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January 4, 2021

All the Feels

WOW, so that happened. We can all agree that 2020 will go down as one of the most pivotal years of our lives and while it feels good to be on the other side, our worlds didn’t go back to ‘normal’ on January 1, 2021.

Now what?

Let’s take a quick look at the past, so we can understand the present.

Here’s the Cliffs notes:

2020 ripped the bandaid off a brewing economic crisis, racial tension, inequality, divisive politics and a convoluted election, while hosting a global pandemic that affected every corner of the planet.

And we’re still in the thick of it.

Between ongoing headlines, restrictions, lockdowns, isolation, stress, worry and boredom, we have all been challenged to the core. Literally.

There’s only so many Zoom Zumba, Full Body Fusion, Cardio Barre, Meditation classes, quarantini Happy Hours, Zooty calls, trips to the fridge and pandemic projects we can do before reality sets in.

Are you feelin’ me?

We’re having to face ourselves and our own lives without the usual distractions like a massage, attending a live event, going to the gym or just gathering with friends to share a meal.

People lost their lives, loved ones, homes, jobs and businesses…we’re feeling the collective consciousness and it’s heavy AF.

Let’s face it, our world is going through a massive, much needed global transformation, we’re along for the ride and feelin’ ‘ALL the feels’.  This social media idiom perfectly encapsulates the experience of having many, mixed emotions collectively. Feeling scared, angry, depressed, anxious, worried, apathetic and lonely, all at once!

And what about C-PTSD?

I’d never even heard of C-PTSD before 2020! It stands for Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, an affliction that can result from ONGOING stress due to severe, chronic, or extremely threatening and tragic events, like many people experienced last year, especially our essential workers and front line heroes.

If we learned anything in 2020, it’s that we all need self care. If we don’t care for ourselves, we can’t care for others.

If we look on the bright side and believe that everything happens for a reason, then maybe this much needed upheaval is necessary for our lives to evolve.

Us humans don’t evolve much when we’re satisfied, happy and content. We evolve when we’re stretched, tested, poked and challenged and somehow inspired to transform those challenges into growth.

This is the ‘great work’ that can happen within each of us…Work that involves distilling our hearts and minds.

The good news is that when we do this inner work AND care for ourselves, we care for the world. There is no separation.

This is how the world changes and the paradigm shifts.

One heart at a time.

One mind at time.

One mood at a time.

So how do we begin to navigate these stressful and turbulent times on a day to day, moment by moment basis?

Better living through (bio)chemistry.

Biochemistry is the chemical composition of our body’s unique, biological system. Chemical imbalances are common and happen when there’s either too much or too little of certain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, in the brain.

Stress plays a major role in chemical imbalances by upsetting the microbiome environment and creating an overgrowth of ‘bad bacteria’ in the gut. Yep, our intestines! This is what I meant earlier in the article when I wrote: “we have all been challenged to the core, literally…”

Ongoing medical research, as well as, the American Psychological Association has found that human gut bacteria actually produces these neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin that enable communication among neurons. These nerve cells then form neural networks that carry out specific functions, affecting mood, state of mind and memory. This is known as our enteric nervous system and the gut has been coined our ‘second brain’.

If our second brain is out of whack, so are we.


Although there are several different types of neurotransmitters, we’ll examine the ones associated with mood: Serotonin, Dopamine and GABA.

Serotonin is the ‘happiness’ neurotransmitter that transmits messages between nerve cells producing feelings of contentment.

Dopamine is the “pleasure” neurotransmitter associated with our reward centers, behavior and motor control. The brain naturally releases dopamine when we satisfy food cravings, have sex, exercise vigorously or scan our ‘likes’ on social media.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is the ‘chill’ neurotransmitter, and works to reduce the activity of neurons and calm nervousness. This naturally occurring amino acid works to relieve anxiety, improve mood, reduce symptoms of PMS and can treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Gut bacteria actually produces AND responds to GABA, serotonin, and dopamine and uses them to regulate mood, cognition, digestion and support a strong immune system.

Low levels of Serotonin and GABA have been linked to anxiety and depression, which is sometimes due to  gut imbalances or genetics, chronic stress, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.

Low levels of dopamine or low “dopamine tone” have also been linked to a form of “apathetic depression which manifests as a lack of joy.

So, get moving.

Speaking of self care, exercise, deep breathing and meditation are the most underutilized forms of ‘antidepressants’ available to us and they’re free!

Exercise stimulates the natural release of these feel-good brain chemicals as well as endorphins that play a major role in regulating mood.

Diet is essential, too. Eating a clean, balanced diet including fermented foods, like yogurt, and drinking kefir and kombucha all help balance the gut microbiome. Taking probiotics, as well.

Yes, the mind, body, spirit connection is imperative to overall wellness, but biochemistry is the missing link. Until we address that, we’re only ¾ of the way there.

And if all else fails…

There’s supplements and gratitude.

Supplements are made of encapsulated amino acids, herbs, minerals, vitamin co-factors and can address the root cause of a chemical imbalance, help correct it and offer a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals.

Supplements are mood balancing versus mood altering and specifically address individual biochemistry.

It’s always best to check with your doctor or natural health practitioner before taking any supplements, but one such manufacturer is VRYeveryday, a wellness company on a mission to support emotional wellness, mental health and biochemical recovery with holistic solutions, natural supplementation, education and mood support.

The VRYeveryday website makes it super easy to identify what your mind/body needs by understanding how you WANT to feel.

The all natural, non-GMO, vegan formulas were created through science and research from innovators in the field of Mental Health Nutrition, neurotransmitter therapy, neuroscience and functional medicine doctors as well as their US based manufacturer.

And last, but certainly not least, Gratitude.

Gratitude is an emotion similar to appreciation, that has many neurological and physiological benefits that can alter our mood immediately. It’s the simple practice of expressing thanks for our lives, even in times of challenge and change. It’s not always easy…

It takes practice. But, when we get in the habit of expressing gratitude and living from a place of being grateful, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin and rewires itself to be in a ‘state grace’.

I know we could all use a little bit of that right now.

So, thank you, 2020 for helping us understand how much we need self care. By using diet, exercise and targeted supplements, we can support our biochemistry and create mind/body wellness; the key to experiencing our best selves so we can thrive, excel, enjoy and survive life on planet Earth.

Happy New Year!

Photo credit: Zichuan Han

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