Executive functions are a series of cognitive processes necessary for managing tasks in the world.
ADHD women struggle with these tasks. Each woman has their own unique profile, some may struggle more or less in each area.
These cognitive processes include:
This means taking important information out of your head and putting it in a place where you can see it and interact with it. This could involve writing down tasks, instructions, or other important information on paper or a digital device. This strategy helps individuals with ADHD to not rely solely on their memory, which can sometimes be unreliable, and instead have a visual reminder of the information they need to remember.
This strategy involves using physical tools to represent the passage of time. This could be using timers, clocks, or other tools that can help individuals with ADHD visualize the passage of time. This helps in managing time more effectively as they can see it passing, rather than trying to estimate it internally which can be challenging for individuals with ADHD.
This strategy is about taking a larger task and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps. This helps to prevent feeling overwhelmed and makes it easier to focus on completing one step at a time. It can also make it easier to start a task, as starting with a small step can feel less daunting than trying to tackle a large task all at once.
Individuals with ADHD often benefit from external sources of motivation to help them stay focused and complete tasks. This could involve setting up rewards for completing tasks or having someone else to help hold them accountable. This strategy leverages external sources of motivation to help drive action and task completion.
This strategy involves using physical tools or aids to help solve problems. This could be using paper and pen to work out a math problem, or using physical objects to help visualize a problem. This strategy helps individuals with ADHD to work through problems in a tangible way, which can sometimes be more effective than trying to solve problems mentally.
This strategy is about recognizing that individuals with ADHD have a limited amount of executive function resources and that these resources can be depleted over time. It’s important to take breaks and engage in activities that help to replenish these resources, such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and engaging in physical activity. This helps to maintain a healthy level of executive function resources, which can aid in better overall functioning.
Traditional approaches to aiding women with ADHD have unfortunately pathologized their experiences.
They’ve often overlooked crucial factors like:
all of which can significantly impact executive functions in women with ADHD.
Such approaches commonly exert undue pressure on women to “improve their executive functioning, ” neglecting to assess whether the demands are excessive.
In my practice, I challenge this narrow view by reframing how we understand and address executive function challenges.
Instead of aiming to “fix” perceived deficiencies, I advocate for neurodivergent-affirming strategies. This approach works with the brain’s unique strengths and attributes, rather than against them.
Implementing these neurodivergent-affirming strategies provides a foundation for women to assess how they might approach personal goals. My focus is on fostering self-accommodation, self-compassion, and self-advocacy. When these skills are in place, executive functioning will often improve.
By also prioritizing self-care and self-awareness, we can enhance our understanding of our needs and limitations. This understanding empowers us to set realistic goals and expectations, thereby reducing unnecessary stress that can impair executive functions.
In this way, not only do we affirm our neurodivergence, but we also cultivate our well-being and personal growth. Executive functioning challenges seem to dissipate to a great extent after putting these pieces in place.
It’s best to examine “strategies” after this point, but they can be worked on simultaneously if necessary.
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