Young woman doing yoga in bedroom to destress

Has Quarantine Affected Your Mental Health?

Living through a global crisis has taken a toll on many of us, with record increases in cases of depression and anxiety being reported. Burnout, lack of motivation and sleep issues are also more of an issue than ever before. Of course, everyone is unique…and for some of us, having more time at home may actually lead to healthy habits, such as taking up meditation or getting in more time for a workout.

And as much as we might worry what the future may hold, skipping that morning commute might be a huge life upgrade for those of us who used to spend many a weekday gripping that steering wheel with white knuckles.

Wondering how your brain has been affected by quarantine culture? There's actually a way to find out for sure. As Life Extension's Director of Laboratory Services Dr. Scott Fogle explains, neurotransmitter laboratory tests may help reveal the true state of your emotional well-being.

Quarantine "has definitely impacted people's mood, and anxieties about both the current situation and about the future can definitely affect the balance of our hormones and our neurotransmitter levels," Fogle explained. "So, it's a really great time to check in and see how you are doing. Then, you can actively work to bring your mindset back into balance."

What is a neurotransmitter test?

If you haven't heard of a neurotransmitter test, you're not alone. But while they might not be widely used, these simple urine tests may provide a great deal of information about your mental health and wellbeing, according to Fogle.

"A neurotransmitter test is a global assessment of your mental and emotional wellness," he explained. "When your neurotransmitters are in balance, your mood is stable, your sleep is refreshing and you're thinking clearly." And when they're not…you'll have the raw nerves and bags under your eyes to prove it!

Maybe you're thinking that you know yourself well enough and all things considered, you're doing fine—you don't need to take a test to indicate whether you're feeling off your game. But depression tends to be underdiagnosed. Even if it's not as serious as depression, we're all likely guilty of allowing stress to get the better of us—and especially in these trying times, occasional worries can quickly escalate into full-fledged anxiety.

If you don't know that all is not well, how are you supposed to take action to address any underlying problems? "Learning where you might not be in balance is important so that you can take steps to improve your overall mental state," Fogle pointed out.

Why 2021 is the perfect time to take stock of your mental health

Woman with hands on face deals with mental stress

If your mental wellbeing has always been something you've taken for granted, the past year may have put that even keel to the test. That's why 2021 is exactly the right time to take stock with a neurotransmitter panel—as Fogle pointed out, many of us have dealt with stressors that we never encountered before, on an ongoing, constant basis. Getting a gut check on your mindset is more important now than it's ever been!

This reasoning applies even if you're still able to put on a happy face (under that mask!). If you're picking up on the vibes of other people who are suffering, or have some lingering, perhaps unspoken, concerns about the future, your emotional health may be paying a price.

Not ready to venture out for an appointment with a specialist to discuss potential imbalances? Life Extension's neurotransmitter test can easily be taken at home, and you'll get a free Wellness Specialist consultation to help you understand the results. That way, you'll have a head start with insights into your mindset before you get the ball rolling on therapy or other treatments.

What should you do if your neurotransmitter tests reveal an imbalance?

Older man in quarantine looks out window

Speaking of treatment, what should you do if your neurotransmitter test shows that indeed, your neurotransmitters are out of balance? According to Fogle, to begin with, the results may explain a lot of other issues you might have been dealing with in recent months.

"We get into ruts when our neurotransmitters are out of balance: we aren't motivated to work out, so we're not producing feel-good neurotransmitters, and maybe we gain weight and feel even worse," Fogle explained. "Once you test, you can start taking the steps to reestablish balance!"

A mental health professional can be invaluable on this journey back to wellness. Beyond that, though, some simple lifestyle tweaks may make a difference. These include:

  • Getting regular, restful sleep.
  • Exercising regularly—yoga, running, dancing…whatever you enjoy and gets your heart rate elevated is the "best" exercise for you!
  • Taking time for self-care, including meditation, yoga and journaling.
  • Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats.
  • Herbs like ashwagandha may also help you rediscover your energy and manage stress in a healthy way.
  • Talking to a friend or a loved one—sometimes, just clearing the air can clear your mind!

After you've begun to work on your mental wellbeing, take a neurotransmitter test again and see if there have been any improvements. With any luck, you'll be back in balance…and enjoying life to the fullest!

Important note: If you're considering self-harm at any time, reach out immediately for professional help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a good place to start.

Dr. Scott Fogle graduated with academic honors from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, where he was a clinical faculty member. He joined Life Extension in 2004.

About the Author: Jorie Mark earned an English degree from University of Pennsylvania before getting a master's degree in creative writing from American University. She is a content and social media expert with 20 years of experience in social media, editorial content, digital marketing, events, public relations and food and lifestyle writing. She is also a published author.