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Frequently Asked Questions
What are Executive Functioning Skills?
According to Harvard University, “Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.”
Executive function and self-regulation skills depend on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. These functions are highly interrelated, and the successful application of executive function skills requires them to operate in coordination with each other.
There are seven executive function skills are critical in managing everyday life and long-term goals:
- Self-awareness: Self-care or self-directed attention. Awareness and the ability to care for your own health and happiness.
- Inhibition: Self-restraint and self-control.
- Non-Verbal Working Memory: The ability to hold things in your mind. Essentially, visual imagery — how well you can picture things mentally
- Verbal Working Memory: Self-speech, or internal speech that people think of this as their “inner monologue”.
- Emotional Self-Regulation: The ability to take the previous four executive functions and use them to manipulate your own emotional state. This means learning to use words, images, and your own self-awareness to process and alter how we feel about things
- Self-Motivation: How well you can motivate yourself to complete a task when there is no immediate external consequence
- Planning and Problem Solving: Experts sometimes like to think of this as “self-play” — how we play with information in our minds to come up with new ways of doing something. By taking things apart and recombining them in different ways, we’re planning solutions to our problems
What Causes Executive Dysfunction?
If children do not get what they need from their relationships with adults (e.g., supportive and reliable relationships, social connection, early care, and educational programs, etc.) – or even worse, if children grow up in homes or environments categorized by neglect, abuse, and/or violence – the development of executive function can be impaired.
Other conditions that can cause Executive Functioning weakness:
- depression and anxiety
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
How are ADD/ADHD and Executive Functioning Related?
Executive Functioning weakness is NOT ADD/ADHD. But the two do often work hand-in-hand. That’s because most of the symptoms of ADHD (also known as ADD) are actually problems with executive function.
ADHD is a developmental impairment of executive function that can cause hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. ADHD is an official diagnosis. Executive functioning issues is not. People with executive function issues may have ADHD. However, ADHD is not the only condition that can affect executive function.
ADD and ADHD are a brain type that you are diagnosed with by a doctor. Executive Function Disorder is not.
What Symptoms Indicate That You Might Have Executive Function Issues?
When a person has executive function deficit or weakness, he has trouble analyzing, planning, organizing, scheduling, and completing tasks. People with EFD commonly lack the ability to handle frustration, start and finish tasks, recall and follow multi-step directions, stay on track, self-monitor, and balance priorities. Fixing the area of deficit is key to fixing academic or occupational difficulties. Common signs and symptoms of Executive Functioning Dysfunction in adults include:
- Struggle with self-discipline and procrastination.
- Have organizing challenges and tend to ‘file by piles.’
- Troubled relationships at home and at work.
- Poor communication patterns.
- Feel you are an underachiever (often despite many accomplishments).
- Find difficult tasks easier to accomplish than routine or boring ones.
- Experience a fluid sense of time – 5 minutes in traffic feels like an hour; an hour can feel like 5 minutes.
- Have difficulty staying focused on some tasks, but can also hyper-focus for hours!
- Seek new adventures and start numerous projects, rarely complete everything you start.
How Can I Improve My Executive Functioning Skills?
Executive Dysfunction, ADD, and ADHD are conditions that result from neurological conditions, heredity and environment – symptomatic of how your brain is wired and how you learn and experience things. They are NOT a defect in will-power or moral defect. You CAN improve your executive function skills!
Executive Functioning Coaching can help you to find ways to minimize and manage the problematic symptoms of executive dysfunction and/or ADD/ADHD while bolstering your creative problem-solving abilities and can help you to unlock your Master Brain!
And if you are the partner or parent of someone with ADHD or Executive Dysfunction, I can help you to better understand and support them. Talk to me about couples coaching, parenting strategies, or student coaching.
What Are the Benefits of Executive Function Training?
Seeking help for weaknesses in executive functioning allows trained professionals to help you with mental processes used to plan and organize, sustain attention, complete tasks, manage your emotions, problem-solve, control impulses and monitor your thoughts.
You may or may not have a diagnosis of ADHD, learning disability, or pervasive developmental delay, but anyone can have trouble with executive functioning. Students and young adults find executive function training highly effective for learning to manage complex study and life schedules as we age.
Adults use executive function training to perform better at work, organize their possessions and priorities, and equip themselves with strategies for increasing success, meeting goals, and improving relationships. Training can lead to improvement in remembering and retaining information, focusing longer on tasks, decreasing procrastination, completing tasks, organizing schoolwork, managing time better, and practicing thinking before acting.
Who Can Benefit from Executive Functioning Skills Coaching?
My coaching clients tend to be really interesting, intelligent and creative individuals, yet they still struggle to plan, prioritize, control emotional reactions, activate, organize, regulate attention, complete projects, manage time and remember details – even when highly successful or motivated.
I know what it’s like, being one of the 10+ million U.S. adults with ADD. It makes sense that people with brain-based challenges will benefit from coaching that understands them.
Contact me today for a free evaluation! If we decide to work together, we will work on alternative approaches to better manage Executive Functioning issues, tools for medication management (if appropriate) and strategies for dealing with common problems related to executive dysfunction, like poor sleep habits, time management, and organization.