Stress is a complex thing that affects most people in varying degrees. While some stress can be useful to help your focus and productivity, too much can have a negative effect on your body and mind. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of the adults in the UK have felt so stressed and overwhelmed in the last year they felt unable to cope⁽¹⁾. There are a number of factors that can cause stress, from a stressful job to unexpected lifestyle changes. There are also a number of ways you can help alleviate stress in your life from diet and exercise to supplementing with CBD.
What causes the feeling of stress in your body?
The key hormone that triggers a stress response in your body is cortisol which is made by the adrenal glands. There are two kinds of stress, both of which release cortisol but they work in slightly different ways.
The first is the beneficial kind of stress, referred to as eustress. It can be either physical or mental but occurs when your body has a task to complete. Your cortisol levels will rise, contributing to better brain function, then drop away after you’ve completed the task at hand. When your body releases the right amount of cortisol it helps with things like blood sugar regulation, supports memory function, metabolism and inflammation reduction⁽²⁾. As you probably know, a little bit of stress can give you the boost you need to get things on your to-do list done on time.
The second kind of stress is distress. This occurs when your body starts releasing cortisol but there’s no trigger to switch it back off, meaning your body is incapable of returning to it’s normal hormonal equilibrium⁽³⁾. As you may suspect, too much of a stress hormone can adversely affect your mood and your body.
What effect does too much stress have on you?
- When your cortisol levels are out of kilter it can lower your immunity, meaning you’re more likely to feel unwell or get sick. If you consider those times you’ve been super busy at work and then fall ill just as you go on holiday, often this can be attributed to high cortisol levels.
- Elevated cortisol levels can affect your ability to drop off to sleep as well as affect how deeply you sleep too. When you’re tired and not sleeping well this can add to feelings of irritability and stress. It’s also the time when your body repairs itself meaning poor sleep can negatively affect your ability to recover from injury and illness.
- While healthy levels of cortisol actually help regulate blood pressure, too much can increase your blood pressure.
- Your appetite and digestion can be affected, some people may struggle to eat enough due to feelings of nausea while others may end up comfort eating.
- Small day to day stressors can seem more significant than they actually are because your body is stuck in “fight or flight” mode. You might feel more irritable, anxious or sad.
What are some ways you can alleviate stress?
The key here is to try and regulate your body’s cortisol levels. By doing a few of these things daily you’ll help negate the ill-effects of having too much in your system. There are a number of ways you can do this and often a combination of a few is a good way to tackle it.
- Exercise. When you move, your body releases endorphins which are those feel good hormones that help boost your mood. Whether you get out of the train a few stops early and take a slightly longer walk home or wake up early and go to the gym to lift weights, it all helps. Even the smallest bit of extra daily movement can help get your blood moving as well as burn off some stress. Add to this the benefits of natural light and fresh air and you’ll be feeling the benefits in no time.
- Diet. Probiotics and a healthy, balanced diet are important for general well-being and regulating stress. Your gut produces a lot of the hormones your body requires for normal function⁽⁴⁾, so by supporting it with nutrient rich foods and the healthy kind of bacteria it needs you can help it work at its best.
- Sleep. While cortisol can affect how well you sleep, trying to get a decent night’s rest can make a world of difference. Simple things like avoiding stimulants like caffeine and nicotine an hour or two before bed can help. Eating foods like bananas before bed can also help, thanks to the magnesium they contain. You could also start taking a magnesium supplement after dinner or a herbal CBD infused tea to help your body unwind.
- Time for yourself. Sometimes, we can’t avoid the things that make us feel stressed. Work, social obligations and everyday things like your commute can contribute to how stressed you feel. By taking some time to switch off, relax and unwind you’ll be giving your body some time to avoid those stressors. Doing things like taking a hot bath can also help release tension in your body.
Supplementing with CBD
You can also supplement your diet with CBD to help support the parts of your body and life that are especially prone to the effects of too much stress. Your endocannabinoid system has receptors spread throughout your brain, immune system and nervous system⁽⁵⁾. CBD has also been found to help regulate cortisol levels in your body too⁽⁶⁾. Combining these factors means you can help your body regain homeostasis again.
There are numerous ways to incorporate CBD into your diet, including things like drops and edibles which are a discreet and easy way to dose. If you vape, when it gets to the evening and you’re trying to avoid stimulants like nicotine you may also choose to swap your usual e-liquid out for a CBD e-liquid instead. Choosing the right product for you will depend on your dosage, how you’d like to use CBD and why you’re using it.
Why does CBD work well for stress?
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties and the way it interacts with your brain, CBD can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, support healthier sleeping patterns and reduce pain and inflammation in the body. You also have cannabinoid receptors in your gut, so if you’re suffering from indigestion or a poor appetite the terpenes and cannabinoids in things like tinctures or capsules can support normal eating habits as well as digestion.
- Stressed nation: 74% of UK 'overwhelmed or unable to cope' at some point in the past year - mentalhealth.org.uk
- What is Cortisol? - hormone.org
- Stress and Distress: Definitions - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Minireview: Gut Microbiota: The Neglected Endocrine Organ - academic.oup.com
- An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
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