Calming the brain

Sustainable Change and the Brain

These have been excruciatingly painful times as we face the racial injustices in our country. Our nation is in serious need of healing on so many levels, and yet I have hope for a better tomorrow. How?

By focusing on the brain, specifically the brain’s executive functions and how they relate to our behavior.

For years in my Seeing My Time classes, I have told people that looking at the world through the lens of executive functions has helped me better understand behavior: my own and that of those around me. This knowledge has helped me to avoid blaming and shaming and anger and to focus instead on compassion for those who struggle with their executive functions.

Am I always perfect at that? No. But developing that compassion, that understanding of the emotional forces at the core of people’s behavior is the key to our best selves – our best future. From compassion we can make informed choices: the choice to change our own unconscious behavior and make the world a better place for those who have been marginalized.

Calm Your Emotional Brain

In light of disturbing events across the nation, we are vulnerable to reacting – dropping into fight, flight or freeze responses that flood our brains with stress hormones. Our bodies and our brains are unable to sustain the constant emotional reactions. We strive to have compassion for those who have been living under this kind of emotional siege their entire lives.

Make Your Choices from Your Prefrontal Cortex

It is better to first still your emotional brain. To pause and center yourself in your wise prefrontal cortex, home of our higher function thinking, our metacognition and problem-solving ability.

Coming from this region of the brain, we can pause and make informed, deliberate choices. And this is why I have hope. I understand that compassion emanates from our frontal lobes. Compassion is sustainable when we take care of ourselves and consciously calm our brains. When we take care of ourselves, we then have the energy to help others.

Two Books that Helped Me Find My Center

In the last few months and the intense recent weeks, I have been searching for wisdom, for perspective on how to think about these times, how to act in these times. The first book I purchased based solely on the title: When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Perfect, right?

The second book, was a Christmas gift from my dear team member, Veronica, which I confess had been sitting in my living room, only glanced at. The first book made me finally dig into Veronica’s gift: Why Buddhism is True – The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. Both of these books started with meditation – the act of calming one’s brain, silencing the chatter, coming to clarity with focus. 

We are all learning from this shared experience, and learning can be painful. Yet I know that coming from my prefrontal cortex, I can choose.

I can choose to:

  • Calm my reactive brain and bring more kindness and compassion into the world.
  • Evaluate my news sources and how they might be manipulating my brain.
  • Work to heal the wounds of others.
  • Support leaders who act out of civility, unity and compassion.

I invite you to pause yourself. Sit quietly. Consider what are you going to choose for yourself? For your future? For our future?

Little by little, (sustainable) change happens…

Be well and feel the virtual hug,



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.

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Michelle says June 14, 2020

Wise words as always. Thank you Marydee!

Michelle says June 14, 2020

Wise words as always. Thank you Marydee!

    Marydee says June 14, 2020

    Thank you, Michelle for the encouraging comment. Little by little… we can all make a positive difference in the lives of others.

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