Ever feel so overwhelmed you don’t know where to start? Most of these feelings may be due to struggles with focus, planning, problem-solving, organization, and self-control. While not widely known, there is a clinical term that encompasses these important cognitive skills. That term is called executive function, and it refers to the mental processes that we use to manage and complete everyday tasks and goals.
It’s safe to say a large portion of the population can relate to feelings of stress, inadequacy, and frustration. According to the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, between 15-30% of the total population struggles with executive function in some way, shape, or form. Whether it be school-aged children, an ADHD diagnosis, Substance Abuse, Traumatic Brain Injury, Mental Health struggle, or the demands of daily life and responsibilities, the reality is, that struggles with executive function impact a significant portion of the population.
If you’re wondering if you fall into this category, take a moment and ask yourself this:
-Do you find difficulty getting, or staying organized?
-Are you having problems with planning ahead, or meeting deadlines?
-Do you have a hard time prioritizing tasks, and or following through with them?
-Is time management a problem, or do you have problems being on time?
-Do you forget things easily?
-Does your living space tend to become cluttered or messy, with piles of laundry, dishes in the sink, or papers scattered around?
If you’ve answered yes to any, or all of these questions you are more than likely having trouble with executive function. Don’t despair, the positive thing in this is knowing you are not alone. This should help to assuage any feelings of isolation that you may have. There are many great techniques to help you get organized, problem-solve, and manage your time more efficiently and effectively.
An important tip to know is every person’s brain processes and functions differently. Some organizational tips and strategies work for some, but may not work for others, so each individual needs to experiment with different methods to find which tools work best for them.
When it comes to staying organized, consider using a calendar, whether it be a physical one or on your phone. Write things down so you don’t have to consistently think about the things that need to get done. Putting things on paper or into a list on your phone can get it out of your head and will help you to feel accomplished when you check off the task from your list.
If you’re struggling to get to the point of even thinking about planning or organizing to complete the tasks at hand, it could be a result of your brain not being able to process and focus, which is the beginning step in the executive function process. It’s important to find what helps your brain process and focus best.
Some of these tips include chewing gum, listening to music, taking a walk before starting a task, humming, singing, and having the TV on in the background. In some cases, especially if the individual is diagnosed with ADHD a body double can be most helpful. If your mind goes to the acting industry like mine did when I first heard of this, that’s not what I’m referring to. A body double is a practice where a person with ADHD completes a task with the help of another person. This can help to motivate and help the person struggling to feel less isolated.
If you’ve exhausted all strategies but it seems as though no matter what you try, you’re struggling to stay focused, don’t lose hope. It may be time to seek additional support, and discuss the option of medication with an expert.
Our therapists at Atlanta Specialized Care are highly trained and have helped countless patients with executive function struggles. With two locations in the metro Atlanta area, in Dunwoody and Alpharetta. Reach out today, with the right tools and strategies, you can accomplish what matters most. Regain control and make progress towards your goals!