By Cassie Story, RDN
We are social creatures. Hardwired in our being is the desire to belong, fit in, and play with our fellow humans. In fact, survival depends on our ability to bond.
So what happens to your mental state when you remove yourself from others over the course of a year and a half? While long-term data on the mental health implications of isolation are currently being studied, we do have short-term studies emerging, which evaluated mental health concerns over the past year.
A new phenomenon has occurred for workers who have been utilizing online video platforms for a majority of their day-to-day work. “Zoom fatigue” may have inadvertently activated the fight or flight system within the brain.1 This is according to a recent report from Stanford that offers four potential aspects of Zoom fatigue and the unintended psychological consequences that follow.1
With this knowledge, it is important to recognize the spectrum of emotions that you might be feeling as you prepare to “get back” into the real world—to step out from behind the screen and live life again.
This article identifies common emotions that you may be experiencing, effective mantras for change, and supportive nutrients that can play a role in taking you from feeling blah to rah!
Emotional state: fear & anxietyIt is understandable to have some lingering fear and anxiety about social reentry. Due to our constant connection to news and information, many people have likely experienced some level of fear and anxiety that is atypical for themselves over the past year. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect yourself to go from living in that state of mind, to complete joy and jubilation.
Mantra: I am safe
Supportive nutrients: palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) and hemp
PEA is a bioactive lipid molecule that the body produces naturally and is found in the lipid extracts of foods.2 PEA has been researched for over 70 years and has a wide range of clinical applications from mild bodily discomfort and immune system support to mood and neurological health.2-6
Full-spectrum hemp is sourced from aerial plant parts including the stalk, stems, seed, and flower of the hemp plant and contains beneficial phytocannabinoids and terpenes.
They work together to produce a synergistic effect on the endocannabinoid system, which has been found to support a healthy stress response and has positive neurological benefits.7
Emotional state: stressLoneliness and isolation have been found to increase stress levels in the body.8 Couple that with uncertainty about the future and worry for your own health and wellbeing, as well as that of your friends and family, and this creates a perfect brew for stress to thrive. Are you ready to reclaim your balance?
Mantra: I am at peace
Supportive nutrient: phosphatidylserine
Phosphatidylserine is an important phospholipid in the brain and a key building block of nerve cell membranes.9 Research suggests that it may support mental focus and help support a healthy endocrine response to acute mental stress.10
Emotional state: low self-confidence or decline in body imageFor most people, due in part, to our society’s environmental factors of convenience foods and little built-in day-to-day movement, maintaining health and wellbeing requires routine and planning. Removing ourselves from typical day-to-day activities, and increasing a sedentary lifestyle, may lead to undesired weight gain.
If you have experienced an increase in body weight, first remind yourself, you are not alone. Second, find something about your body to be grateful for right now. Third, speak kindly to yourself.
If you have now found that a majority of your “real life” clothes no longer fit, maybe it is time to implement a supportive weight-loss routine.
Mantra: I am strong (or flexible, sexy, healthy)
Supportive nutrient: meal replacements
Meal replacements are reduced-calorie portion-controlled products often fortified with micronutrients. Studies show that replacing just one or two meals per day with a meal-replacement product produces greater total weight loss, and a greater proportion of participants meet their total weight-loss goals both in the short- and long-term, compared to a low-calorie diet without the use of meal replacements.11
Emotional state: lack of motivationSpending the majority of your time in a seated position, whether the couch or an office chair, can wreak havoc on motivation levels. Going from staring at one screen to the next, between your computer, TV, and phone, can cause a numbness of sorts and lead to lack of desire or motivation to try new things. We are hardwired to want to try new things. Being limited from participating in your favorite activities may have decreased your motivation without your realizing it.
Mantra: I enjoy new experiences
Supportive nutrients: holy basil, ashwagandha, amla fruit
These are a classic blend of Ayurvedic herbs. Holy basil (Ociumum sanctum) leaves and stems contain a variety of compounds including triterpenes (oleanolic and ursolic acid), saponins, flavonoids, and phenols.12 Roots of ashwagandha (Withania somniferum), an herb grown in India, contain withanolides.13 Amla fruit, or Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica), is rich in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant.14
Research suggests these adaptogens may support the body in adjusting to various stressful environmental challenges.15 These herbs may help reduce some of the challenges associated with stress.16
Emotional state: excitementPerhaps you are experiencing a different type of emotion than those listed above. Maybe you are excited and “champing at the bit” to get back out into your typical social life. If you feel that you need some calming support because you just cannot wait to get back out there, here are some things to consider:
Mantra: I am calm
Supportive nutrients: folate, magnesium, vitamins B12 and B6
Folate & vitamin B12 are cofactors in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, including serotonin.17-18 Serotonin is associated with mood, sleep, and relaxation.19
Vitamin B6 is a factor in the body’s conversion of glutamate, which is a stimulatory neurotransmitter, into gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA), which is associated with calming and relaxation.20
Magnesium is an essential mineral and acts as a cofactor in numerous metabolic processes. There is evidence that specific nutrients, such as magnesium, may help to promote muscle relaxation and restfulness—possibly playing a role in reducing daily stress levels.21
However you are feeling in any given moment is okay. As humans, we experience a multitude of emotions that change throughout the day. If you’ve noticed you haven’t felt yourself lately, remind yourself that every day is a new day—filled with opportunities for growth and change. Be kind to yourself, use the mantras within this article or create your own that speak to you and consider adding the supportive nutrients listed above to your routine if you are seeking nutritional support for your emotional state.
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2. Beggiato S et al. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10:821.
3. PubChem, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/4671. Accessed September 20, 2019.
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8. Hwang TJ et al. Int Psychogeriatr. 2020;32(10):1217-1220.
9. Kim H et al. Prog Lipid Res. 2014;56:1-18.
10.Benton D et al. Nutr Neurosci. 2001;4(3):169-178.
11. Heymsfield S et al. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003;27(5):537-549.
12. Cohen MM. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014;5(4):251-259.
13. Mirjalili MH et al. Molecules 2009;14:2373–2393.
14. Mindell E. New York, NY, Hachette Book Group, 2011.
15. Panossian AG et al. Med Res Rev. 2021;41(1):630-703.
16. Panossian A. Pharmaceuticals. 2010;3:188-224.
17. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin B12. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/ . Accessed: August 5, 2021.
18. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Office of Dietary Supplements – Folate. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/ . Accessed: August 5, 2021.
19. Young SN. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007;32:394-399.
20. Dakshinamurti K. Adv Nutr Res. 1982;4:143-179.
21. de Baaij JH, et al. Physiol Rev. 2015; 95:1-46.
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