If you are juggling raising kids, caring for your parents, older relatives, neighbors and/or friends, then you’re not alone. The ‘sandwich generation’, that is typically in the 35-49 age group, shoulders multigenerational responsibilities, and the path is not always an easy one. With 62% of its population belonging to this age group, this is a key demographic for the UAE as per the 2019 Cigna 360⁰ Well-Being Survey.
The Centre for Policy on Ageing found that 66% of UK respondents from this segment believe these responsibilities have affected their physical health, while 70% admit to its impacting their mental well-being.
So, how can you ease the pressure and take care of yourself when you’re stuck in the middle of such daunting trials? To help gain a better understanding of how to maintain a healthy and balanced life, here’s a look at some common challenges you may be experiencing and ways to cope with them.
With twice the responsibilities at home comes the worry that you won’t be able to fulfil your role at work successfully. There may be days when you arrive late or need to leave early, as you struggle to juggle the various demands on your time. You may also find yourself giving up opportunities in your career to accommodate the needs of your family.
As per the 2019 Cigna 360⁰ Well-Being Survey, lack of employer support impacts the productivity of employees – 55 percent indicated that there is no workplace wellness program (WWP). Many find that the support at work is not adequate to address their needs such as job security, flexibility at work, and special leave arrangements - making them view their work situation with pessimism. Among the UAE respondents, 54 percent find that their WWPs are more focused on physical well-being rather than mental well-being.
Communication is the key to overcoming this challenge. Working with your employer to let them know about your personal challenges can help them provide the required support, such as flexible working hours and extended leaves. According to a study published in the American Sociological Review, giving workers control over their own schedules results in lowering stress levels and psychological distress while elevating job satisfaction – all of which reduce the likelihood of burnout. The study also found those who worked flexible hours produced higher-quality work. For employees with personal obligations during the typical 9-to-5 shift, flexibility allows them to accomplish everything they need to without having to call them out to catch up.
When you’re facing the mammoth task of caring for two generations, it’s completely natural to feel you are juggling too much and always playing catch-up. It can be overwhelming, leaving you feeling isolated and often helpless.
The best way to cope with this situation is to put things in perspective — make time for what’s more important. Prioritize and delegate responsibilities. Identify ways your family and friends can lessen your load so that you can take a well-deserved break at times. Delay or say no to less important tasks. If you have the money to hire a babysitter, domestic help, house cleaner or any other type of support that could take pressure off you, then strongly consider it. It will make a big difference to your well-being.
3.No time for self-care
It’s often all too easy to get swept away by lengthy to-do lists when caring for your family and managing work at the same time, and even easier to forget about looking after yourself. A survey from the Alzheimer’s Society found that almost 60% of carers reported feelings of guilt when seeking support.
Try to make time for the things you need to do. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity like walking or yoga or your weekly softball game. Also, make time to socialize, as connecting with friends is associated with improving your mood and health. It may feel self-indulgent, but your work and family – young and old – will benefit from it, as you become more resilient.
With financial responsibilities towards your children and parents in addition to your long-term strategic planning — such as for retirement or taking up a mortgage and owning property, money can become a cause for concern. Make an appointment with a financial advisor or work with your partner to see how a budget can be created to meet your current financial needs.
If you belong to the sandwich generation, improving your overall mental and physical well-being can be a unique challenge. But with the right strategy in place, you will not only feel valued and understood, but also healthier and happier in your everyday life.