For some of us, life is a never-ending juggling act, especially for those in what is being called the “sandwich generation”. These are the people who find themselves caring for both young children and aging parents at the same time. Balancing these responsibilities can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also lead to burnout if not managed carefully.
The key to navigating this dynamic role lies in taking time to take care of yourself and adopting effective time management strategies. In this blog, we explore practical tips to help you prevent burnout while taking care of both your kids and parents.
The Science of Burnout
Taking care of children is grounds for burnout on its own, as it requires time, patience, energy, and an unwavering dedication to raising good humans. When you add in the layer of caring for parents as well, it’s no surprise that burnout can sneak up quickly. If you think you might be suffering from this, you are likely to experience any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of motivation
- Feeling detached
- Catastrophic thoughts
- Detaching from reality
If you are feeling any of these negative consequences, know that there is hope. Using the following strategies can help you regain some of the energy you have lost and will give you power back in your day.
Set Aside Time for You
Amid caretaking responsibilities, it’s easy to neglect your own health. While this is understandable, taking care of yourself is crucial for maintaining the physical and emotional energy required for caring for others. Make your alone time a non-negotiable part of your routine. This might just be finding time for things that bring you joy, whether it’s reading, exercising, or just taking a bath.
Another great way to get alone time is to leave the home, especially if you are living with your parents as well as your children. Going for a walk or a drive can give you the quiet time you need to process your thoughts and decompress. On the days that you feel like you have no time for this, it becomes even more important.
Set Realistic Expectations and Boundaries
One of the leading causes of burnout is setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. By doing this, you are setting yourself up for failure from the start. Understand that you can’t do everything perfectly, and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. You do not have to do everything alone.
For those with spouses or partners, this is the perfect time to lean on them. Define clear boundaries for your time and energy and try not to deviate from them. You can also communicate with your children and parents about your limitations and set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish. This might mean saying no to certain commitments or delegating tasks to other family members. By setting boundaries, you protect your mental and emotional well-being, reducing the risk of burnout.
Accept Support When Needed
You don’t have to navigate the challenges of caregiving alone, even if it feels that way. Ask for support from your partner or other family members. Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks or responsibilities to others and be open to accepting help when it’s offered. So many of us refrain from asking for help as we feel weak or needy. By doing this, we are directly contributing to our own burnout.
Create A Routine and Schedule
Balancing the needs of children and parents requires efficient time management and dedication to a routine. Create a structured daily routine that accommodates everyone’s needs, including your own. Allocate specific time blocks for tasks like childcare, parent care, work, and your own personal time. You can also prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance, and use tools like to-do lists, calendars, or apps to stay organized. If you find that you need to adjust your plan when unexpected events arise, don’t be afraid to do so. Flexibility is also a key part of reducing stress.
Recruit Help and Share Responsibilities
Delegation is a powerful tool that can help prevent burnout. Involve your children in age-appropriate tasks to lighten your load. This not only teaches them valuable life skills but also fosters a sense of responsibility and teamwork. With your parents, explore options for external help, such as hiring a caregiver or using community services. Sharing responsibilities with family members can distribute the workload and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
Build Strong Communication Skills
Regularly check in with your children to understand their feelings and concerns about the situation. With your parents, discuss their needs and preferences to ensure you’re providing care that aligns with their wishes. Keep the lines of communication open among all parties involved to maintain a supportive and harmonious environment. The more that the people in your life share, the better equipped you are to take care of them.
Set Aside Quality Time
Amidst the daily grind of caregiving, remember to create quality moments with your children and parents. Cherish these interactions and make them count. Ultimately, this time of hard work is temporary. Whether it’s a family meal, a walk in the park, a movie, or simply talking, these moments not only strengthen your relationships but also provide a much-needed break from the stresses of caregiving.
Utilize Stress-Relief Techniques
Stress is an inevitable part of caregiving, but how you manage it can make a world of difference. Incorporate stress-relief techniques into your daily routine, like stretching, meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or reading. These practices can help you stay grounded and manage the emotional toll of caregiving.
Get Help for Yourself
If you find yourself constantly overwhelmed and struggling to cope, it is probably time to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor will provide you with tools to manage stress and develop effective coping strategies. This is also a great way to get in your alone time throughout the week and allows you to leave home for a period of time, outside of work.
Caring for both children and parents is a noble and challenging role that requires a delicate balance in order to avoid burnout. Taking care of yourself is not only crucial for your mental health but also sets a positive example for your children and parents. Through mindful caregiving and self-preservation, you can find fulfillment in this demanding role without sacrificing your own health and happiness.
New Dimensions Can Help!
New Dimensions has outpatient counseling programs for adolescents and adults who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. To learn more about our services, including psychological testing, Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), and Interventions for substance abuse, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com. To learn more about individual, family, and couples counseling visit www.mhthrive.com.