When did you last feel stressed or overwhelmed with worry about something? It’s recognised by mental health experts as one of the biggest problems facing us. But because the causes and effects are so different between individuals, it’s often downplayed or overlooked. And leads to many people finding their own ways to manage it, including using CBD to cope with stress.
Everyone can feel stressed when it’s triggered by a specific cause. It could be dealing with work or school, coping with illness or debts, or issues with family and friends. But some individuals seem to be able to manage, and even thrive, in stressful situations. For others, it can be paralysing and debilitating. And for a significant number of people, it can become a chronic condition which constantly impacts on their lives.
Around 3 in 4 UK adults felt so stressed at some point in 2018 that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, as revealed in a YouGov study commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation (link). And that number increases during difficult times, including the Covid-19 pandemic.
Whether you’re feeling stressed about a particular subject, or it’s a recurring part of your life, you need to remember that you’re not alone. It’s really important to find professional support and help whether that’s through the NHS or your GP (link), or dedicated charities and organisations including Anxiety UK (link), No Panic (link) or Mind (link).
At the same time, there are lots of things you can start doing to reduce the problems caused by stress. You may be able to reduce some of the triggers, but finding effective coping mechanisms will help manage any stressful situations you encounter. What’s most effective will differ from person to person, so you may find exercise, music, reading, social time with friends and family, supplements such as CBD, or other coping mechanisms provide the right combination for you. But it should always be in conjunction with trained, professional advice wherever possible.
- Causes and Types of Stress
- Ways to help yourself cope with stress
- Why use CBD to help with stress?
- How to take CBD to cope with stress
- Useful links for anyone suffering with stress
Causes and Types of Stress
If you’re close to a deadline at work, the cause of your stress might be easy to identify. And it can be an unpleasant feeling that’s easily resolved when you finish a specific task. But for many, it can be an ongoing problem with situations that can’t be solved quickly. Or it can become a constant state of worry with significant health impacts.
Acute Stress is the most common experience. It’s usually triggered by a specific event causing emotional distress, arguments, or similar situations. You’ll probably recognise feeling irritable, angry, anxious or depressed. And the potential muscle aches and pains, or stomach and bowel problems that can come with it.
Most of us will encounter Acute Stress at various times in our lives, from being asked to speak in front of the class at school, to looking after our own children. Or when we go from having a pile of homework to being asked to deal with an urgent issue at work. And it’s the most manageable and treatable.
Stress becomes a more serious condition when it becomes more prominent in your life.
Episodic Acute Stress refers to a more repeated condition. It tends to be experienced by people who are particularly impatient, aggressive, competitive and rushed all the time. Or those who are prone to constant stress and worry, which crosses over with a more general anxiety disorder.
Mental health symptoms include emotional distress, cognitive distress including a lack of attention and concentration, mental fatigue and finding it hard to learn new things, and problems with relationships at home or work.
It also amplifies the physical effects with longer term muscle problems, increased stomach and bowel problems, including heartburn, stomach acid and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and lowers the immune system to make you susceptible to colds, allergies and other illnesses as well.
Chronic stress is the most serious and harmful. Traumatic and long-term conditions can leave you in a constant state of stress, and produces significant changes in your emotions and physical state.
Causes of chronic stress can stem from childhood or trauma in later life, or from long term poverty, unemployment, an unhappy marriage or home life, or addiction. Many sufferers will feel helpless in a situation with no apparent solution, and even start to accept it as normal.
Obviously, this will have the most serious outcomes with heart attacks and strokes both linked to chronic stress. And in some cases, it is a potential cause of suicide or harm to others.
If you believe you may be suffering from Episodic Acute Stress, or Chronic Stress, it’s very important that you seek professional help. Support is available via the NHS (including via your GP), or charity organisations like Mind. Options like counselling and therapy are available in-person, online or on the phone, alongside various medical treatments.
Ways to help yourself cope with stress
When you’re feeling stressed, it’s important to seek help and support. But there are also steps you can take to help manage your responses, especially if it’s a rare and occasional experience.
Exercise is a good way to improve your mental wellbeing in general, including helping you to deal with the emotional intensity of the situation, clear your mind, and let you think through the problem more calmly. And this doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a high intensity gym routine – a short walk can be enough to change your perspective, especially in a park or space with trees and nature around.
Healthier food and drink will also enable you to cope better with stressful situations. That means balanced, nutritious meals, and plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Reducing caffeine and sugar will help you avoid any crashes in mood and energy when they wear off, and avoid self-medicating with alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. There’s a difference between an occasional pint of beer or glass of wine as a relaxing treat, and coming to rely on them as a way to cope.
Sleep is one of areas that is often affected by stress. Having a good routine for winding down in the evenings, and encouraging restful sleep in the way you set out your bedroom will help you to get enough rest.
Identifying the sources of stress will help you see what could be causing issues. And keeping a diary of events can help you see common patterns and themes. This will help you avoid unnecessary problems by eliminating things which aren’t essential on your task lists, spot where you can alter a situation to reduce stress, or help you reframe the problem in a more positive way. And it can promote acceptance of some of the things you can’t change in life.
Time management is a large cause of stress in our lives. By looking at what’s important, you can often reduce the list of tasks you actually need to achieve. And be more realistic about what can get done each day.
Making time for yourself will be more possible when you’ve removed those tasks and problems that shouldn’t be part of your daily routine. This means you can spend time with friends and family, or activities that you can enjoy for relaxation. Setting a regular time to enjoy an existing hobby or learning a new one will provide lots of benefits, including helping you deal with stress. It’s no surprise most high-profile politicians, business people and celebrities are all very strict about their time management, and having space to unwind with at least one hobby or activity they enjoy.
Mindfulness and relaxation will be different for each person. But techniques ranging from simple deep breathing exercises to meditation or yoga promote restfulness. And if you’re tempted to dismiss them, it’s worth realising that most top athletes and professionals dealing with high stress situations on a regular basis employ the same techniques. For example, U.S Navy Seals practice two simple controlled breathing techniques to stay calm in combat scenarios.
All of these are potential ways to alleviate the worst effects of stress. But they’re not the only mechanisms which are available. Professional support includes therapy, counselling, and medication, which means it’s important to combine them with trained advice if you experience a recurrent problem with stress.
Why use CBD to help with stress?
As a supplement, there are a growing number of studies suggesting that CBD may help with the role of the endocannabinoid system in regulating fear, anxiety and stress. And the ways in which it can contribute to general wellbeing, including for sleep and insomnia.
In your body, the endocannabinoid system plays an important part in making sure everything is working and regulated as it should be. The first part are the endocannabinoids themselves, which essentially work as messengers to help the development and responses of your central nervous system.
So, when something triggers a need for a response, enzymes will create or break down endocannabinoids, and these will then attach to cannabinoid receptors which will then interact with the cells of your mind and body.
The existence of this system was only really discovered in the late 1980s and early 1990s. So, research into exactly how it works is still progressing at a fast pace. But the research so far has shown it plays an important role in keeping our bodies in balance, or homeostasis.
But the balance of this system can be affected by illness, or external events. And it covers a lot of potential issues we can encounter through our lives. And research into CBD shows that it can activate receptors, promote the creation of higher levels of endocannabinoids, and help to maintain the ideal level of homeostasis.
So there has been research into how CBD can potentially reduce inflammation and the symptoms of conditions such as IBS, pain experienced due to migraines or fibromyalgia, or even helping to promote the feeling of euphoria from exercise such as running.
But another area of research has been in using CBD to cope with stress. A review of 32 different rodent studies looking at CBD and anxiety listed 31 with promising results (link), while CBD helps to reduce performance anxiety and the stress of public speaking for people with diagnosed anxiety disorders (link) – and those without (link).
It appears that acute stress increases mobilisation of the endocannabinoid 2-AG and reduces the tissue content of another endocannabinoid anandamide (link).
But CBD also binds to the 5-HT1A receptor for serotonin, which is thought to play a major part in anxiety and fear (link). Which is similar behaviour to anti-anxiety drug buspirone, suggesting that the regulation of serotonin is an important part of coping with stress.
And studies are also being conducted into the potential for chronic stress to damage neurons in the brain (link). Research has already looked at the negative impact of stress on human learning and memory (link). But we all form new neurons and connections within our brains even as we get older, and CBD can encourage neural regeneration, according to medical studies (link)
So not only could CBD help you to potentially cope better during a stressful period, but it can also hopefully aid recovery from some of the long-term effects.
How to take CBD to cope with stress
One of the problems with stress is that you can’t always predict when it will be triggered. Some of the main causes of worry are external events and surprises which are outside our control. And as a food supplement, CBD takes time to build up in your system to have a noticeable effect (which is similar to many anti-anxiety medications).
So, if you want to started taking CBD as part of your general wellbeing and lifestyle changes to improve your response to stress, it’s important to make it part of your daily routine.
Fortunately, that’s very quick and easy to do. Whether you choose to take CBD Oils or Capsules, they can be made part of your morning and evening routine. You can take 1-2 capsules twice each day, or do the same with 1-3 drops of CBD oil, holding it under your tongue for at least 60 seconds before swallowing.
And that’s all that’s required. It’s recommended that you start with a low dose if you’re new to CBD, and it will take some time for any effect to be felt. Your body will need to adjust and respond to the supplement, which means it can be up to a few weeks before CBD users start reporting differences in their physical and mental state.
As a supplement, CBD should be used as part of the combination of techniques you use to reduce and cope with stress. And with any significant change to what you eat or add to your diet, it’s important to check with your doctor before starting to use CBD, and to check for any possible interactions if you’re currently taking any medication (or start in the future)
There are relatively few side effects reported for anyone using CBD products, but these do include dry mouth, diarrhoea, reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue.
Useful links for anyone suffering with stress
We hope that anyone suffering with occasional, episodic or chronic stress can find comfort from knowing it’s a common mental health issue around the world. And that using a range of self-help options including exercise, mindfulness and CBD can help more people find ways to cope effectively with stress and worry.
But it’s important that no-one holds back from seeking advice, help and support from specialist organisations and medical professionals who can offer a wide range of treatment, counselling and therapy. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with stress, then the sooner you can get support, the less negative effects you’re likely to encounter.
For more information on how CBD could potentially ease other physical and mental health issues, some of our other detailed guides include: