This semester, I'm taking a course called, "Introduction to Global Mental Health," a course offered by the Clinical Psychology department. I am a non-psychiatrist yet as someone interested in humanitarian issues, I wanted to learn how to understand some of the causes, symptoms and treatments for mental illness. Taking a course (today was my fourth class) like this is a mind-blowing experience for me, yet it is both surprising and frustrating to see how a lot of people these days suffer from psychological problems. While reading articles this week, I found an eye-catching word: Sandwich Syndrome. Let us figure out what it is.





"I am not motivated to work."


"Now I cannot feel the sense of achievement no more"


"I cannot sympathize people when they share sad stories."


"I hesitate meeting people these days."


"I just want to leave this country - go on a travel."




It is not an exaggeration to say that basically EVERYONE suffers from stress, whether from work, family, friends or many other issues. "Sandwich Syndrome" is not a medical term but it has an important meaning for people in the field of mental health medicine. Here are some descriptions of people who suffer from "Sandwich Syndrome": a person in the middle position at work (between the boss and a rookie), a woman who has to take care of both work and family, and those "baby boomers" who worked hard but now undergo financial pressures in an aging society.

Since such stress can be stumbling blocks to sympathizing others or even communicating with them, we need to pay attention to this syndrome. 




The tricky part of this "Sandwich kind of situation" is that there are not many solutions. One cannot easily quit his or her job just because of co-workers, or you cannot just ignore your mother-in-law's birthday regardless of having a big project at work.  People who are less sensitive might find their way out of such situations, but people who have a strong sense of responsibility become the stressed sandwiches, overwhelmed by the feeling of anxiety. When this gets worse, they develop obsession and perfectionism that it will result into sudden outbursts such as shouting to the boss, quitting, and etc. "Sandwich Syndrome" also affects physical wellbeing of the people. When stress never ends, this stimulates the sympathetic nerves, excretes too much of the cortisol (hormone), finally resulting in digestive disorders, insomnia, anxiety, depression, memory failure and so on.



How to get out of Sandwich Syndrome? 

Do you think you're one of those sandwiches? Okay. The first thing to do is to recover your mind, which is to activate the "emotion charging system " in your nerves. Turn off the busily operating system of your mind for some time, and take a step back and relax. In fact, having a ten-minute break away from all the contacts and external information can actually help relieve stress. Some of the "mind vacances" that Health Chosun recommended are the following:



  1. Spare 10 minutes a day to "walk and meditate."
  2. Avoid using smartphones all the time
  3. Have a nice deep-talk with your close friend
  4. Eat in a quiet, peaceful place
  5. Take a deep breath three times and feel the flow of the breath
  6. Read 3 poems a week
  7. Watch a sad or emotional movie to calm yourself


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