Two Keys for Happier Holiday Executive Functioning

Two Keys for Happier Holiday Executive Functioning

The holiday season always challenges our brain’s executive functioning. And the stress and uncertainty that 2020 has brought into our lives has only increased the demands pushing many of us to the edge and sometimes over it! So in response, here are my tips to set yourself up for an easier time.

Lean into your brain’s executive function skill of mental flexibility.

mental flexibility cartoonI describe mental flexibility as your brain’s ability to “go with the flow”. This is the skill of swiveling from one plan or set of expectations to a different plan with relative speed and grace. We all have our treasured holiday traditions, and the resurgence of COVID is certainly messing with our plans. So, take a deep breath, and consider how you can still connect with those you love, but differently.

For me, this was really hard for Thanksgiving. It is my very favorite holiday, holding a long history of importance for my family and friends. Since we couldn’t all safely gather around my dining room table, I ended up making a different kind of Thanksgiving dinner. I made dishes that would reheat and travel well. I boxed the food up in recyclable containers and food was delivered or picked up in my driveway. While our direct connections were limited, we all treasured what we could do.

So, how can you rethink or reorganize your upcoming holiday events to stay safe? Be creative! That will make for positive memories. Different memories, but still special.

Lean into Gratitude.

Mr. Bishop quote from Andy Bishop, 4th grade teacher at Mt. Vernon ElementaryIt is SOO easy to focus on the negatives of 2020. We all have stories about those. Instead, I invite you to soothe your brain during this holiday season. The best way to do that is to focus on the good things in your life and to be thankful for each thing, no matter how trivial you think it is. Positive thoughts have a positive effect on the brain. They help our executive functions to run more smoothly.

Veronica Bishop, one of my team members, has sent me links to videos her brother produces weekly for his fourth grade class. Mr. Bishop is keenly aware of the importance of mindfulness and positivity during these demanding times, and he creatively shares those values with his students and their parents. Here’s the link to one on gratitude, which you can also watch below. I loved it and so respect him for going the extra mile to support his students, and us too!

In closing, on behalf of all of those on my EFS team, I wish you all a safe holiday season sprinkled with moments of gratitude and joy. Remember to go with the flow!

Little by little…

PS: Looking for a holiday gift for an adult in your life (or yourself)? Our January 2021 planner just came out and it's in a lovely new burgundy color.

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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