Going the distance

Dealing with the 'perfect storm'

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. November 24, 2007

Need more help?

If the stress in your life is more than you can cope with, get help right away.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to the nearest hospital or emergency room
  • Call your physician, health provider or clergy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

The thoughtful and probing comments from members of our community address the issue of self-care in times of crisis and adversity. How about this situation — the "perfect storm" for stress and why we need to marshal resources for our own survival.

You are a middle-aged professional/homemaker with your own health issues in the midst of orchestrating the bewildering healthcare options for two elderly parents who have moved back to your home community. The situation is complicated by your own two teenagers.

This scenario portrays in vivid detail the challenges and opportunities for the "sandwich generation." These are the individuals ensnared between the needs of their aging parents, their own needs, and the needs of their emerging family.

First, the needs of the elderly. Even for those of us who are relatively fit and savvy, navigating the bewildering health care system can be daunting. The task is insurmountable for the elderly if they do not have an advocate to act on their behalf.

Second, the needs and challenges of teenagers are well known to most of us and that in and of itself is a full-time job. So, then, who takes care of us and how do we stay durable in dealing with these issues?

One wise woman in this predicament shared with me the importance of friends with whom she can share some of these challenges, the importance of a massage every several weeks to reduce the tension, and the importance of a spiritual dimension providing consolation and strength in time of chaos and adversity.

A year ago April, the Dalai Lama visited our institution and spoke to the issue of human suffering. I was particularly struck by a paraphrase of his comments: "How can we be expected to care for others if we do not care for ourselves."

His words certainly apply to each of us during our times of challenge and especially to those struggling and caught between the needs of parents, their own families and their own needs.

I would certainly appreciate the input of our survivors out there who are heroically dealing with this kind of "perfect storm."


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Nov. 24, 2007