If you’re of a certain age – between 35 and 55 – odds are very good that you’re not only caring for children, but you’re also taking care of one or two aging parents. This is especially true if you’re a woman. If you’re part of the sandwich generation you’re not only caring for two generations but you’re also probably working full time and are trying to maintain a healthy marriage.

You might also feel as if you are overwhelmed and unable to do all that you believe is required of you.

The good news is that you are allowed to take a break. In fact, it’s probably one of the most important things you can do if you plan on continuing to care for your loved ones.

While caring for a loved one can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be really difficult. Many caregivers report depression, sleep disturbances, addiction, poor eating habits, and putting their wants and needs on the back burner. If you’re caring for someone it’s important that you care for yourself.

How is one to care for herself while still providing care to others?

That’s a great question and the answer is simple – implementation is a different story, however.

Take Breaks – If possible have a sibling come in once a week to provide a break for you. If you don’t have siblings or they are unable to help (due to distance or other factors) consider hiring a caregiver to come in and give you some time off. Schedule it into your week so you can look forward to regular respite.

Maintain Appointments – Many caretakers find that they’re social life dwindles and even their own basic care gets shuttled off to the side while caring for an aging parent or spouse. Make and keep hair appointments, mani/pedis if that’s your thing and especially doctor’s appointments.

Make Plans – Plan that vacation you’ve been putting off. Having something in the future to look forward to is wonderful motivation and inspiration when stress piles up. Plan a weekend away with the girls or just an afternoon at the bookstore – but try to get away for the weekend.

No Guilt – Stop feeling guilty. Most caregivers will tell you that they never feel like they are doing enough, that they are letting someone down. The reality is, the people who do caregiving are juggling more balls in the air than those who don’t provide caregiving will ever know. Cut yourself some slack and don’t feel bad if you don’t get all the dishes done or all the laundry folded. In the whole scheme of things a little unfolded laundry never hurt anyone.

Community – Today there are all kinds of support groups available for caregivers. Having a group of people who share similar stories is incredibly helpful. Many caregivers feel isolated and alone because they don’t know about these support groups or don’t think they have the time to join one. Support is crucial for the caregiver. Support from another caregiver is not only insightful but appreciated so much more.

You can find support groups at your local hospitals, the Bay Area Caregiver Resource Center and by searching online.