Advice for Moms

A Fall of Sustaining Energy

Me Ra Koh

There is a new term that is swirling in my head and heart these last few months.  The term is Sustaining Energy.

Sustaining Energy.  I’ve thought about these two words on a large scale when it comes to our environment and culture, but I’ve never spent much time thinking about the word in application to me as a woman, wife, mom…  As a business woman, I’ve spent numerous hours focused on growth, risk, building, risking and growing…but sustaining.  The word itself captured me like the scent of bread baking in the oven.

As moms, creatives, entrepreneurs, how do we sustain ourselves…

so we keep from burning out and continue to move forward with all our responsibilities, dreams, desires and those we love?

The answer is probably different for everyone, but this summer I took a hard look at what mine would be.  I discovered what I call “Sustaining Energies” in my daily and weekly life.  With the guiding hand of Fay’s wisdom (SOAR! Business Coach), Brian, Fay and I unpacked the idea of designing a life that would sustain us on a physical, emotional, financial and spiritual level.  It started with a simple exercise.

I drew a big circle on a piece of paper and wrote all my commitments…

around the outside of the circle, things like; Homeschool, Family Relations, Photography, Speaking, TV segments, My Blog, a new Book Project, SOAR! Scholarship Program, Yoga 3x’s a week, Church, Karate and Art Classes for the Kids, Travel…  All these elements are a part of my on going life.  It’s easy for me to check out and say “I can’t manage all these pieces!”  But the truth is that I do somehow, so I can either get intentional about how I manage these elements, or I can feel like I’m always running to catch up.  As Fay said, the circle is my pie.  I’ve only got one pie in my life, how do I want to divide it up with all that I’m committed too?  My heart said, ‘Really?! I can’t find a way to have two or three pies and layer them on top of each other?’  🙂

After I drew my circle and wrote my obligations around the outside,

Fay asked me to write “Sustaining Energy” at the top of the circle on the inside.  She invited me to list things that sustain my energy.  These things sustain me in day to day or weekly life.  They help me give to all those I love, without burning out.  To write them out, see them on paper in front of me, was powerful.  Now I knew that much better what to make time for every day, week, month.  If I committed to these things, my tank would have less chance of running empty.

I sat down with my business coach, and we brainstormed ideas that would give me sustaining energy as a mom, business owner and creative. Here's my list.  What would you write?

Some of my Sustaining Energy ideas are;

-Bikram Yoga, 2-3 times a week

-Getting to bed at 10pm (a bed time that is earlier than normal but what I feel my body asking for)

-Eating Well (Gluten and Dairy give me a fever, so making time to eat how my body needs)

-Taking my vitamins/supplements (knowing I need extra Iron, I make the time to keep a supply instead of waiting till I’m depleted)

-Doing my Morning Pages or Morning Walks

-Reading a Good Book Before Bed

-Date night with Brian

-Weekly Family Meetings with the Kids (a new and wonderful event in our home!)

-Spending time in Thailand

-Having Schedules and Systems in Place for our Family’s Day2Day Culture

-Gardening, Cooking, Baking

-Dinner with a Friend

-Date night with Brian (LOL! I said that twice–must mean something! :))

-Two night escape by myself on a quarterly basis

The last Sustaining Energy was the toughest for me. 

Fay challenged me with this one when I pushed back, feeling like this was much more of a “luxury” activity (code for, I don’t feel like I deserve to take that kind of consistent time away from my family.)  She said I needed to go away every other month, or even quarterly, and spend two nights unplugged, in a hotel, with nothing I “needed” to do. 

She emphasized how vital it is for an artist to spend time in wide open space, creating space whether it’s cleaning out their basement, or going to a spacious place where they can be still, quiet, and allow new ideas, new creative thoughts come to them, and thus, be refueled.  I wasn’t sure how to make this work, but I tried it.  I cried as I left the house, telling Brian that two nights was unnecessary.  Instead, by day two, I realized I was moved by how lonely I was for myself.

On my last trip, I asked the hotel if they had Winter deals. 

Turns out, they only offer the Winter deal to those who ask.  And it’s two nights for one!  I booked my next two trips for this Winter, and I’m already looking forward to the wide open space these trips give my heart.

I’m so thankful for this redirection in our business and family life.  Our business and vision is growing stronger every day, but if I’m unable to sustain myself, I won’t be able to keep up.  And those I love would suffer.  So I’m digging deep into the theme of Sustaining Energies. 

I’m not a baker, but have found myself baking Gluten Free bread, and the sustaining energy of this single loaf fills our home on Fall evenings.  I find that I am quieter inside, not resisting the stillness, and often retreating in the morning to spend time in stillness.  My head is more clear, my actions are with more intention, and I feel like I’m living in Front of the Bus rather than trying to keep up with it.  But not just me, the kids too.  The more systems Brian and I implement from bed time routines to weekly Family Meeting Nights, the more secure, settled, and safe they feel.

I don’t know if anyone can relate, but I think I’ve bought into the excuse that as an artist, I work best “outside” of systems. 

This can get me into trouble if I’m not careful.  With running a business and homeschool, we are already outside of the systems around us.  And yet, we need to have our own systems to sustain the creative life we are living.  The river flows whether I help raise up the banks or not.  Searching for Sustaining Energies almost feels like I’m deciding to build up those river banks, so the river will flow in the direction I desire.  Does that make sense?

September is for Sustaining.  This Fall is for Sustaining Energy.

What are Sustaining Energy ideas you can write in the middle of your circle?




  1. jeramy says:

    wow….mera….this is really convicting for me. i can really see this working in your life which is awesome! as i read this and think how i could apply this to myself or if i currently do, i’m faced with the reality that i don’t have anything in the sustaining energy category. i used to surf….i would have counted that….but i haven’t done that with any consistency in awhile. everything else is pretty much work, kids, sleep, repeat. that’s pretty sad, huh? actually….it sounds more concerning then sad….and truth be told, probably pretty accurate for a lot of the other folks that read your blog as well. what a great tool to help get things back on track. you know, i’m a rule follower…i love systems….i’m going to try this.

    thanks mera…. 🙂

  2. Natasha says:

    ~like you,going to bed earlier than I want
    ~listening to the secret once a week
    ~hugs from All my kids and hubby
    ~extra solo hug from hubby
    ~take the full prescribed dose of my ADD meds daily,not just when I think I need them because usually by then way too overwhelmed!!
    ~chocolate in some shape or form
    ~five minutes of silence,usually me locked in a bathroom or the car,hey it works:0)
    Nice post MeRa

  3. Me Ra Koh says:

    Natasha! How could I forget chocolate on that list!

    Jeramy, it’s so great to hear your thoughts too. It’s amazing how life starts to speed past us, especially with kids (and since you have FIVE…that must make it “speed of light” speed!). Dads need sustaining energies too, especially creative dads. The biggest aha is that all these sustaining energies help create space for me to breathe deeper and just “feel” space around me–so important for the creative person you are!


  4. Melisa says:

    MeRa, I needed this I don’t even have kids yet but I have such a hard time with balance and finding “me” time. My life is so consumed with my business and my day job. I need to take a step back and draw a big circle 🙂 I am really going to do this I need to add some me time in my day. Thank you for opening my eyes to this.

  5. Valerie says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I cried sweet tears of gratitude when I saw you had chosen Claudia from all the deserving candidates for the Running on Empty workshop spot. I know this will be much needed break from the chaos of life with childhood cancer for her, a chance to catch her breath and be creative. Without a doubt, this will be a bright spot during a dark time for her. Truly, thank you for your generosity. You will enjoy spending time with her!

  6. natalia says:

    Trying to implement more morning walks into my life (just in time for Autumn and winter).
    But the idea of two nights away sounds heavenly.
    And maybe finally using that spa gift certificate that hubby and kids gave me three years ago!
    This is a great list MeRa!

  7. I needed this Me Ra. Thank you!

  8. Me Ra Koh says:

    Yeah! I’m so glad to hear this is resonating with all of you!

    Natasha, book that spa time so that it happens! Once I calendar something, I usually end up going. 🙂 But if I don’t calendar it, forget about it happening!


  9. GayleV says:

    I have REALLY struggled with this the last 2 months and am finally feeling more on track and with all the roles and obligations I have. And guess what made the difference? Doing some very similar exercises to the ones you did. Two things jumped out at me in your post–“I’ve bought into the excuse that as an artist, I work best “outside” of systems” and “I realized I was moved by how lonely I was for myself.” Both of these thoughts are things that I am coming to terms with and trying to make a regular part of my EVERYDAY so that I don’t run and push and leap for 10 months and then crash and burn for two ;)!!! What a wonderful post today!!!

  10. Carrie Yuan says:

    Me Ra, as always, very timely thoughts for my own life. I love the term “sustaining energies”. It’s so nice to have a great name for the things we need to keep as priorities. Will work on my list and also share this with my husband. Hope you guys had a great workshop in CA!

  11. Claudia says:

    WOW – what a great surprise today. So thankful for the opportunity to attend the DC Workshop. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am so very excited to get a break from everything we have been through since December. This means so much!!!

  12. andrea S says:

    Wonderful post, Me Ra. Why does it seem so hard to do what we know is best for us? And congratulations, Claudia! I can’t begin to imagine what you have been going through. You are so deserving. And your son has the most amazing smile! What a sweetheart. Enjoy your time to reconnect with yourself.

  13. Me Ra, love this post! I went back and reread it this morning. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately but didn’t really know I was thinking about it until you put it into words. I’ve been trying to be more intentional with my time – more organized and effective – sifting through everything and letting the grit fall out while only keeping the big nuggets! I’m not so good about keeping those things that sustain either. The ones that are screaming the loudest get the most attention! Anyway, good for you for taking the weekend away!

  14. Julie Watts says:

    I’ve fought “systems” and “structure” and “routine” in the name of my creative spirit my whole life! It wasn’t until I finally “got” how exhausted it was to recreate my life every day. I had got a whole new perspective, I was actually able to look at structure as “freeing”!

    Discipline and adherence to the systems I’ve created is my priority. Giving myself what I need in order to make it feel “worth it” has helped. Structure sounded trapping and suffocating to me until my whole new perspective arrived.

    My biggest realization is that I need down time daily so my brain can “play” and not have any requirements of it. 45 minutes of writing, staring at the backyard and thinking, or reading, alone, keeps me energized to continue on the path of structure and efficiency for most of the other stuff.

  15. Katherine says:

    Thanks for that post Me Ra, it really struck a chord with me. After taking the plunge into self-employment six months ago, I got rid of all the systems that had surrounded me in the work place. It was wonderful to be free from all that…..

    Now my new business is flourishing and after reading your post I realise that I need different systems – just to stop me reinventing the wheel every day and systems that are personal to me – not some massive organization. I am going to do your exercise, it will be interesting to see what comes out of it! 🙂

  16. SO helpful. I’m going to try this exercise, I know that “knowing” where I am is half the battle. Thanks for the insight~ hugs

  17. genny says:

    hmm…the first thing that came to mind as i read this is cleaning my house. I feel like once my house is in order I’m ready for everything else. I look forward to writing it out my list and finding more surprises/realizations. thanks Me Ra!

  18. Wynona says:

    This is just what I needed. Me Ra you have such a wonderful gift with your words. I don’t read every article, but on the days when I do read it seems as though you are talking directly to me! You have been a blessing to me! Thank You!!

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