Are you of those enviable souls who’s being pulled equally hard in ALL directions simultaneously? Do you struggle to balance the demands of raising kids, managing a career or growing a business while simultaneously taking care of ill or disabled parents? Well, you’re not alone! You are part of the growing demographic known as “the sandwich generation.” But, what happens when you’re juggling multiple priorities and crisis hits?…
It’s time to grab your oxygen mask! You feel depleted right? Stuck between those seemingly insurmountable boulders that rolled down your path. The greatest challenge is to actually find and carve out that elusive yet invaluable time to care of yourself!
You’ve likely heard the metaphor about the “OXYGEN MASK” scenario. Classic emergency training response says – YOU should take the oxygen first to empower yourself save others. Easy right? Not so, when you are utterly immersed in a crisis management scenario, or have become absorbed as a primary caregiver.
Last year, when my mother’s Mild Cognitive Impairment (M.C.I.) rapidly progressed to onset Alzheimer’s, she went from forgetfulness to dangerous bouts of wandering. After disappearing for hours and being returned by Police, my 91 year old father could no longer contain her or chase after her when she took off. Although physically, she’s remarkably strong, fit and able-bodied for her 87 years, we decided the safest solution was to put her in a secured home. A very sad day.
Moving my mother away was depressing enough, but what ensued over the next few months was the unforeseeable series of crisis management issues at the new senior’s home! My life toppled out of control – while struggling through changes and over-loaded responsibilities of my own family, career, volunteer work and business needs – to suddenly rushing out to emergency calls, centred around issues in the new seniors home. In addition, we were managing the devastating depression that impacted my father. Now, emotionally lost and separated from his love of 63 years of marriage, he struggled to accept the new reality. Alzheimers is a disease that robbed us of one of the most witty, clever, highly intelligent, literate and fun-loving, age-defying women I know: my mum.
I took charge, after an alarming series of crises occurred during my mother’s so-called “care”. The pricey for-profit seniors home (with the alleged secured floor she escaped from on the first day) seemed deceptively suitable at first. But, mounting incidents of subpar “care” forced us to push emergency buttons to get her moved to a more suitable LTC facility which finally provided some necessary relief, after months of sleepless nights.
Everything was overwhelming. My own life ground to a halt. I lost valuable business time, money and focus. I stopped doing the things I valued that fed my soul. I withdrew from friends not wanting my sadness to burden them. I was heading for a crash landing and had to don my “oxygen mask”. After allowing myself time to mourn, wallow and eat carbs (grieving is a necessary step in extreme situations) I put on my “spiritual” oxygen mask and inhaled deeply and here is what I did…
I thought to myself “I’m a professional coach. How would I coach someone else through this?”
FIRST: Focus on what’s important right now!
VISUALIZE STABILITY: What can you control within the chaos? What’s the worst case scenario? What would be a best-case scenario under the present limitations? What changes do you need to put in place to ensure your life is manageable right now?
DETERMINE YOUR PRIORITIES: Communicate and negotiate these to fit with expectations of others. What do you need most right now? What’s a priority? What could you survive without right now? Decrease or delegate your workload if possible. Let “good enough” prevail over perfection – for now. Try managing only 2-3 top priorities instead of juggling 10 things. Recognize that the world won’t crumble and these changes are circumstantial and temporary. Decide what actions or choices would best fulfill your current needs.
TAKE POSITIVE ACTION: Feed and protect your emotional needs. What/who do you personally need most to help you re-focus, re-oxygenate and re-generate right now? Communicate your situation. Line up your best emotional support network for emergencies. Talk to a trusted friend, partner, life coach or therapist. Focus on what’s most important right now. Grieve a little, but do take baby-steps and create actions toward positive solutions. Ponder what regrets you might have later, for choices you could make now.
REMEMBER YOUR OXYGEN MASK! BREATHE DEEPLY. Focus only on healing your mind, body and spirit. Take valuable time for yourself and be with those you love most while you can. Thankfully, my crisis situation has settled now: my parents needs are being managed and I’m not on daily high-alert anymore. I’m sleeping, exercising, working and socializing again. I feel re-generated with renewed inspiration to bring my best self forward again. But mostly, I’ve recognized the value in taking time to re-fuel and strengthen myself first in order to return to being strong for those who put their faith in me. I’m ready to help others remove their respective boulders and live life fully again.