24/7: A Resource For Working Parents

Seven Ways For Parents To Get More Rest

By Psychologist Dr. Nasreen Khartri

When I was young, the standard response to the question “How are you?” was “Fine.” Now it’s “busy” or “crazy busy.”

In our culture, we seem to equate “busy” with important, productive and valuable. Trying to balance work and family life can pull us in a million directions. Technology makes us reachable 24/7, blurring the lines between work and off-work. We are hyper aware of others’ lives and accomplishments thanks to media (and social media in particular). And because we live in a meritocracy, we have the feeling that if we just work hard enough we can reach our goals, financial or otherwise.

But when we don’t rest, we are at risk for depression and anxiety, everyday stress and, as we age, cognitive problems. The “right” level of busy is going to vary from person to person, but if you’re noticing that your energy levels are low, or your emotional or physical health aren’t where you’d like them to be, you may need to re-calibrate.


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But how can we feel more rested without changing our lives completely?

1. Exercise

One of the best things you can do for your brain, body and overall well-being is to exercise regularly. Even taking a 15-minute walk helps us to feel more energetic, alert and rested throughout the day.

2. Sleep 30 minutes more per night

Forgoing sleep for a busy lifestyle is a big mistake. Lack of sleep impairs cognition and negatively impacts mood. Sleeping even 30 minutes more a night would be useful for many people.

3. Stop trying to multitask

Studies show that when people think they are multitasking, they are actually doing a lot of quick task switching, which impairs concentration and the ability to consolidate information and learn.  Doing one thing at a time helps us to feel less frazzled and more rested.

4. Encourage wakeful rest through meditation and mindfulness practices

In addition to sleep, we need to experience wakeful rest to be able to allow our brains to process all our myriad of daily experiences. Even short amounts of daily meditation and mindfulness practices help us to relax, make sense of our experiences and prepare for the next burst of activity.

5. Prioritize relationships

Relationships provide meaning, social support and give us energy and motivation to be our best in our daily lives. Even short conversations and face time with friends and family can be beneficial to our sense of well-being and energy levels.

6. Learn to say "no"

Learning to edit our lives and say “no” can be a challenge, but pays off when we have fewer, focused tasks and responsibilities. The power of “no” can increase a sense of control and mastery in our daily lives.

7. Think of busyness as expensive

There’s a difference between being active and productive, which is good, and “busy,” which often means: too much to do in the time that’s available. Think of your time in terms of money, and think of busyness of being particularly expensive — it often comes at a high cost to our mental and physical health and our relationships. Just as you wouldn’t recklessly spend all your money on expensive items, all your time should not be spent in a high-cost mental state without incorporating adequate exercise, sleep and rest.

This article originally appeared on the CBC Parents website 


 Dr. Nasreen Khatri is a former trustee of The Psychology Foundation of Canada. Dr. Khatri is an award-winning registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and researcher who specializes in the assessment, treatment and research of mood and anxiety disorders in older adults at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest in Toronto. She studies how depression impacts the aging brain, the neural link between depression in mid-life and the subsequent onset of dementia and she innovates non-drug treatments for depression and anxiety in older adults. She is also a member of The Psychology Foundation of Canada’s Workplace Committee that developed Stress Strategies, an evidence-based, online tool for stress management.

Thank you to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health for their support of 24/7: A resource for working parents.