Improving Executive Functioning

Women often juggle myriad obligations simultaneously. An eye opening nation-wide survey from the University of Wisconsin revealed that for dual income earning families, wives spend about twice as much time doing housework, and five times as much time providing childcare than their husbands (as cited in Belkin, 2008).

As busy women, we rely on a group of higher-order cognitive processes called executive functions. However, these skills are not explicitly taught to usin academic or professional settings. Fortunately, we utilize many interventions to help improve these skills at CTWPS. Below are brief examples of executive functions and cognitive-behaviorally informed techniques that we may use to strengthen this skillset: 

Planning and Organization. Oftentimes, women come into treatment describing feelings of burnout. Through assessment, we may learn that she is actually having difficulty planning and organizing her very limited and hard-earned down time. One strategy we help our patients with is concretely breaking tasks down into more manageable parts and utilizing activity scheduling, to ensure she is making the most effective use of her time. 

Initiation. For those who have trouble getting started on tasks, we can explore various strategies to avoid procrastination. In addition to discussing possible barriers to accomplishing tasks, one strategy we may suggest is implementing small rewards for on-task behavior, such as a break every 20-25 minutes.

Emotion Regulation and Inhibition. Some people struggle with regulating their emotions and inhibiting their impulses, which can be detrimental to both interpersonal and professional relationships. At CTWPS, we strive to increase awareness of one’s inner experience, which fosters self-control. 

Cognitive Flexibility. We often see cognitive flexibility tested in our patients when they must shift from one meeting to another without a reprieve. One strategy we discuss here at CTWPS includes scheduling “transition time” between meetings, which helps to collect your thoughts and transition more seamlessly from one setting to another. 

Working Memory and Self-Monitoring. Weaknesses in working memory can manifest as difficulties with formulating a response in your head, and then conveying your ideas aloud. Others have deficits in self-monitoring, which can be a byproduct of multitasking. The first step in overcoming these challenges include strengthening your mental health forcefield, by stabilizing your diet, exercise, and sleep. We might also suggest scheduling time each night to double check your inbox before bed and set reminders so as to not forget anything. 

At CTWPS we address executive functioning challenges via an individualized, proactive, and skills-based approach. The strategies described above are merely a glimpse into the multifaceted and interactive approach you can expect in working with us. We welcome the opportunity to work with you and support you!