Have you ever longed to hold your arms over your head and plead: “Stop world! I want to get off?”
Those who suffer with executive function challenges often feel like a hamster running on an exercise wheel, getting nowhere. They are behind on tasks with too much to do and not enough time. It is both exhausting and disheartening. So many of my clients arrive to the first session, burnt out and hopeless, having lost touch with their ability to rejuvenate their brain’s energy.
One goal of the Seeing My Time program is to develop self-awareness, teaching people how to support their brain in time; to feel calmer amidst the demands of a busy life. One of the things I stress is the importance of restorative time – making sure you plan time to do things that refresh you and your brain.
While it is not possible to make time stretch, we can learn to appreciate it’s passing in a more relaxed way. One way to do this is to spend a day that pays homage to the senses rather than an endless to-do list. If you feel like the hamster on the wheel, I recommend that you first take a moment to just sit. Breathe. Then look at your calendar and schedule a day that will help replenish your brain and therefore, your mental energy reserves.
I just experienced such a day during a long weekend trip with my daughter, at the eastern shore of Maryland. I’d like to share this day with you as an example of how igniting the senses can help slow time. However, your day should be about YOU and what feels good to your brain.
Here’s what we did.
The objective of this trip was to fulfill my childhood dream of visiting this romantic-sounding place that shared part of my name. As a rural Californian I had no familiarity with the pronunciation of eastern state’s names, so I was quite thrilled to think that there was a place called “Mary-land”. And, as a young girl, I read and reread Misty of Chincoteague, a book about wild island ponies. Finally, 50 years later, I was able to visit this magical place!
While we had a lovely Saturday exploring, it was Sunday when time slowed down in a marvelous way that both Katie and I noticed. How did that happen? The answer is lots of novelty and stimulation for our brains! Here is a breakdown of what we did, and how you can recreate this sense of slowed-down time for yourself.
Try something new outdoors. We rented a two-person kayak, which was new to us. And no, we didn’t end up going in circles as my husband predicted. We spent a peaceful 90-minutes kayaking on Ayers Creek with a small group of birders. Nature refreshes our brains, leading to a calm feeling of balance. Plus, exercise has been shown to improve executive functions. What new activity would you like to do outside?
Go on a treasure hunt. In our case, we went to Assateague Island to see if we could find any wild ponies. It took some happy wandering, first discovering two white-tailed deer before we spotted ponies grazing on the salt grass. Our brains love the feeling of focus when we are on the hunt. What treasure would you search for?
Feed your brain tasty food. In Ocean City, we focused our brains on another hunt. This time it was to a great Jewish deli where we happily munched on sour pickles from an actual wooden pickle barrel while waiting for our truly delicious pastrami sandwiches. The brain requires about 20% of the calories we consume, so you might as well make the food special! What novel food could you experience?
Do something you’ve only read about. For us West Coasters, this meant walking the boardwalk in Ocean City. Thankfully we were there in the off-season so we could actually stroll arm and arm. We saw incredible kites flying that we didn’t realize existed, happily shared a dollar’s worth of kettle corn, took our shoes off and walked on the warm sand. All those sights and sensory inputs delighted our brains and refreshed us. What would you love to do that you’ve only read about?
Hang out and read. After the boardwalk adventure we went back to our B&B and spent a couple of hours reading on the veranda in cushioned white wicker chairs. I finished Misty of Chincoteague, reliving my 3rd grade experience. Reading something familiar is a wonderful way to calm your brain. What would you like to read to relax your brain?
Feed your brain again! While I typically don’t drink alcohol, we did a beer tasting a local brewery. Who knew that a stout made with crushed Oreo cookies would be so yummy! After a stroll through the darling town of Berlin, Maryland, we had fresh fish for dinner followed by the most incredible maple sweet potato cheesecake. Our brains loved all of these memorable flavors, which we talked about even days afterward. What new tastes could you try?
Dream up a new adventure. Before we went to bed on the last night, we talked about next years’ mother-daughter trip. We decided to head to Virginia and visit colonial Williamsburg, another of my childhood goals. And we watched videos of the giant rollercoasters at Busch Gardens, our brains are already excited to see if we have the courage to actually ride them! Planning for fun is just as important as planning for work or school. What exciting adventure would you like to dream up for the future?
Have a great time slowing down time and creating memories!
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.