serenity Prayer as your new mantra. Make an effort to “have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” To remember the phrase, write it down and leave it where you can see it – on your night table, the refrigerator, the front seat in your car, your desk at work.
2. Recognize that you don’t have to do it all alone. Decide to get help when you need it from other family members. Be firm about asking your siblings to lend a hand with your parents; clarify your partner’s responsibilities in caring for the children. The Internet can be useful in identifying local community resources that are available to you.
3. Set limits. Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, you don’t have to please all of the people in your family all of the time. Trust yourself to know when it is ok to say “no” to your parents or your children and to say “yes” to yourself.
4. Take care of yourself – your body, your mind and your spirit – through exercise, proper food, rest and relaxation. Set aside quiet time for yourself and do whatever pleases you – garden, listen to music, soak in the bathtub.
5. Bring gratitude into the forefront of your daily routine by acknowledging your blessings. Make a detailed note, each evening, of three positive experiences of the day. As you do, appreciate what you have to be thankful for: the connection to friends and family, the meaning that comes from being needed, the fullness of your life.
6. Reach out to your friends for social support. When you are at a low point is the time to receive rather than give. You have been there for close friends when they needed you in the past; now let them take a turn at comforting you.
7. Find something to be joyful about each day. Laughter is, in fact, a potent medicine and much easier to swallow than a handful of pills. Surround yourself with people who approach life with a positive attitude. Let your creativity flourish as you engage it.
8. Draw upon your strengths – both personal and spiritual – as you put one foot in front of the other and do what you have to do each day. You know best what sustains you in difficult times – love, duty, loyalty, faith, hope, compassion, bravery, forgiveness.
9. Create boundaries to protect yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for the mistakes you make – learn from them. Rather than give up, allow yourself the opportunity to regroup and try something else. Keep in mind that you are human and not all knowing. You deserve another chance.
Remember that this stage of your life, as are all others, is a process of inevitable movement. One day your children will be grown and your parents will be gone. What you will have then are the memories you have collected today. Resolve to take care of yourself this New Year so that they will be ones you can cherish.
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