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  • Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

What are intentional options for refueling when you've lost your steam?

Do you remember 'The Little Engine That Could'? The children's folktale illustrates the benefit of optimism and hard work. I read it so many times as a child that the refrain "I think I can! I think I can!" runs through my head when I am doing steep uphill work. For me, it takes more than optimism and hard work to keep going. If I don't pay close attention, I can find myself running close to empty and I need to remember the importance of pausing to refuel.

Put tools in place before you need a serious charge of energy so that they become habit. But even if you haven't and they aren't (yet), it is helpful to keep a menu of things that you are likely to consider when you need them.

Refueling starts with recognizing when the tank is 1/4 full. There may be weeks when you notice that you are 1/8 full or even lower and you choose to push through anyway, but don't make that a regular habit. Running on fumes is extremely stressful and can lead to burnout.

And just like you intentionally keep healthy choices in your kitchen so that you don't grab junk food at the convenience store, you can keep a list of your healthy refueling regime close, so that you're not creating it or turning to "junk" on an empty tank.

When you are doing the really steep uphill work of increasing awareness and shifting behaviors, absorbing deep loss, or stubbing your toes on rocky relationships, consider these four intentional options for refueling...

Pause, close your eyes, bring up your top two values. Notice. Are you, in this moment, aligned with your top two values? If your top value is "connection", notice how your steep uphill climb is supporting that value, or taking your further away from alignment. Same with your second value.

Say "no" for a 24 hour period to everything that is not critical or necessary. Think hard about your habitual definition of "critical or necessary" and then put yourself in the shoes of a friend looking at your list - would they consider these things critical or necessary? Pause.

Turn off technology. Take a break from email, Twitter, Instagram, research, the news. Instead, close your eyes and listen. Notice the wind chime from the neighbor's porch or the sound of water dripping from the roof. Notice silence. Allow your mind to ease and slow down.

Take a nap. In the middle of the day. In the sunshine, whenever possible. There is a reason cats nap in the sunshine... try it. It is a restorative practice and is sure to add some fuel to your tank.

It can be habit to work work work until the tank is empty, especially for those of us who were taught as children that optimism and hard work are virtues. Steep uphill climbs are an essential component of living a whole hearted life. Just be mindful about running out of fuel.

Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.


Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 



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