The Stress of a Brain Without Internal Time

During my recent trip to the LDA conference, I experienced an unexpected challenge for my executive functioning.

I was in my hotel room in Baltimore the night before the event. It had been a LONG day of transcontinental travel. I was filling in time before bed by re-reading a favorite sci-fi fantasy book. I was monitoring the time by occasionally looking at my watch.

It suddenly dawned on me that it had been 6:05 p.m. for a very long time. I glanced at the hotel digital clock that confirmed my suspicions. My watch battery had quit, almost three hours earlier! This discovery sent a jolt through my tired brain. How was I going to manage tomorrow without a watch?

After a bit of panic, my dear prefrontal cortex kicked in and reminded me that I had a fallback plan. To keep track of time, I always carry a small analog travel clock when I give presentations. Whew. I would be fine. I turned out the light and went to sleep.

The next morning, as I was setting up my book sales table in the exhibit hall, I found the little clock. I was relieved to have it to support my brain that has no awareness of time passing. And then I noticed it wasn’t ticking. I checked the battery. It was new and in place. Then, I shook it. I was horrified when it rattled. It had broken in transport.

My poor brain freaked out! Without a visual time reference, I suddenly felt like a blind person in a strange room who had their cane taken away. I froze in complete panic and had the oddest sensation that the boundary of myself, my atoms if you will, had burst out of my center and only stopped when they hit the walls, the ceiling and the floor of that large exhibit hall. I was no longer grounded in time and space. I was floating and terrified. Terrified that I would lose track of time and be late for the start of the two presentations I had to give later that day. Terrified that all the people who would be talking to me would distract me from remembering to eat my lunch. Without nourishment my brain would collapse before or during those afternoon presentations. I was reeling, unable to clearly think and problem-solve. I was trapped in my emotional brain. My heart was racing.

I quickly set up my table, afraid of being late for the opening of the exhibit hall. Of course I had to share my trauma with the very first person to stop and talk with me. This “angel,” calmly removed her watch and told me that she would loan it to me for the day. I had been saved by a stranger!

At the end of the conference day my “angel” returned to reclaim her watch. I handed it back to her with profuse thanks. As she slid it over her wrist I noticed the tension in her face as she said, “Not having a watch today was harder than I thought it would be.”

So, my tip to lower your stress? Wear a watch! (NO – a cell phone is NOT a watch.) You need a watch with an analog face, showing the past, present and future aspects of time. It will ground you in time and space. It will become one of your best friends.

Do you have a watch on?


An analog watch is the best way to keep track of time!

Reunited with my watch!

About the Author Marydee Sklar

Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program® and the Set Up Success and Seeing My Time® planners. 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.

follow me on:
Skip to content