Is Your Gas Tank Empty?

Refueling through the long winter months
 By Erica Marriaga, MSW, LCSW
 Photo by Igor Stepanov by Pexels

Regardless if you currently operate a motor vehicle, motorcycle, bus, have never driven, or are looking forward to driving privileges, think for a moment about not being able to reach your destination.

You hear and see the signal on the odometer beeping and lighting up. You are about to run out of gas. Whether you are the driver or passenger, do you notice that you might start to feel nervous or panicked? 

If for a moment, you can pretend that the empty fuel tank represents your emotions and well-being, can you relate to feeling a lack of “drive,” or not enough energy to refuel yourself? 

I can tell you that it is common to feel drained during the winter months. Yes, that time is approaching when all of the Holiday festivities come to a close, the colder weather and longer days exist, and the added pressure from COVID can make you feel depleted. Emotions impact our bodies just as our bodies impact our emotions.

Start recharging the body with self-awareness

Once mid-January approaches, it is easy to lose sight of New Year’s resolutions with the return to work and school, whether virtually or socially-distanced in-person. You might notice you need a vacation from all of the holiday hustle and bustle. The high energy, positivity, and motivation you once had might be decreasing.

It might seem more difficult to fall into a healthy routine that includes an adequate amount of sleep, eating healthily, or promoting positivity. There might be time to focus on relaxation, socialization, academics, or the house project that you have been putting off, but you feel stuck. There is an increased amount of stress and you might tell yourself that it is impossible to take the first step. 

However, the first step is being aware.

When we start with a clear evaluation of where we are emotionally, we can start to recharge. If you refuse to acknowledge that you are stressed or feeling stuck or overwhelmed, how can you signal your body that it is time to relax?

Refuel with Relaxation

According to Dr. Mina Lee Ryu, MD, FACP,  there are many benefits of relaxation techniques:

  • Decreased heart rate and respiration rate
  • Lowered blood pressure and increased blood flow
  • Decrease in anxiety, depression and insomnia
  • Relaxed muscles
  • Reduced pain (long-term illnesses, chronic conditions)
  • A boost in energy and better sleep patterns
  • A sense of calmness and confidence
  • Improved coping abilities

Techniques for Relaxation

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

You might be hesitant to try something new and I understand that.

Discomfort exists when we step out of our comfort zones. There are many different ways to practice relaxation.  I invite you to consider being open to these ideas.  

  1.  Go for a nature walk to relax

I encourage you to try relaxing in nature for yourself and see what you think.  Yes, it might be a bit nippy outside, so it is important to control your environment; wear layers, gloves, a hat.  You can put a timer on your phone if you are feeling uneasy about trying something new.

While you are outside, what do you notice while you are walking? Use your 5 senses. What do you hear, see, smell, taste, and is there anything you can touch? Are you able to focus on one object that you can see?

  1. Breathing exercises for relaxation

This can be as simple as you would like it to be.  It is important to try to sit or lie down in a comfortable position. You can decide if you would like to keep your eyes open or closed.  I usually focus on counting my breath in my head.

For example, 4-7-8 breathing.  I count to 4 while breathing in through my nose.  I hold my breath while I count to 7 in my head.  Finally, I breathe out through my mouth, counting to 8.  If you find that this is difficult, you can adjust the numbers in any way you want.

How would you rate your energy level after trying these out?  You might also enjoy checking out these phone apps and websites:

Reach Out to a Counselor

As always, if you find yourself struggling in these areas, do not hesitate to reach out for help. A licensed therapist or counselor can help empower you to be your best self! 


Erica Marriaga is a proud fur-mama of her one-eyed rescue dog, Toby and her puppy Tucker. She loves to spend time with her husband and bond with her family, nieces, and nephews. Erica is passionate and enthusiastic about her role as a therapist.  EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury, NJ, and accepts a variety of insurances.

Check out Erica’s professional bio here!

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