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Executive Functioning and Emotions

Emotional regulation is one of the core components of Executive Functioning. Dr. Russell Barkley gave a great talk about how emotions work. Here's a brief summary.


There is the 'automatic' part of the brain (non-executive functioning) which responds to emotions as a four step process:

1) The situation or context that you are in

2) The act of paying attention to your surroundings

3) Making an assessment of what's happening

4) Reacting to what's happening.


We do all of these steps on repeat, automatically, all day long. We don't even think of it. It's part of our automatic response system. However, humans do 4 additional steps - which separate us from animals. These are the executive functioning parts:


1) Inhibit the automatic reaction

2) Calm down / down-regulate

3) Refocus attention away from the situation

4) Organize a new (and more appropriate) emotion and response


Often, people with ADHD (or those with Executive Functioning deficits) simply cannot act on #1 and #2 - pausing and down-regulating. In a sense, it's the hardest part of Executive Functioning. These skills simply take time and earnest effort to develop and improve. But, they can also be practiced! Sometimes, you need a coach or advocate in your life that can call you out when your 'automatic brain' is in control, and get you to pause and down-regulate.


Watch more with Russell Barkley to learn about tips on working through emotional regulation deficits! At Star Tutoring, we can help our students with their Executive Functioning in the context of helping them on their academics.

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