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7 Stress Management Tips for Sandwich Generation Employees

Patrick Ball on November 14, 2014 01:16 PM

“I don’t think I handle the stress of being in the Sandwich Generation well at all.”

That’s the brave, honest and telling admission Jennifer James McCollum, a blogger at Generation Xmother of three and caretaker of her 80-year-old mom, made to earlier this year. 

“Every night when I go to bed, I worry about my mother and my kids,” McCollum said. “I worry that I didn’t do enough that day to care for them, to love them, to enjoy them. There are never enough hours.”

Talk about real talk.

McCollum is far from alone. In fact, she’s part of an exploding population of men and women providing some level of care for both their children and their aging parents. PewResearch says nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s are part of the Sandwich Generation, and a MetLife study indicated most of them are working full-time.

Work-life balance is a challenge for everyone, and especially so for Sandwich Generation employees, who can struggle to manage caregiving responsibilities and stress in their personal and professional lives. Almost 70 percent of caregivers are forced to make workplace adjustments, like passing up promotions or reducing hours. And care-related issues, such as absenteeism or unfocused employees, are costing businesses tens of billions of dollars annually in lost productivity.

As VP of Global Workplace Solutions Chris Duchesne wrote earlier this month: “For the U.S. to remain competitive as a global economic leader, American business leaders need to recognize and respond to the caregiving needs of all our working families - not just the ones with young children.”

Learn more about Senior Care: The Secret Work-Family Issue Nobody's Talking About

And they can start by paying attention to Sandwich Generation stress. Here are seven stress management tips to share with employees “sandwiched” between their children and aging relatives.

For more helpful tips, check out’s Guide to Managing Stress.

  1. Don’t Forget About Self-Care
    Losing yourself somewhere between your daughter’s homework and dad’s medication is nothing to be ashamed of. But how can you care for family members if you’re not taking care of yourself? It won’t be easy, but make sure to find time for exercise, proper nutrition and, most importantly, sleep even as you’re juggling work, senior care and child care responsibilities.

  1.  Streamline Family Communications
    Caring for an aging parent can be a family affair, with responsibilities split among siblings. But more frequently the bulk of it falls on one family member, who then fields well-meaning yet stress-inducing requests for updates from others. Your sister wants to know about mom’s blood pressure, and your aunt wants pictures of your son’s Spider-Man costume. Send group emails or texts to share photos and health updates. Or use Google Docs the whole family can access and update. Streamlining communications will save time and, potentially, sanity.

  1. Learn to Let It Go
    While technology has made our time more fluid -- Ever check email from bed while catching last week’s Modern Family episode on DVR? -- it hasn’t given us more hours in a day. More often than not, you’re not going to get to everything on your to-do list. So when you’re making those lists, make sure to prioritize and identify that which you can cut out to minimize your workload each day. Once you’ve done that, trust the list and try not to sweat the small stuff.  

    Find 10 Free Tips for Improving Your Time Management
  1. Get Help
    If you’re family’s spread out geographically or volunteers aren’t lining up at your door, then you may need to call in the reinforcements. There’s no shame in finding a senior care aide to sit with mom while you take your son to baseball or hiring a babysitter to watch your kids while you take dad to see the doctor. Or get a housekeeper to clean your home while you’re at work, so you can focus on your family when you’re at home.

  1. Talk to Your Employer
    You’re not going to get help that you don’t ask for. Create a plan showing how you can accomplish all of your tasks and ask to explore flex work arrangements. Or see if your company offers any family-friendly benefits, such as child or senior care.

    Get 8 Simple Ideas for Managing Stress at Work and Home
  1. Lean on Your Support
    Nothing you do is going to erase your stress completely, but venting your frustrations can be refreshing. Talk to friends and family members about what you’re going through, or join a local support group. You just might find that people are willing to help, or can point you toward new resources you haven’t known about or considered previously.

  1. Be Selfish ... Once in a While  
    It’s OK to take some time for yourself. In fact, it’s necessary. Allow yourself to do at least one thing for yourself every day -- just because. Go rock climbing, read a book, catch a ballgame, stop saying “next time” when your friend invites you to try that new restaurant.  Put yourself first once in a while, and then you can come back to your caregiving duties with fresh eye.