Executive Functions & YOU


Executive Functioning
for Optimal Functioning™
What’s involved and what can go wrong?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
another part of the Executive Functioning Series

MORE folks on Team EFD than folks with ADD/ADHD

The executive system is a carefully orchestrated combination of processes that, together, merge and mingle to make us human and to make us, well, us!

These functions continually work together to help us manage hundreds of cognitive and practical tasks of life, day in and day out.

Not only that, they do it in the blink of an eye, and primarily below the level of our conscious awareness. At least, they do it that way when everything is on board and working “normally.”

New here? Read What ARE Executive Functions? for more description & detail.

The area of the brain that makes possible many of the wonderful cognitive abilities differentiating humans from the rest of the mammals is the frontal third of the outer layer of the human brain, referred to as the pre-frontal cortex [PFC], right behind the forehead:

  • the last part of our brains to evolve,
  • the last part of our brains to develop in the womb,
  • and the last part of our brains to mature as we grow up

And it’s fragile

The PFC is especially vulnerable to damage — both before and after birth.

The living brain is soft, floating around inside a fluid filled environment keeping it from bumping up against the inside of a hard skull that, in turn, is protecting the fragile brain itself.

Your PFC can be injured very easily bumping up against that bony skull, even when no direct hit to the head was involved in the original incident.

Anything that makes the brain “slosh around” in the fluid in a manner that causes it to come in contact with the skull results in at least minor brain damage, and the PFC is often involved.

Read: How Do Brains Get Damaged?  Is YOURS?

THAT means that in addition to individuals with disorders, stroke or some type of substance-promoted damage affecting the PFC, anyone who’s been involved in almost any sort of accident is likely to experience brain-based executive functioning challenges of one sort or another.

It also means that most adults have at least a few EF issues, not only individuals with:

  • mood disorders (anxiety & depression included)
  • autistic and attentional spectrum disorders
  • TBI/ABI,
  • Parkinson’s
  • dyslexia & dyscalculia
  • more than a few neurological conditions such as
    sensory integration disorders 

in fact, almost all of what I refer to as the alphabet disorders — as well as, currently, MOST of us over 45, as the memory centers begin to age.

So what does THAT mean?

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How well do you REALLY function?


Soldiering ON with less
than Optimal Functioning™
when we could REALLY have a much easier time of it

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
part of the Executive Functioning Series
May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Do you suffer from boiling frog syndrome?

You’ve probably already heard the story about cooking frogs by putting them in cold or tepid water, then slowly bringing it to a boil — even though they would have jumped out immediately if they were suddenly thrust into hot water.

Other versions of the story assert that, as long as the temperature increases slowly, the frog is able to adjust its body temperature to remain comfortable — until it ultimately becomes too weak to jump out before it’s cooked.

Just a myth, but apt

According to an interesting article on Wikipedia, neither version is true, but the analogy is perfect: as things slowly but steadily worsen, most of us adjust and accommodate, even when we could find ourselves in much better situations if we’d only react more quickly and reach out for help.

  • In my 25+ year coaching career, only a rare few individuals ever reached out for help or brain-based information until they were practically desperate, and almost all had been leading what I call “limp-along lives” for years.
  • More than a few had been taking pricey vacations or eating lunches in restaurants to get away from the stress of the work environment, or indulging in daily caffeine fixes at several dollars a pop, still convinced that they couldn’t afford coaching fees — until they felt they “had no choice.”

For YEARS it only made sense in the context of Boiling Frog Syndrome.

Even if they were cracker-jack “over-achievers” when they were younger, they contributed their functional and cognitive slow-down to aging
. . .  or the demands of parenthood
. . . or the increasing complexities of modern life
. . . or the rise of social media expectations

. . . or anything other than being flat-out worn down by repeated, unrecognized struggles with Executive Functioning they never understood how to overcome.

So What Goes Wrong?

It’s mentally and physically exhausting to continue to swim upstream.

  • As long as you are swimming with the current you get carried downstream with much less thrashing about on your part.
  • Not only that, when you’re swimming upstream, if you stop stroking for even a minute, your life goes backwards.  Nobody can keep up that kind of effort.
  • Before you realize it you are swimming alone, unhappy that life is so much work, but not really expecting it to be easier because you’ve always had to “work twice as hard for half as much” — or so it seems to you in your most private of thoughts.
  • You begin to believe that everybody struggles in the same fashion, but suspect that the others are somehow better able to cope than you are.

But it doesn’t have to be that way

It recently occurred to me that many people don’t reach out for help, perhaps, because they have forgotten (or have never really known) what effective focus and follow-through look like.

They’re falling victim to “that happens to everybody”
or “this is the best I can expect from myself” thinking
to explain and attempt to accept their various challenges.

Things can get WORSE as time goes by . . .

because each new skill must build on the ones before it.

If you never learned to add or subtract, multiplication and division would remain a mystery.

If you never really mastered basic arithmetic, how could anyone expect you to do well as you moved through school?

Similar to moving from basic arithmetic to higher math, learning how to manage life’s many challenges is also an incremental, multi-stepped process.

So, for the next few Mondays, I am going to detail the problems many of my clients had been putting up with because ““that happens to everybody,” and do my best to explain what’s behind the struggle — in the hopes that I will finally inspire more of you to spend a few months working with me to turn things around before you feel like you are about to crash and burn.

Lets START by taking a look at some of the problems
that are NOT “normal” functioning.
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Got Memory? – Part I


Remember – links on this site are dark grey to reduce distraction potential
while you’re reading. They turn red on mouseover
Hover before clicking for more info

OpenAllNiteMemory, Aging and ADD

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

My sleep disorder has me out of phase with the rest of America again.  Bummer!

Since, of late, I seem to be asleep when the rest of America is up and at’em, awake when it seems that all the world’s aslumber, there’s not much to distract me from reading and research – so I’ve been reading a lot lately!

One of the few good things about Living with JetLag™ is that there are periods of time when I can do little else but dive into books I have been too busy to read while I scrambled to catch up with everything missed “off-phase” during those precious times when I am “on-phase” with the rest of you earthlings.

A number of books have come out in the past few years exploring what happens to our brains as we age. Several are exploring “normal” changes, others are looking at brain disorders that seem to strike at middle-age, most notably Alzheimers.

Other than mentioning the link between aging and sleep struggles, which I will explore in another series of posts, the primary focus of most of the books I’m currently ingesting concerns the processes of memory: what happens when they work as expected, and what happens when they don’t.

Two I just finished are:

  • Barbara Strauch’s The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain
  • Cathryn Jakobson Ramin’s Carved in Sand
    – when attention fails and memory fades in midlife
The timing seems suddenly right for a series of articles on memory and ADD, but before I get into the details, I need to get something off my chest.

Read more of this post

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