Mental flexibility is an essential executive function.
I crashed into my own inflexible thinking recently and was surprised because I think of myself as a pretty flexible thinker.
For the time-challenged, predictable habits and patterns are key to successfully getting things done and living a balanced life.
Here’s what happened. I had a lovely exercise routine that supported my mind and body. Then, in a flash, it all got disrupted. Picking up a ten-pound box of dishwashing detergent was the culprit. I injured the tendons and radial nerve in my right arm. Suddenly I couldn’t do yoga or use weight machines that require my arms. I slipped into a funk of frustration.
I missed my exercise and yoga community, and my brain and body lacked the energy to stay focused. When I noticed I was hitting sugar for a boost, I had a firm talk with myself. Okay. I couldn’t do what I had been doing. So now what? It was time for some flexible thinking about my problem.
Instead of using the machines at the gym, I started using the hula hoops for 30 min.
I could still see my friends and keep up the exercise routine. My daughter’s running inspired me to start jogging again. My leg muscles aren’t in shape, but each time I go out I can run a bit further. I challenge myself to make it to the next mailbox or the next corner before I pause. In yoga, I’m using supports and doing poses and moves that I CAN do without causing further injury.
If you find yourself “stuck” it may be your brain’s challenge with flexibility. My advice is to pause. Take a deep breath and imagine another solution to your challenge. If your brain keeps going on in a circle with no new options, get some help. Another person’s point of view may help you get past your own brain’s executive dysfunction.
When I am stuck, I hear my mother’s voice: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Mental flexibility helps solve problems!
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.
5 Key Ways To Support Your Brain During the Holidays: Planner Edition!
12 Executive Functions of the Brain Spotlight: #2 Goal-Directed Persistence
5 Executive Function Tips for the Aging Brain
How to Support Your Executive Functions During a Big Life Transition