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16 Solutions for Isolation Anxiety

by Naturopathes de La Boite à Grains 05 Jun 2024
16 Solutions pour Contrer l’Anxiété d’Isolement - La Boite à Grains

We've passed the 3-week mark for social distancing, and more weeks of confinement lie ahead to ensure control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although disease prevention and control measures are designed to protect the population from COVID-19, isolation brings with it a significant psychological burden.

In this article, we offer advice and solutions to counter isolation anxiety. Thanks to our integrative approach based on healthy lifestyle habits, a balanced diet and the use of certain natural health products, it's possible to keep your spirits high and avoid being overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.

Understanding isolation anxiety

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the daily rhythm of life has taken on a whole new twist, and habits have been turned upside down. Added to this are measures of confinement, social distancing and, for some, quarantine. According to many mental health experts, social distancing can have detrimental effects on mental health, causing a form of anxiety linked to isolation, in addition to the omnipresent stress of the pandemic.1

In the current climate, it's normal to feel stress in the face of the unknown and uncertainty. For some, isolation anxiety is a new reality to contend with.  

The people most at risk of developing or experiencing isolation anxiety are :

  • Seniors
  • Young children
  • People with a history of mental health problems or difficulty managing stress
  • People living alone
  • Women

Anxiety symptoms can manifest themselves in many ways, on a physical, psychological and behavioral level. The most common symptoms are

  • Nervousness, anxiety, worry;
  • Negativity, pessimism;
  • Repetitive, obsessive or invasive thoughts;
  • Impatience, irritability;
  • irrational fears, panic;
  • worsening or appearance of premenstrual syndrome;
  • Insomnia or excessive fatigue;
  • Food cravings for sugar, alcohol, chocolate or potato chips;
  • Depression, lethargy, apathy;
  • Lack of concentration and energy; 2, 3

In more severe cases, anxiety linked to or aggravated by isolation can lead to panic attacks, substance abuse, depression and/or psychological distress. In these circumstances, professional help is required. Many psychologists are offering remote services during the pandemic. Support is available through regional CLSCs.

In short, isolation anxiety can have far-reaching consequences. As Joshua Morganstein, psychiatrist and mental health expert at Bethsda University, puts it, "For some people, the lack of human connection can have as much impact as the lack of food."  

Lifestyle habits to counteract isolation anxiety

To emerge from this pandemic crisis with your head held high, you need to take concrete action to promote good psychological health and avoid the effects of stress and isolation anxiety. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), proactivity is one way to combat pandemic anxiety. 4

 Here are some lifestyle habits you can adopt to counteract isolation anxiety.

Socialize from a distance

« We are highly social beings," says Patricia Jennings of the University of Virginia. Social distancing is sometimes interpreted as isolation and/or lack of socialization, but there are ways of maintaining emotional ties despite the distancing measures put in place. It is recommended to maintain a minimum of three interpersonal links per day, if necessary via telecommunications. A number of technologies can help you stay in touch with each other and break down feelings of isolation. By using telephone lines, chat rooms and video-conferencing to maintain socio-affective links, the brain receives a dose of oxytocin (attachment hormone), which contributes to a feeling of trust, comfort and well-being, while reducing stress hormones. 5

Limit media exposure

According to psychologists Nadia Gagner and Nicole Chammartin, it would be preferable to limit exposure to media news about the evolution of the pandemic in order to counter anxiety symptoms. They recommend checking the news from a reliable source no more than once a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) adds that it is preferable to focus on content that advocates proactivity - that is, suggestions for concrete actions to take to protect oneself against the coronavirus and help one's community during the crisis. According to the WHO, this would reduce the sense of helplessness that feeds anxiety. It is also preferable to avoid consulting the media in the late evening, as this increases the level of cortisol (a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands), accentuating anxiety and impairing restful sleep. 3, 4

Maintain a routine

It's true that your usual routine has suffered a brutal shock over the past few weeks. However, it is beneficial to maintain certain routine elements that were already in place before the pandemic, and to create a new one around the pre-existing framework. Among other things, it's important to maintain a sleep routine by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This balances cortisol (stress hormone) levels and combats anxiety. Personal hygiene is not to be neglected; it's beneficial to wash and dress as normal and maintain our living spaces to avoid suffering from fatigue. If you have children at home, routine is all the more important, as it provides them with a sense of security by offering points of reference in everyday life. 2, 3, 4

Physical activity

Physical activity promotes the secretion of dopamine and endorphins, chemical messages that boost mood and contribute to feelings of zest and well-being. That's why it's important to resist the temptation to sedentarize under the pretext of containment measures. It's possible to get moving at home with web-based workouts, or take a walk in the neighbourhood or out in nature. Be careful, however, to avoid busy footpaths and sidewalks, and maintain a social distance of 2 metres from anyone outside your home. 2

Bathing in nature

Contact with nature is an activity that promotes relaxation and lowers stress levels. As little as 20 minutes in the open air can help lower stress hormones. Depending on your location, nature bathing can be as simple as spending time on the balcony watching buds bloom and listening to birds chirp. For rural dwellers, the countryside offers plenty of opportunities for fresh air and close contact with nature. For suburban dwellers, healthy walking remains a possibility, as long as social distance is respected. In addition to feeling calm thanks to the beneficial properties of nature, time spent outdoors, particularly on sunny days, will enable you to replenish your intake of vitamin D, a hormone necessary for the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. 7, 8

Eat balanced meals

Confinement can upset eating habits. Some will eat more, while others will skip meals. The latter habit is to be avoided, as a disjointed meal schedule disrupts blood sugar levels and creates deficiencies in certain amino acids that are precursors to numerous neurotransmitters (mood-regulating messengers) that stabilize mood and the response to stress. The opposite is also to be avoided, as eating too many empty calories (flour, sugar, processed products) not only leads to weight gain, but also affects blood sugar levels and mood. Aim for 3 balanced meals and 3 snacks a day, all rich in protein, healthy fats, whole grains (if tolerated), vegetables and fruit. Drink plenty of water and limit caffeine and alcoholic beverages to a maximum of one serving per day. For more tips on appetite and meal suggestions, click here. here. 2, 10

Redirect free time

If you have a lot of free time on your hands, this is the perfect time to nurture a hobby, develop new skills, take an online course or learn a new language. However, if you work from home and tutor young children, indulge yourself and invest what little free time you have in indulging, relaxing and recharging. Cultivating joy on a daily basis by exploring hobbies, passions, moments of pleasure and relaxation reduces the stress response. 10

Mindfulness

The ability to deal with stress, uncertainty, confinement and fear can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness exercises. Meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi and breathing exercises are all activities that promote mindfulness and lower stress hormone levels. Try incorporating some of these practices into your daily routine. With as little as 20 minutes a day, you'll achieve greater mental clarity, improved energy levels and enhanced well-being. 6

Natural health products to combat anxiety

While implementing healthy lifestyle habits can contribute to well-being and reduce anxiety, some people need more support. Natural health products are a good option. Here are our recommendations for combating anxiety and this period of uncertainty and isolation.

Adaptogenic plants

Among the adaptogens used to counter anxiety include ashwagandha (withania somnifera) and rhodiola (rhodiola rosea). These plants have the effect of lowering cortisol, thereby reducing anxiety symptoms. What's more, these plants can be used safely by most people without side-effects, as long as the dosage suggested by the manufacturer is followed. 6

Vitamin B complex

Certain group B vitaminsincluding vitamin B5 and vitamin B6 have been studied for their effects on the nervous system, and are now recognized to reduce cortisol hyper-secretion in stressful situations. This version, which includes rhodiola kills two birds with one stone. 6, 9

Vitamin C

In addition to its antioxidant action on the immune system, a high dose of vitamin C (1,000 mg or more per day) lowers cortisol levels. According to Dr. Elson M. Haas, MD, vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients to supplement under stress. 6, 9

Omega-3

In a clinical study, men and women who took fish oil (a high source ofomega 3) every day for 6 weeks had lower cortisol levels. Certain types ofomega-3 are also known to have a beneficial effect on serotonin, a neurotransmitter with an important influence on mood and anxiety. However, it is not advisable to supplement with high omega-3 oils if you are taking anticoagulants. 2, 6, 10

L-Tyrosine

This amino acid is used to manufacture dopamine, a neurotransmitter that contributes to good mood and combats the symptoms of apathy, lethargy and lassitude that often accompany anxiety. For best results, take l-Tyrosine between meals and avoid taking it at the end of the day. 2

St John's wort

In Germany, where herbal medicine has its place in primary care, the St. John's wort is used to counter symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is nature's perfect remedy for addressing serotonin deficiency, a neurochemical imbalance characterized by anxiety, fear, restlessness, insomnia, pessimism and food cravings. Be careful not to consume St. John's wort if you are taking medication, particularly hormonal contraceptives.11

5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan)

This amino acid acts directly on serotonin production, and clinical studies have repeatedly shown that 5-HTP works better than pharmaceutical antidepressants in calming the effects of anxiety, and without significant side effects. By addressing serotonin levels, endorphin production is also supported, contributing to feelings of happiness, pleasure and well-being. 12

GABA (gamma-aminonutyric acid)

The GABA is a tranquilizer par excellence. Its role as a supplement is to reduce the stress response, while alleviating feelings of frustration, tension (nervous and physical) and exhaustion. An indicator that the body needs more GABA is hypersensitivity to sound, light and other stimuli. For best results, opt for chewable tablets. 13

In a crisis situation such as a pandemic, increased exposure to stress quickly depletes personal resources. It's possible to modulate your stress response and address anxiety symptoms with these natural health products. Try to integrate one product at a time, and don't forget to consult your pharmacist if you are taking medication.

For more information on stress, anxiety and depression associated with COVID-19 disease, visit Quebec government website or theOrdre des psychologues du Québec

Other important measures

During the confinement period, La Boite à Grains encourages you to stay at home, despite the inconvenience, and to go out only when you really need to.

Our advisory service and grocery stores remain an essential service available to serve you whenever you need them, whether it's to obtain natural health products for boost your immune system in the age of coronavirusFor example, you may want to use your own personal space, to combat isolation anxiety or to store for healthy foods. You can place your order online to avoid travel, or go to a branch if you don't have any symptoms of the disease. Rest assured that we are taking every precaution to ensure that our establishments and our staff meet the most stringent public health and disease prevention requirements.

Good health

About the author

Naturopaths of La Boite à Grains

Team of licensed and certified naturopaths (ND) in Gatineau, Outaouais.

Original article written by Véronique Cousineau

 

Sources

  1. American Psychological Association. The risks of social isolation. Amy Novotney. May 2019, Vol 50, No. 5. Accessed March 30, 2020.
  2. The Mood Cure. Julia Ross, M.A., pages 16-17, Penguin Group publishing company. 2002
  3. Ordre des psychologues du Québec. Coronavirus (COVID-19): psychological advice and information for the general public. Accessed March 31, 2020.
  4. Mental health and psychosocial support considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic. World Health Organization. March 18, 2020.
  5. Seltzer, L. J., Ziegler, T. E., & Pollak, S. D. (2010). Social vocalizations can release oxytocin in humans. Proceedings. Biological sciences, 277(1694)
  6. The Hormone Cure. Dr Sara Gootfried MD. The Gale Group inc. 2013.
  7. MaryCarol R. Hunter, Brenda W. Gillespie, Sophie Yu-Pu Chen. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10
  8. Baldessarini RJ and Tarsy D. "Dopamine and the pathophysiology of dyskinesias induced by antipsychotic drugs.". Ann Rev Neurosci.
  9. Haas, M. Elson, Mwith Levin, Buck, PhD, RD. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition. 21st century edition. (p. 633-643). Crown Publishing Group.
  10. Vitamin D and Fish Oil Improve Cognition and Mood by Supporting Serotonin. Integrative Psychiatry. Dr.Dave on Jul 17, 2016.
  11. Brenner R, Azbel V, MAdhysoodanan S, and Pawlowska M. Comparison of an extract of hypericum (LI 160) and sertraline in the treatment of depression: A double-blind randomized pilot study. Clin Ther 2000;22:411-19
  12. Poldinger W, PhD. A functional dimensional approach to depression: Serotonin deficiency as a target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and fluvoxamine. Psychopathology.
  13. Shyamaladevi N, Jayakumar AR, Sujatha R et al. Evidence that nitrous oxide production increases gamma-amino butyric acid permeability of blood-brain barrier. Brain Research Bulleting. Jan 2002.
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