Time to Give your Executive Functions a Break

Time to Give your Executive Functions a Break

Ahh… summer! ‘Tis the season to power down some of that intense executive functioning required for work and school.

The other day one of my hardworking, driven professionals, who is taking Private Adult Seeing My Time sessions, showed up after a hiatus of several weeks. He arrived at the session looking so calm, smiling, and almost peaceful.

But that was not his profile when we started some months ago.

When I asked him what was working well, he replied, “Being in the moment.” He had just returned from a family trip to Hawaii. He proudly reported that he didn’t let work invade his vacation. He felt such joy simply watching his son have a grand time playing in the water.

His story was a moment of celebration for both of us. You see, my whole mission related to time management and planning is to set up myself, and others, with time to enjoy life.

Letting Go of Stress and Making Time for Fun

In the last couple of years, we have all been through the wringer. For many, these challenges have squashed the joy right out of us.

Now is time to heal, time to open up to positive possibilities. It takes some gentle playful nudges for many to get out of the rut of anxiety, situational depression and for some, anger.

I’ve been working with two different young adults recently who showed up so lifeless and unmotivated for school and seemingly anything else. They were so isolated and disengaged.

My solution? First, I removed the guilt by helping them to understand the ways that Covid had hijacked their emotional brains and taken over their lives. In both cases, they visibly lightened, acknowledging the different person they were pre-Covid to now.

I gave them an optional assignment, to be accomplished before we next met: To get out of their house and do something brand-new that they had never done before.

Just the thought of novelty made each of these young people smile. They each had fun doing things like eating different food for the first time, going to a rock climbing gym and making a reportedly delicious dish with soy curls, which were marinated overnight. And that dish was made in the company of a friend, which is even better for this young person. Celebration!

Girl Rock climbing

Doing new things improves the executive function of mental flexibility!

My Personal Journey Towards more Fun

Over the last three weekends, I have been practicing what I preach – having fun with my loved ones and learning new things. My dear husband and I celebrated our 40th anniversary at the Oregon Coast with a half-day adventure with a marine biologist learning about seabirds and tide pool life. I saw my very first tufted puffin!

My son and I continued our 19th annual ritual of going to Ashland, Oregon to see plays together and eat wonderful food. The best for this trip was Korean-inspired tofu curry pockets and a cheesecake. It was so good we went back for dinner a second time (mostly for the cheesecake).

As I type, I am on the train returning to Portland after a Juneteenth weekend in Seattle. With my daughter’s relocation to that city, my whole family was able to be together to celebrate Father’s Day, something that hasn’t happened in over 12 years.

Marydee's Garden kit

Putting together this kit certainly activated my executive skill of goal-directed persistence!

In the quiet times of this train trip, I joyously spent time learning how to use an incredible garden planning app available through Territorial Seeds. I activated my executive function of future thinking as I’ve plotted out my fall vegetable garden and even started my winter 2023 plans. I have made my to-do list to put together my raised keyhole garden bed to get it ready to plant that fall garden. Such fun! I can’t wait to get home and spend 30 minutes digging out the potatoes so that tomorrow I can begin leveling the ground.

So, dear friends, use this summer to pause, to savor, to be in the mindful moment with loved ones. Give your brain some new experiences to chew on; your executive functions will benefit from the novelty.

Little by little, we return to joy!

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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