Have you ever seen yourself in this Monday morning picture? You manage to get to work on auto pilot and then as soon as you sit down and click on the computer, you confront the fog of Monday morning. You get up and head for the coffee maker, confident that one more cup is what you need to jump start your creativity. You sit down and sip, waiting for the fabulous ideas to come. You wait. You sip. You wait. And wait.

You can keep your coffee, but you need to have a strategy to get the most out of your mind. There are five reasons why coffee will not solve your problems. Your mind needs these five things.

1. Sleep every night. Some people swear they need less sleep than they used to, but then wonder why they battle memory issues, weight struggles, clumsiness, bad moods, high stress and illness. These are the reasons that Harvard Women’s Health  says you should not scrimp on sleep. Healthy adults need at least seven hours a night. Any time I am up against a wall mentally or emotionally my default reaction: take a nap and everything will be a little brighter on the other side.

2. Eat real food. This is not your mother talking. You can read this very technical article from NCBI (the National Center for Biotechnology Information) about the effect that food and nutrition has on your brain or you can take our word for the fact that your mother was right. What you eat can affect neuronal function and synaptic plasticity, which is a fancy way of saying your brain works better on things that grow out the ground and healthy fats. One simple way of remembering what’s good to eat is to find something memorable, like Kelly LeVeque’s Fab 4 diet. I stray away from words like “diet,” because I’m in the business of LIVING, but I’m a big fan of memorable tools. Hers is easy: eat protein, fat, fiber and greens. Don’t eat any food handed through a window.

3. Move every day. In the spirit of words to avoid, there’s one that starts with an “e” and and “x” that tends to send some people into euphoria and others screaming off a cliff. If you avoid four letters words that invoke guilt, combat your inner sabotage with a strategy to move in a new way every day. It might be walking the dog (or the cat if you like, but she may not), taking the stairs, doing pushups (start with 3 and work your way up). Just find a new way to move every day. Or an old way. Just get out of your chair.

4. Believe in something. For some this will seem squishy, because belief implies faith. It’s very intangible but brain research has changed the relevance of spiritual activity in our life. The Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life talks about How Our Brains are Wired for Belief in scientific terms that involve big words like amygdala, which is the part of the brain that lights up when we are afraid or really motivated. (Sometimes fear motivates us.) Our brains crave this connection every day, so we need to feed it like we feed the dog. (Hopefully you feed the dog more than my kids do.) We need to drink from a source of truth bigger than our heads every day to live a generous and balanced existence.

5. Play. The science of human play (yes, there is such a thing) shows that play is as important as sleep. The existing research … explains how play shapes our brains, creates our competencies, and ballasts our emotions,” says the National Institute for Human Play (www.nifplay.org). We’re not just talking about Sudoku. Humans are wired for relationships. If I schedule play time with a friend every week it raises my endorphins and my intelligence. Play at work? Well, I’m not the boss, but gamefication is a growing trend in getting employees into their work.

This list is not intended to heal everything, but if you’re looking for strategies to get out of the mud when your stuck in mental sludge, this is a great place to start.

Donna Carlson is with 360º Life Strategies, creating strategies for bigger minds, happier people and great relationships.


  • Donna Carlson

    Women's Leadership & Life Strategy Coach

    360º Life Strategies

    Women comprise 56% of the workforce but so many of us don't ask for what we want. Why is that? After a 30 year career accepting second best, living like a race horse held behind the start gate, Donna Carlson changed her strategy from being a thermometer - reflecting the mores of the world around her - to being a thermostat. Now Donna coaches women to own their personal style and leadership power.