A little over a week ago, I had an experience that clearly indicated that my brain’s executive functions were stressed and maybe even completely offline.
I was walking into my bedroom when I noticed that in my arms I was carrying the toaster oven. Let me repeat. I brought the toaster oven into my bedroom. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
In this new world of COVID-19, everybody’s executive functions are out of wack. Fear and uncertainty have the amygdala in overdrive, pumping the stress hormone cortisol into our brains. That chemical cocktail sends us into our automatic fight, flight or freeze response. It is important to remember that a brain flooded with cortisol shuts down access to the prefrontal cortex. That is the center of the brain for our executive functioning, or our “wise” brain, where we calmly make decisions and problem-solve. We cannot think when we have a flooded brain.
I am a lucky one, in that I have been teaching Seeing My Time online for years. As a result, it was easy to switch my local clients to an online format. They were all happy to see me, even virtually. One mom said that having our planned weekly session gave her an hour of normalcy.
For my clients with children, our sessions drifted away from the curriculum as I guided parents and children to set up structures for homeschooling while parents are working from home. At the end of one such session, a student said that his key idea is to remember that homeschooling is hard on parents!
In response to these abnormal times, I put together a little video of tips to help you get control of your brain and your days so there isn’t complete meltdown. It covers these ideas:
1. Strategies to calm your brain
2. Ideas for limiting stressors
3. Tips to create order with structures and predictability
4. Encouraging mental flexibility
5. How to include exercise even if you are home bound
6. The value of social connections, even at a distance
7. Suggestions to positively use unexpected “free” time
So, grab a cup of tea, paper and pencil before you watch this video. May it give you some good ideas or reminders that make your days easier.
One idea I’ve implemented is to work on a jigsaw puzzle. Since my son can’t come over for dinner, we are leaving the puzzle on the dining room table. My husband and I work on it together in the evenings. It’s much better for my brain to be chewing on the problem of finding a puzzle piece instead of focusing on things I cannot control.
In hard times my mother always said, “This too shall pass.” Hang in there. Take care of yourselves.
Feel the virtual hug,
PS. For graduates of Seeing My Time, I recommend getting out your workbook and flip through it for inspiration and ideas to support your brain’s execution functions. Little by little…
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.