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Stress Tips for the Sandwich Generation

StressAre you a member of the “sandwich” generation? An adult between the ages of 35 – 54 and feeling stressed? Adults ages 35 – 54 often have the highest level of stress because they are “sandwiched” between taking care of their aging parents and the needs of their children.  While this is not a new phenomenon, it has increasingly taken a greater toll on those in this age group. 

Two in five adults in this demographic (according to the American Psychological Association) have admitted to significant levels of stress due to these demands on top of careers that leave them feeling overextended. Almost all say that they handle the stress of these demands poorly. Between helping a parent with dementia, checking math homework, carting kids to sports activities, and saving for retirement; it’s no wonder adults are feeling the stress of being pulled in different directions.

If you are reading this and find that this is describing your current life, you are not alone. There are some strategies to help you cope. First and foremost, if you and/or your spouse are employed, check to see if your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  This is a free, confidential resource that most companies offer their employees. You can also do a quick Google search to find a number of articles and resources to look at online. At Faith Technologies, we currently offer an EAP program through MetLife. EAPs provide free counseling, and have a vast array of resources to assist with stressors such as the demands of being in the “sandwich” generation. 

The American Psychological Foundation lists the below five strategies to help cope with the stress. 

  1. Identify stressors: What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?
  2. Recognize how you deal with stress: Are you using unhealthy behaviors to cope with the stress of supporting your children and parents, and is this specific to certain events or situations? Put things in perspective – make time for what’s really important. Prioritize and delegate responsibilities. Identify ways your family and friends can lessen your load so that you can take a break. Delay or say no to less important tasks.
  3. Find healthy ways to manage stress: Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities – taking a short walk, exercising, or talking things out with friends or family. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time.
  4. Take care of yourself: Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity like walking or yoga or your weekly softball game. Keep in contact with your friends, family members. No matter how hectic life gets, you need to take care of yourself – which includes making time for yourself – so you have the mental and physical energy to care for your parents and children.
  5. Ask for professional support: Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to persevere during stressful times. If you continue to be overwhelmed by stress or the unhealthy behaviors you use to cope, you may want to talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions behind your worries, better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

Tip #4 stands out the most to me, as you must remember to take care of yourself, or you won’t be good to take care of anyone else. If you are not in the “sandwich” generation, but have coworkers and/or friends who are, remember to have compassion for their stressors and point them to the appropriate resources when you need to.