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A sandwich isn’t always made with peanut butter and jelly

by Alison Crane, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Garland County Extension Service | November 20, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

What can a working mother do when she finds herself in the middle of a sandwich instead of making sandwiches?

According to Mental Health America, more than one in 10 young to middle-aged U.S. parents find themselves raising children while supporting their aging parents. The term "sandwich generation" is used to refer to these adults sandwiched between the needs of two generations. The balancing act required to juggle all the demands can be emotionally and physically exhausting and expensive, but there are ways to make it easier.

Harmonizing parenthood and work are hard enough to manage without any added complications. If you are a multi-generation caregiver, avoiding burnout is vital to being able to continue providing care for all of your family. Burnout is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion and is often accompanied by a change in attitude from positive to negative.

Ask yourself if you are experiencing any of the following signs of burnout:

• Unrelenting fatigue not helped by sleep.

• Withdrawal from friends and loved ones.

• Getting sick more often.

• Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.

• Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless.

• Changes in appetite, weight, or both.

• Changes in sleep patterns.

• Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring.

• Emotional and physical exhaustion.

• Irritability.

Burnout can have serious consequences, but it also prevents us from enjoying life. Practicing self care is a vital part of maintaining good physical and emotional health and avoiding burnout. As caregivers, we often feel guilty taking time for ourselves and so we neglect our own personal well-being. When we are told to take time off or go have fun, we put it off or stress more at the thought. Self care can sometimes seem like one more thing to add to an already full plate, but when you think about self care as doing something that brings you joy, it can take on a whole new meaning.

Ask yourself, "What brings me joy?" Joy does not necessarily come through something big and grand or complicated. It can be as simple as taking a moment to look at a beautiful view, enjoy the smell of a flower, a bubble bath with no one knocking on the door, or lunch with a friend. When we take time to find out what really brings us joy, we often find that it is already with us just waiting to be noticed.

That is one of the reasons, I keep a "thankfulness" journal. Every night, I write down what I am thankful for that day. Studies have shown that people who are thankful experience fewer health issues and less stress. For me, ending my day thinking about the good things helps me lay aside all the stresses and responsibilities and just focus on what brought joy. It also helps me gain perspective even on the hard things of the day by finding the good parts.

In other words, I may be sandwiched in between many responsibilities and demands but I can overcome the burnout that can leave a bad taste in my mouth. Focusing on good things brings a sweetness to life and makes it possible to build a tasty and healthy sandwich even when life is demanding and a struggle at times. Maybe that is why I always preferred my peanut butter sandwiches with honey.

To learn more about programs of the Garland County Extension Service, contact us at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected].

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