Author: Luke Sholl
Stress is an unavoidable, but ultimately necessary, part of life. However, just because our body has tools to deal with stress doesn't mean we should accept the prolonged impact that chronic stress has. To find out what you need to know about stress, its effects on the body, and ways to prevent it, keep reading.
Stress is a broad term we use to describe our body's reaction to pressure or tension. This innate flight-or-fight response is hardcoded into our DNA; without it, our prehistoric ancestors would have never made it through the day!
Although the threat of sabertooth tigers and other predators may have passed, they’ve been replaced with 24/7 connectivity, longer working hours, global pandemics, and much more. However, it's important to realise that everyone feels stressed at some point in their life, and, in most cases, those feelings will pass.
Whether it's through a natural resolution or practising stress-reduction techniques, the good news is, stress and its symptoms are very manageable.
Stress can manifest physically and mentally. The exact cause of stress differs for everyone, but there are some general scenarios, such as:
• Juggling financial commitments
• Struggling to meet deadlines at work
• Worrying about the health of friends, family, or yourself
• Personality traits (introverts and extroverts find different situations stressful)
There’s no hard and fast rules when it comes to the causes of stress. A situation that didn't stress you out initially may become stressful if it remains unresolved. On the other hand, a problem you know causes you stress may become easier to deal with. The key, and first step in stress management, is identifying the cause.
The cause of stress often comes in the form of unavoidable life events such as those outlined below. Unfortunately, most, if not all of us, will experience one or more of life's most stressful events, including:
• Divorce or relationship breakdown
• The death of a spouse or family member
• Major illness or medical condition
These situations cause a great deal of emotional stress, leading to dozens of cognitive and behavioural symptoms. To deal with these symptoms, you must first understand how stress affects your body.
In the short term, our body has the tools and systems to deal with stress, with mild cases helping us focus by raising our heart rate and improving reaction time. It's how our body protects itself from stressful situations, but it’s only ever intended as a temporary solution.
Our various biological systems are not designed to sustain a stress response, so, if stress persists, other parts of our mental and physical health begin to suffer—that’s when a large variety of symptoms begin to manifest.
The majority of stress-related symptoms fall under one of four categories:
• Emotional symptoms
• Physical symptoms
• Cognitive symptoms
• Behavioural symptoms
Possible symptoms differ from one person to the next based on the severity of stress, duration, and genetic disposition. It's also possible to only have one symptom or dozens simultaneously, which is why stress is a complex and challenging reaction to treat.
Unfortunately, prolonged cases of stress wear down our body's physical defences, leading to debilitating symptoms, such as:
• Low energy
• Aches, pains, or an upset stomach
• Compromised immune system
When stress persists, it has a similar detrimental effect on our mental health, impacting emotions, rational thinking, and much more. Common psychological symptoms of stress include:
• Difficulty relaxing
• Trouble concentrating or focusing
• Low self-esteem
• Poor judgement
• Changes in appetite
• Nervous behaviours
Cortisol is a naturally produced hormone that plays a crucial role in how our body reacts to stress. While it's best known for supporting our innate flight-or-fight response, cortisol is also involved in regulating inflammation, blood pressure, our sleep–wake cycle, and much more. In fact, cortisol is one of the single most important hormones in our body!
Control of cortisol comes from two parts of the body—the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. Both located in the brain, they monitor cortisol levels in our blood, before signalling the adrenal gland to increase or decrease concentrations accordingly. As cortisol travels around the body, it interacts with cortisol receptors, altering bodily functions.
Most of the time, this process happens without us knowing, but, should cortisol levels dip too low or rise too high, the impact on how we think and feel is significant.
Cortisol's intrinsic link to our stress response gives it a pretty powerful repertoire. In the short term, the hormone helps:
• Boost energy levels
• Reduce inflammation
• Control blood pressure
• Increase alertness
The hormone can also temporarily shut down non-essential functions (such as reproductive and digestive functions) so the body can focus solely on the situation at hand. In the case of our prehistoric ancestors, this would mean diverting all available energy away from our digestive system and using it to outrun predators.
While we don't have much to outrun in the modern age, the principle remains the same. Cortisol diverts attention to the systems that need them, depending on the stressor. However, this innate stress response is only ever intended as a temporary fix. As you can imagine, we wouldn't survive very long if our digestive system remained interrupted.
Prolonged disruption to cortisol levels via chronic stress can lead to several debilitating health conditions, including headaches, heart disease, trouble sleeping, and weight gain. There may also be circumstances where cortisol levels remain too high or too low, inducing even more health problems.
• Too little cortisol can leave you feeling perpetually tired, with low blood pressure, a lack of appetite, and darkening of the skin.
• Too much cortisol can lead to weight gain around the face, chest, and abdomen, alongside muscle weakness, and, in some cases, diabetes.
Stress and anxiety are often confused for one another, but, despite their common symptoms, they do differ.
• Stress is usually short-term and in response to a specific situation or threat.
• Anxiety usually lasts much longer, and you may not be able to identify the cause.
The simplest way to distinguish the two is to think of stress as a reaction to a threat (physical or mental), and anxiety as a reaction to stress. Both manifest similar symptoms (faster heartbeat, breathing, and diarrhoea or constipation), but, on a positive note, stress-reduction techniques and treatments can also help with anxiety, making them a powerful aid for mental well-being.
There's no escaping stress or its impact, but there are dozens of ways you can learn to manage and reduce stress. The key is finding an approach that you're not only comfortable with, but fits your lifestyle and needs.
Defining what you find stressful is easier said than done. If you find stress difficult to pinpoint, try keeping a stress diary. Use it to record what you think caused your stress, how you felt, how you acted, and what you did to make yourself feel better.
Documenting your stress helps identify patterns, and pinpoint the source, but it doesn't just need to be in diary form. Connecting with others and talking through the same points is an excellent way of facing stress and learning to deal with stressful situations.
The benefits of exercise and a balanced diet may come as no surprise, but the best way to tackle stress is to ensure your body is in the best possible condition. That doesn't mean being able to run a 8-minute mile or never indulging in fatty food—it's about striking a balance. After all, sweet treats are often perfect for tackling stress' short-term impact and making us feel better.
With exercise, never underestimate its importance, even if it's just a brisk walk. Getting up and moving about can help clear your mind, fill your lungs with fresh air, and give you time to process the events or situations causing stress—it's less about the intensity and more about the act.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that people use to help deal with stress' emotional and cognitive impact. However, what makes mindfulness truly powerful is its simplicity—you can practise it anytime, anywhere.
Whether you only have five minutes free or five hours, mindfulness involves breathing techniques, guided imagery, and meditative activities (yoga, etc.). Taking time to assess your feelings and focus on the moment can help you feel more relaxed, reducing stress.
There are no shortcuts with stress management, but some substances can help the body manage the physiological impact of stress. Vitamins and minerals from food or supplements can help top-up depleted reserves, in turn giving us the energy to practise other stress-reduction techniques or achieve a restful night's sleep.
There are also several supplements believed to impact the cognitive and emotional impact of stress directly. The best choice for you will depend on your current lifestyle, diet, and wellness regime, but it's important not to overlook the supportive nature of supplements—supplements like CBD.
Hemp-derived CBD is a non-toxic compound that exhibits a varied influence. After carefully isolating it, manufacturers infuse the cannabinoid into oils, capsules, beauty creams, and more to create comprehensive wellness ranges.
Because of its unique interaction with our endocannabinoid system (a regulatory network with receptors throughout the body), CBD has the potential to influence dozens of physical, emotional, and cognitive functions, in much the same way stress impacts a variety of biological systems.
Stress is a complex human reaction that requires a multifaceted approach. CBD appears to work seamlessly alongside our body, and dozens of stress-reducing techniques, to bolster our well-being when we need it most.
Stress exhibits a range of physical and emotional symptoms that all differ in severity and duration. So far, evidence to support CBD oil for stress appears encouraging. The compound may influence our pleasure and reward systems via receptors in the brain, and researchers are hopeful about the positive responses so far.
Preclinical research suggests a beneficial link between CBD and several anxiety and stress disorders. There's also the compound's tertiary impact on functions such as sleep and mood to note, which can all play a part in restoring balance. Implications grow by the day, but, given the complexity of our body's stress response, there's still much we need to learn about CBD’s overall effectiveness.
Encouragingly, CBD only shows a handful of potential side effects, including fatigue, upset stomach, dry mouth, and drowsiness. These appear minor at best, with symptoms fading quickly. The lack of toxicity (CBD won't get you high) combined with minimal side effects and the compound’s versatile influence make it an excellent candidate for stress-reduction programmes.
No two instances of stress are the same; as a result, there isn't a definitive recommendation for dosing CBD oil. There are, however, a few simple guidelines you can use to find a CBD dose that meets your needs. Factors such as weight, metabolism, and consumption method all affect how potent the impact of CBD is, and how quickly it takes effect.
The examples below highlight how these factors impact your overall experience:
• A few drops of CBD oil for a 70kg person may help with stress for several hours, whereas a 100kg person might need more to experience the same effect.
• CBD oil consumed orally takes up to an hour to reach the bloodstream because it must first pass through the digestive system. If you are approaching a stressful situation, or know that stress may persist for several hours, this could be a beneficial option.
• If you need faster relief, taking a few drops of CBD oil under the tongue (sublingually) improves the onset. CBD's influence starts in as little as 15 minutes, but has a shorter overall duration. The key is fine-tuning your CBD experience to match your lifestyle.
Interest in CBD oil for stress grows by the day. If you're someone who thinks they can benefit, here are a few handy tips to get you started:
• Use a dosage calculator: If you're unsure where to even start with CBD, the Cibdol dosage calculator can give a recommended starting point based on a few crucial details.
• Start low and go slow: Stick with a low concentration oil taken once or twice a day. Build your dose and frequency slowly until you reach the desired effect.
• Experiment with different products: Some CBD products may prove more effective for you than others. Don't be afraid to try a variety until you find one that fits your lifestyle.
• Choose trusted suppliers: Cibdol independently tests all of its CBD. Not only is the purity guaranteed, but all CBD oils are free of additives, harmful chemicals, and GMOs.
• Track your progress: The easiest way to track CBD usage is to keep a daily total of milligrams consumed. Also, track when you consume CBD to make sure you're taking it at the optimal time.