Executive Function – "EF" – is quite the fashionable phrase the last few years. But what does it really mean, and what does it mean in terms of natural ADHD treatment strategies or to better understanding ourselves?
Fact is, as Dr. Russell Barkley recently pointed out in an interview on Attention Talk Radio, there've been too many definitions floating around out there, and no definitive one. But his new book seeks to wrap this matter up in a neater bow for us ADDers.
Executive Function: 6 Tools for ADHD Success
He breaks down EF into six 'mind tools' that together make for a kind of Swiss Army knife for the ADDer. They go a little something like this:
1. Self-Restraint: Ability to inhibit your automatic actions/reactions.
2. Self-Awareness: Ability to monitor yourself and what you're doing.
3. Hindsight Informing Foresight: Ability to visualize past imagery and make better-informed choices.
4. Self-Speech: Ability to talk to yourself privately with instructions.
5. Self-Regulation of Emotions: Ability to control your emotional state, a natural ADHD treatment that requires practice! Take it from me!
6. Problem-Solving: Ability to play with ideas in your mind to create constructive solutions.
For me, each one of these is a juicy box of possible topics to riff on – cuz each conjures one or more ADHD alternative treatment strategies that are either somehow expressed in the ADD Crusher™ videos, or that I've begun writing/developing for future Crusher™ videos. So if I were to let loose on all of these, I'd write a freakin' book. I'll spare both of us and, for now, just talk about Self-Restraint and how understanding it can be put to work for us.
If self-restraint is the opposite of impulsiveness, then we ADDers reaaallly suck at it. Even a cursory look at the role of impulsivity in the ADDer's life explains much of the pain in our often tortured existence.
· It's the unintentially offending remark that alienates a friend or acquaintance.
· It's the poorly considered – or the NOT-AT-ALL considered – purchase of something we don't need...and the financial woes that result.
· It's the walking out of the house without our keys...or phone...or child.
The Pause That Refreshes
These are all areas where a PAUSE could be enough self-restraint to mitigate the bad results. Yes, the pause is the thing. If you could pause to first consider the impact of your words, you'd have the opportunity to edit them. If you could pause to first consider how stupid buying that motorcycle is right now, you might recall that you just bought one last week. If you could pause to inventory your important personal items, tasks, family members, etc. In other words, you could change the course of what follows.
This raises two questions. One, if I'm inherently impulsive, how the @#$%$ am I supposed to remember to pause?!? And two, even if it occurs to me to pause, what do I do in that pause to make things any better?
How to Cause the Pause
We're gonna need an external cue that reminds us at the appropriate time to pause – or at least to be ready to pause. And here's the cue: entrance/exit. If you were able to associate the idea of entrance and/or exit with preparedness to pause, you'd be much more likely to do so and reap the benefits of self-restraint. And by this I mean both literal and figurative entrances/exits. To wit:
· When you enter a room full of people or enter into a conversation or argument, this is your cue to pause and be prepared to exercise self-restraint.
· When you enter a store or enter an e-commerce website, this is your cue to pause and ask yourself if you're about to make an impulsive purchase.
· When you exit your house, that doorway is your cue to pause and pat down your body to be sure you have everything you need; and when you exit your car, before you slam that locked door or trunk lid shut, pause to make sure your keys are firmly in your hand.
Awareness of how exective function plays into life's successes and failures is one of the natural ADHD treatments utilized by the great coaches.
And you can see in the above examples the answer to the second pause-related question – i.e, once you've caused the pause, you need to execute what I call Stop/Feel/Go. You stop your motion to feel your emotions, feel your surroundings or literally feel your pockets/keys/phone – and only then permit yourself to go forth.
I've been doing and teaching this for years – but listening to Barkley made me realize this is absolutely foundational to strong Executive Function. Thanks, Dr. Barkley!