Sandwich Generation Burnout: Three Tips to Prevent Caregiver Fatigue

Self-Care Tips to Prevent Sandwich Generation Burnout

Taking care of loved ones brings joy, meaning, and fulfillment to our lives, but only as long as we are taking care of ourselves. Many guests at Skyterra are here because they need a break from constantly caring for others. They acknowledge and accept that they are ready to take respite and get their health back on track.

The demands of caregiving can feel overwhelming, especially when you have little control over the situation. With women delaying childbearing, young adults struggling to financially survive on their own, and seniors living longer – the generation of caregivers is fearlessly growing.

If you are among the individuals squeezed into the generation responsible for kids and aging parents at the same time, then caring for yourself is a necessity – not a luxury. In fact, sociologists have coined you The Sandwich Generation. Members of this generation are the most likely adults to experience high levels of stress and fatigue as well as anxiety and depression.

A previous guest shared, “I feel like a huge patch of my life has been taken away. I’m so emotionally tied and tangled I can’t seem to straighten it out.” She talked about the emotional stress of familial expectation – as an adult daughter, she is pressured to take on the responsibility of caring for sick parents. She also talked about physical stresses and risks, and the potential for hurting herself while trying to lift and carry her parents during daily tasks.

If you find yourself in this role and you are feeling burnt out, there are ways to regain a sense of balance, control, and peace. Here are three tips to help reduce the burnout and compassion fatigue you may be experiencing.

1.) Prioritize Self-Care.

It's not selfish to take care of yourself, but compassionate and kind. If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody else will. You can show up more for those in your life when you are rested and rejuvenated.

Give yourself the gift of slowing down. There are many ways to practice self-care, and they all start with taking time for yourself – to do what makes you feel good. That could mean scheduling a two-hour block each day to exercise, taking a walk, visiting a friend, scheduling a massage, watching your favorite television show, or any number of other enjoyable things.

2.) Get Help.

Taking care of kids and parents is far too much to do all on your own. If your kids are older, delegate tasks like house cleaning or grocery shopping and ask for their support in scheduling visits with your parents. If they’re young, find a babysitter so you can get a break.

Discuss the options of a flexible schedule and mental health days with your employer. If you have siblings, ask for their support in planning future visits, calling doctors, or helping out financially, even if they live far away.

Consider hiring help as well. A trained, capable senior aide can assist your parents with daily tasks. Housekeepers can also be a huge relief, even if they only visit occasionally. If your parents are resistant to outside help, know that family members aren’t always the best option for giving them quality care.

3.) Set Boundaries.

Communicating assertively with loved ones and family isn’t always easy, but it's necessary for healthy relationships. Even if direct communication has never been part of your family dynamic, it’s not too late to share how you feel. Give yourself permission to make decisions that aren’t going to please everyone. Boundaries are all about realizing what you’re OK with, what you’re not, and doing something about it in a way they can hear your message.

Keep in mind that this gets tricky with family because even grown adults tend to be treated like children again. Setting limits feels uncomfortable. By choosing a new way of responding and setting boundaries you can begin to feel heard and find more peace and clarity in challenging situations.

Finding balance usually happens when you accept a difficult situation at the same time realizing there are ways you can bring meaning and joy to your life. By nourishing your body and mind – by taking gentle care of yourself – you will increase your resilience to be strong and enhance your compassion for those around you.

Kate Hannon

Kate Hannon is Director of Integrated Wellbeing at Skyterra Wellness Retreat. She is dedicated to helping individuals taking the first courageous step toward change.