By Sue Erricker, Health Coach, Personal Development & Leadership Coach
For all those of us who are caring for ageing parents whilst supporting our own children. Welcome to the sandwich generation!
Whether you’re in the full sandwich generation, with kids still dependent on you, or your situation is more of an open sandwich with kids having flown the nest, it is an extremely stressful time seeing the one constant – one or more parent who has been with us for the whole of our life – become ill and often rapidly decline.
Of course, we want to be there for our parents to support them in the best way that we can, but if we’re not resilient, both mentally and physically, we will find it difficult to cope and our health will suffer as a result.
And so, at this challenging time, it is more important than ever to look after ourselves so that we have enough energy and resilience to get through one of the toughest times of our life, the care and ultimately loss of our parents.
And this is where the art of self-care comes in. Ever more important when you’re in the sandwich generation.
5 Easy tips that you can implement into your daily life to top up your energy reserves and strengthen your resilience
1.Move – as the saying goes ‘motion is emotion’ but we have to be careful that emotion doesn’t stop motion. Whether you enjoy running, a fitness class, yoga or a walk with the dog it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you get moving. When we are sad, tired or just overall lacking in motivation it can be hard to get moving but how many times have we fought the urge to stay on the sofa, instead of getting up and out to do some kind of exercise?
And how many times, once we have we realise how much happier, calmer more energised & generally better than if we had stayed put, telling ourselves that we can’t do this or that because Mum, Dad or whoever we are caring for needs us.
2.Breathe – pretty fundamental huh? Many of us don’t breathe properly and by just spending a minute a few times a day, breathing properly and deeply, you will increase the oxygen flow to your brain. By breathing deeply into your belly, you will calm your nervous system and slow down your mind.
Try box breathing for 1 minute whilst you are making a cup of tea – breathe in deeply, through your nose, for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out slowly through your mouth for 4 and hold your breath for 4 – repeat 5 or 6 rounds and then notice how you feel.
3.Boost your mood – here are some really quick ‘hacks’ to change your state and give your mood a boost. Listen to some favourite music, turn it up loud and dance like no one is watching. Go on to Youtube and watch a funny video, a favourite comedian or cats doing funny things – whatever floats your boat!
Make yourself your favourite coffee or herbal tea and light a scented candle, inhale the perfume, the smell of the freshly ground coffee, the fresh herbs from the tea, sit down, savour it and at the same time remember a really happy time in your life – it may take a few goes at this but the idea is to associate the smell or fragrance with things that make you feel good and so as a result, just a quick sniff will enable you to change your mood in an instant.
4.Get out into nature – being out and about in the natural world is a powerful thing. Remember the last time you were in a natural environment – whether you were walking through a wood or a forest, on a beach or by a lake or even your own local park – how did it make you feel? Nature calms the chaos in your mind, stirs your heart and soothes your spirit.
Natural environments promote calmness and well-being in part because they expose people to low levels of stress. In Japan it is called ‘forest bathing’ and those that regularly spend time in natural environments have lower blood pressure, less anxiety & reduced stress. Obviously, the best thing is to actually be outdoors and in touch with nature, but if you really can’t get out, studies have shown that even looking at photographs of nature can have calming and restorative effects.
5.Nutrition – of course, this goes without saying, feeding our body well is like an insurance policy for better energy levels, greater vitality and allow us to be clearer in our minds so that we are better able to make quick decisions, which we will need to do if we are caring for others who are relying on us.
As much as we can, let’s put a rainbow on our plates – lots of colourful veggies, with a balance of some good quality protein and fat to keep us satiated. Stay low on the sugar; if we eat too much of the white stuff, we will end up craving sugary snacks – it is really easy when we are under pressure to reach for another biscuit, chocolate bar or chocolate muffin to go with our coffee, or tea, but this will only give a quick hit of energy and before we know it our energy levels will come crashing down, leaving us depleted, miserable, foggy and craving more.
If we find ourselves in this cycle, we are really no use to anyone. Find some healthy substitutes – apple and almond butter, natural greek yoghurt with berries and a drizzle of honey or a green smoothie with avocado – click HERE for a delicious recipe.
Of course, in order to implement any of these 5 things into our self-care regime, we have to make space – when we are caring and supporting others, we can often use this as an excuse to have no time for ourselves, often feeling guilty if we stop focusing on them for just a minute. But if we are going to be at our best to care for others, while in this sandwich generation, we must adopt the oxygen mask strategy and put on our own masks first, before helping others with theirs.
Have a think about what you need so that you can be the best you can be to help your loved ones and plan some space in your diary – it may only be 2 minutes, it might be 2 hours – planning is key here if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail, so get the diary out now and block out some self-care space, so that you can be your best self to help others – you have my permission.
Sue Erricker is a qualified Health Coach, Personal Development and Leadership Coach, and NLP Practitioner. She’s passionate about personal growth at whatever stage of life and has a particular interest in all things health and wellness – particularly the prevention of age related chronic health conditions and mental health issues. Her coaching programmes help women in midlife move from tired, anxious and stressed to energetic, calm and excited about life. This article originally appeared on Sue’s website at www.hea-lthcoach.com
Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by Editorial Staff