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Why Finding Time Can’t Wait

Time is a fundamental element of the therapeutic frame, which we go to lengths to boundary and protect. But outside the consulting room, it can seem as though our relationship with time is getting out of hand. In the fourth of her week-long series of blogs to mark Children’s Mental Health Week, Dr Fiona Pienaar reminds us of the importance of ‘finding time’ – that elusive but critical ingredient in our relationships and wellbeing.

Characterised by feelings of being overwhelmed by busyness and over-commitment, this era has been described variously as ‘time poor’ and a ‘speed-up society’. So today’s blog focuses on ‘finding time’ – critical to the mental and physical health of children and young people, and obviously intrinsically linked to that of parents and carers.

There is also a sense, with some children and young people, that they are over-organised and have very little unstructured time to themselves to relax and reflect. Terms such as ‘helicopter parenting’ and ‘snowplough parenting’ express that sense of being constantly organised and tethered.

As practitioners, we are very aware of time. We adhere to set periods of time when interacting with our clients, and those times are very focused and often very intense. Interestingly, in a study of time use data that explored the idea of a general speed-up in people’s experience of daily life between 2000 and 2015, overall there was very little evidence to support our experience of our lives as being increasingly busy. However, amongst women, higher levels of feeling ‘always rushed’, time fragmentation and multitasking were identified. In addition, professionals were more likely to feel under time pressure (Sullivan and Gershuny, ‘Speed-Up Society? Evidence from the UK 2000 and 2015 Time Use Diary Surveys’, Sociology, 2017).

How we model management of time to the children and young people in our lives is critical to how they learn this lifeskill - and it really is a skill. So, in this Children’s Mental Health Week, we would do well to have a look at how we are managing our own time; whether, in our daily schedule, we are building in opportunities to slow down and relax.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • View yourself as important, don’t compromise on ‘down-time’ and see it as equally necessary as ‘being busy’
  • If it works for you, make lists or plans that may help to keep you focused on working on, and completing, one task at a time
  • When making lists, don’t lose sight of how long tasks will take or you may become overwhelmed
  • Include periods of non-working when you can just relax. If you factor that ‘down-time’ into your daily calendar, you will have a far more balanced experience
  • Focus on one ‘thing’ at a time – and congratulate yourself on what you have completed rather than what you haven’t
  • Make (not ‘find’) time daily to relax with children, young people and those important to you in your life

Developing Minds: Mental Health, Children & Young People Conference, with Dan Siegel, was held at the QE11 Centre in central London on Feb 8 2019. A digital recording of the conference can be purchased by clicking here.

#DevelopingMindsConference #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek


Fiona Pienaar

Fiona is Chief Clinical Officer for Mental Health Innovations (MHI) with responsibility for ensuring high standards of clinical direction and practice. Prior to her present role, Fiona was Director of Clinical Services at Place2Be. Fiona has a background of over 30 years of teaching and counselling in schools, counsellor education in higher education institutes, educational and mental health resource development, academic and clinical supervision, private practice and mental health consultation, research and writing. She has a PhD in Behavioural Science from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, a MEd in Counselling, a Professional Certificate in Coaching (Henley Business School, England) and various other counselling, teaching and special needs qualifications.

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