The Sandwich Generation: How to Navigate a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Most people have to live through a sandwich generation phase of life. That stretch through your 30s, 40s, and 50s can be exhausting as you balance the demands of work, children, and aging parents. When you toss in the complexities of the increasingly remote, technologically sophisticated modern workplace, it can feel nearly impossible to find genuine work-life balance.
The Challenges of the Sandwich Generation
Roughly one-in-seven middle-aged adults report that they are actively financially supporting both a parent and a child. Even if finances aren’t involved, though, the physical and emotional toll of caring for generations both before and behind you can be immense.
A parent/child in the sandwich generation must consider both the health and education of their children and signs like limited mobility, pain, and general exhaustion that indicate that their parents may need help as well. Couple these family matters with the fact that stress in the workplace is on the rise, and a sandwiched individual can begin to feel hopelessly drained and out of control.
Finding Work-Life Balance
If you’re feeling that sandwich squeeze, here are a few tips and tricks to help you balance your workload, attend to everyone who needs you, and still find a little time to recuperate when all is said and done.
Look for Ways to Combine Work and Family
While it won’t work for everyone, at times you can actually combine work and family care. For instance, if you can work remotely, you may be able to cut out the time spent commuting. You may even be able to get certified as a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse and combine caring for an elderly parent with work. On the other side of the coin, many parents with children with chronic conditions also become licensed care providers in order to implement more advanced care for their loved ones.
Set Up a Morning Routine
While you may not be able to just roll out of bed after sleeping in until ten o’clock each day, that doesn’t mean you can’t capitalize on the time you do have each morning. Instead of dragging yourself through the motions as you get ready for work, prep the kids for school, and field calls from mom and dad, look for ways to establish a healthy morning routine.
This can start with yourself. Chances are you get up before others, and if that’s the case, set up a predictable pattern that can help you slowly wake up in a productive manner. Include things like:
- Showering with music on.
- Meditating and/or praying.
- Making a bulletproof coffee.
- Reading something through-provoking or encouraging.
Whatever your own particular routine looks like, it’s worth setting one up to help you get on track first thing in the morning. Once you have that down, you can begin to expand your routines to include your children and parents so that everyone can start their day on the right foot.
Feed Yourself Well
You may not have the luxury of spending a few hours cooking dinner or eating out at a five-star restaurant on a regular basis, but that shouldn’t stop you from caring for yourself. Try to establish healthy eating patterns. Come up with lists of healthy food items that you can stock your home with as well.
If you strive to fuel your body properly, it will naturally increase your health and wellness, even when your day feels too crowded to think about yourself.
Another quick and easy way to lighten your workload is to delegate work. While you may feel like you’re the only one that can do what you do, there are often small tasks that can be passed along to someone else or, even at times, automated.
Consider what you do for work each day and then look for small ways you can trim down the time required without compromising on the quality of the work itself.
Sneak in Exercise
In addition to eating, look for small ways that you can get some exercise. Sure, tending to all of the needs of those around you can make it feel like you don’t have any time, but there are ways to work around this.
For instance, if you have a dog, take initiative to walk the dog as a way to get out of the house, get some exercise, and let your mind calm down for fifteen minutes each day. Another option could be looking for something that is short yet effective, such as downloading a 7-minute workout app.
Focus on Quality Sleep
You may feel like you can never get enough sleep, and it’s likely true. However, you should still try to capitalize on the sleep that you can get. Make sure that you’re:
- Sleeping in an area that is devoted to sleep and only
- Using things like lavender essential oil to enhance your sleep quality.
- Sleeping in a dark room.
- Avoiding blue light before going to bed.
If you make an effort to increase the quality of your sleep, it will naturally help you navigate life easier.
With kids in school, sitters on call, parents requiring help, and work always needing your attention, it’s easy to feel perpetually tied to your gadgets — which is precisely why it’s important to purposefully unplug from time to time. It’s one of the best ways to reduce stress. Of course, you may not be able to turn off your phone and leave it for 12 hours straight. What if there’s an emergency? But that doesn’t mean you should give up on the unplugging mentality altogether.
On the contrary, the continual attention that your electronics demand from you requires you to look for small opportunities to turn off your notifications at times. Whether you’re taking a shower, walking the dog, making dinner, or anything else, consider hitting that “do not disturb” button for an hour or two from time to time just to let your brain rest a bit.
Finding Work-Life Balance
Whether you’re capitalizing on existing activities or looking for new ways to delegate duties, it’s certainly possible to restore at least a small level of work-life balance to your life. This can feel particularly challenging when you’re in the sandwich generation. But the effort of finding that work-life balance isn’t just worth the work. It’s absolutely essential to survival over the long term.
This guest post was authored by Magnolia Potter
Magnolia Potter is a blogger from the Pacific Northwest. She loves writing on a variety of topics from technology to lifestyle. When she isn’t writing you can find her traveling far and wide or reading a good book.