“Why Can’t I Finish Anything?!” :: Executive Dysfunction in the Time of Covid

Ok, I’ve been trying to say this for 3 months.

If you had asked me at the beginning of the year if I would like to work from home, I would have screamed “YES!” in your face before you even finished the question. I have always had a bit of a commute, and the idea of saving energy, gas, and time is infinitely appealing to me.

HOWEVER: I would NOT have chosen to also be assisting my 12-year-old in homeschooling herself as we both wrangle her 3-year-old sister who isn’t *quite* fully potty trained … while facing a global pandemic. So, there are pros and cons to my setup. No commuting is definitely nice, but I did not anticipate the drain on my attention and focus while working from home. Before, I left work at work and took frequent breaks to ask colleagues questions, go to the restroom, or leave the building to get lunch.

Now, the restroom is 5 steps away, the coffee is 10 steps, and lunch? Well, we all know I’m not going anywhere.

As a result, work and home have morphed into a blob of stuff I need to do, and I never feel like I’m done. Add the uncertainty of our health, economy, and our children’s education, and you have prime fodder for executive dysfunction, something I struggle with on a normal basis.

Executive dysfunction is defined as an impairment to organizational skills, such as planning, paying attention, problem solving, or processing new information. It is not a formal diagnosis, but more a component of other issues. I have always had a healthy dose of ADD, but am normally able to rein it in, and even appreciate it for imbuing my life with creativity and passion. Executive dysfunction often affects those with learning disorders or behavioral disorders, and can be stirred up in times of trauma (such as, oh, I don’t know … a global crisis).

So, what does this look like? It looks like clocking into your home work station only to stare at the screen in a panic. Or, “plugging in” and not taking a break for hours, in fear that you will “lose your streak” and not be able to get back in focus. It may also result in zoning out at 5:00 (or 6:00, or 7:00…) when you FINALLY clock out of work, because your energy and focus are totally zapped and all you can do is re-binge the Office and stare longingly at the bad carpet and florescent lighting.

I am NOT a psychologist or any other kind of “-ist” but I’ve been at this for (38 years and) 3 months now, and I’ve developed some tricks:

1. If you can, take a little time from work.

This can be an hour or a day or more. Just reminding yourself that everything is not going to fall apart without you is a good thing.

2. Set a goal to complete a “fun” or personal task, and make it “do-able.”

Even if it’s moving on to binge-watching a new show.

3. LET GO of the idea of perfection.

This is difficult for me. Often, when I don’t feel that I have the time or resources to do something perfectly, I don’t even try. I have been attempting to soldier on, no matter what, and get it DONE.

4. Talk it out!

You may not have been able to put your finger on the problem! Call a friend and see if they are feeling this way, too.

There’s so much uncertainty and confusion about this year, and the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in. I have the very strong hope that I’m discovering these solutions just as they will become unnecessary, or at least less crucial. Here’s hoping that as the kids return to school, and we get back into our routines, blah, blah, blah, something cute or funny.

Jeanne Rougelot
Jeanne is a proud Westbanker and wife, full time working parent, and middle child. She and her insanely handsome husband of 20 years have 2 daughters, aged 15 and 7. Her hobbies include cake decorating, reading, devouring movies, and slowly turning into her mother. When they are not patronizing local restaurants, she and her family enjoy driving around to take in the surroundings of their home, from Lafitte to Folsom, and all points in between. She is a passionate advocate for Ovarian Cancer Awareness.


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