Play versus academics and work

Published on April 8, 2020

Annie was only 12, but she already felt burnt out.  Every morning she woke up at 6 am so that she could catch the bus at 6:45. She rarely had time for breakfast.  She had gone to bed at 10 pm the night before because her homework was more than usual.  She thought of the day ahead, class after class.  She also had three exams to take that day.  She hadn’t had time to see her friends in weeks.  She felt brain fog from fatigue and wondered how she would find the energy to make it through the day.

Maggie has been overwhelmed at work and home.  Her company has been losing money since the Coronavirus. Her employees couldn’t bring in an income because people had either left the country or were too nervous about setting up meetings.  She felt like it was all on her to save the company.  On top of all of that, her mother had just passed away.  She felt overwhelmed with grief and stress.  When she thought of taking a day off or relaxing, she would get anxious.  She felt too guilty to take care of herself.

Importance of Play

Adults and children both need play.  For children, play is how they release stress, learn how to negotiate, innovate and problem solve.  When children play with other children, they also learn social and communication skills.  As the world becomes more competitive and stressful, it’s a mistake to think that play needs to take a back seat to productivity.  When stress levels increase, play is even more important to keep motivation and focus.

Adults also need to play.  Going to work, coming home to household chores and taking care of the children can be stressful if there isn’t any downtime.  Without downtime, fatigue and exhaustion set in.

Here are some ideas to help you play, even when you are busy:

1. Humour

How can you use humour to de-stress? Can you watch something funny?  Can you respect your feelings and still take yourself less seriously?  If you have kids, how can you all laugh together?  Is there a fun board game you can play?

2. Don’t be afraid to get dirty

Children love to get dirty with paint, dirt, food etc. Can you set up a place in your house for you and your kids to paint together?  Can you play outside together?  What about making a fun meal together? Nature and creating can be relaxing.

3. Act like a kid again

If you have children, play with them on their level.  Let them lead the play.  Step into their world and let them be the boss.  Enjoy the time off.  If you don’t have kids, allow yourself to act like one.  Sleep in, stay in your comfortable clothes, watch cartoons, and stay present.  Small children live in the moment.  They enjoy the toy, or their imaginary play world and forget about anything else around them.

4. Express your feelings through play

Emotions can be felt in our body. Small children are great at expressing with their bodies; they jump and dance when they are excited.  Turn on some music and dance it off, or get some playdough and express with your hands.  What other ways can you think of to express physically?

5. Set time aside to play or relax every day

People often say they are too busy to decompress, adding more stress and tension in the mind and body. Allow your children to play daily after homework or chores.  As an adult, allow yourself time to decompress by allowing yourself to relax without guilt.


If you would like to set up an appointment please contact me on +852 2521 4668 or email You can book a private or Skype session.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

Category(s):Anxiety, Caregiver Issues / Stress, Parenting, Relationships & Marriage, Stress Management

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Registered Clinical Psychologist (HK)

Dr. Borschel specializes in Attachment, trauma and Loss. She is experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, loss of a loved one, and loss of finance. This may include deciding what is in the best interest of the children during custody disputes, strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children.

From Nov 2020 Dr. Borschel is only available for online consultations.

Dr. Borschel’s attachment-based therapy along with EMDR and Brainspotting enables her clients to find healing within themselves. In so doing, she can help her clients to overcome anxiety, trauma, neglect, emotional, verbal, physical abuse, and child abuse.

Furthermore, as an attachment specialist, she also helps individuals understand relationship patterns which prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships. She is able to help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and promote confidence and self-esteem.

Dr. Borschel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. She graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. She later moved to Hong Kong to pursue her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in Social Work and Social Administration.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology (HKSCP). Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), and the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA).

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