If you’re holding down a full-time job, as well as supporting elderly parents or grandchildren, you could be spreading yourself too thin and neglecting your own wellbeing. When you’re shouldering so much responsibility, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for yourself. If this sounds familiar, fear not – we’ve sought advice from top mindfulness experts, to help you prioritise your time and put your health first – trust us, it’s possible.
Time for a coffee?
We caught up with Katie Taylor, CEO and Founder of The Latte Lounge, an online platform for women over 40 who are all part of the Sandwich Generation. They focus on the woman in the middle – that’s you! – and discuss the importance of me-time. The name came after Katie noticed that life’s problems are usually solved over coffee with a friend, and we can’t help but agree. “We spend so much time and energy looking after our children, supporting our ageing parents, juggling our own work and running a home all at the same time,” says Katie. We really do deserve a medal, right? “Throw into the mix perimenopause and menopause symptoms – which usually occurs around 42-52 – and no wonder we’re feeling exhausted and with no time left for us,” she adds. Katie set up The Latte Lounge to support and cheerlead fellow ladies in order to help give them a better quality of life. “Listening to women and talking to our midlife experts, it’s clear that we’re not great at taking time out for ourselves. We are time-poor and often finances-poor, and we feel guilty if we dare to do something for us, but that needs to change.” Katie’s most important piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for help – if you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a support group like The Latte Lounge (lattelounge.co), it’s jam-packed with advice to help you through tough situations.
The guilt trip
Considering 50 percent of Generation X workers (those between 40-54 years-old) said they had average, or above average, stress*, it seems that taking time for ourselves has never been more important. “I often use analogies such as a Grand Prix car that doesn’t make pit stops to refuel and change the tyres,” describes Louise Watson, a Chartered Psychologist at the Cardinal Clinic (cardinalclinic.co.uk). “If we don’t create ‘pit stops’ in our own lives, we will burn out and be unable to help anybody at all, this is known as compassion fatigue.” Louise explains that by taking time for yourself, you’re indirectly helping those that depend on you by keeping yourself mentally and physically strong. And that’s certainly not something to feel guilty about.
Make a list and check it twice
You get home, have dinner and suddenly it’s time for bed, sound familiar? Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day, so why do some people seem to achieve so much more with their time? It can feel overwhelming to complete everything on your to-do list at the best of times, but add in the demands of others, and it can seem impossible. Clare Evans, author of Time Management for Dummies, says that you should try to log what you do. “Make a note of where you spend your time over the next week or so. For instance, how much time are you spending at work, on childcare, cooking, shopping, looking after your parents and cleaning?” We recommend that you make a note of your childrens’ and parents’ priorities and tasks too, but always make sure there’s something included that will bring you joy. Once everything is written down, you’ll find that your never-ending list has become much more manageable.
Time to tidy
According to research from Skipton Building Society, the Sandwich Generation spends up to a whopping nine hours a month on cooking, while shopping adds on a further eight hours. And even though so much time is dedicated to others, two in five still feel guilty when spending £50 on a treat for themselves. Why not set aside some money every month to enjoy some pampering? And, in order to make the most of your time, thankfully Clare has let us in on a few handy shortcuts! “Create meal plans at the beginning of the week so you know exactly what you need to shop for and what to cook.” And, why not do your shopping online? It’s such a time-saver and we’ve been guilty of it for a while. On top of all the stove slaving, a further six hours is spent on average cleaning for children each month, coupled with another five hours cleaning for older relatives. If, like us, you’re finding that there aren’t enough hours in the day, then you could even try talking to your employer about flexible working hours. “Working from home, either permanently or on a temporary basis, saves travel and commuting time, which could make it much easier to look after your family’s needs,” explains Clare.
Let it go
Psychologist Louise Watson recommends that we plan a ‘letting go’ day at least once a month and we’re definitely on board. “This is a day where we focus on ourselves without any other responsibilities or distractions. Switch off the phone and laptop and plan a range of wellbeing activities either alone, or with a friend to give your batteries a proper recharge. Brains and bodies are a bit like computers in that if you switch them off and on again, they tend to function much better.”
Katie’s self care tips to start today
- Plan a date night once a week to spend with your partner, get a babysitter if you need to and make the effort to do your hair and make-up – getting dressed up and going out can really put your mind at ease and will help you put a stressful day behind you.
- Get your family a takeaway as a treat – whilst they appreciate your generosity, you don’t have to cook! Lock the bathroom door, run a bubble bath, light candles, play music and tell them not to disturb you for at least half an hour.
- When we feel overwhelmed our busy brains can keep us awake for hours planning and worrying about the day ahead. Stop it in its tracks by taking the time to read a book before bed, even just a few pages can make all the difference.
- Save up your pennies and plan a spa trip with your friends, you spend enough money and time on everyone else, so remember that you deserve it!
Join the Latte Lounge Facebook group today!
*According to Willis Towers Watson’s Global Benefits and Attitudes Survey (GBAS