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We’ve all been there: you’ve had a long day of work, you come home tired and irritable, take something out of your fridge and put it in the microwave for a minute and a half; plop yourself in front of the telly and try to switch off for the rest of the evening. You know it’s not healthy, but what else can you do? Some days, just doing the bare minimum can be a stressful task, a herculean ordeal.
If you’ve ever felt like this, you’re not alone. As recently as 2018, 74% of UK adults felt ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’, and this was before the COVID-19 panic made staying home and withdrawing from face-to-face social activity mandatory. One survey conducted in March of 2020 found that 79% of respondents were experiencing work-related stress (the most common type of stress in adults) while 60% were stressed due to financial reasons, and almost half were undergoing familial problems. In order to really get to the root of what’s causing stress, however, you have to go deeper than a simple survey. In this article, we are going to explore the symptoms of stress (both mental and physical), the science behind them, and what we can do to relax; in this crazy rollercoaster of a world where we find ourselves.
What Makes Us Stressed?
Long-term health conditions, debt, and even comparing ourselves to others are all leading causes of stress and anxiety, with beauty and body image being unfortunately common in women’s responses when asked about what makes them stressed. Much of what makes us stressed is down to age and economic background, and other factors we seemingly don’t have control over. While young people worry about proving themselves, older people worry more about health conditions and the health of loved ones.
Sometimes it is a big life event that triggers stress within us, such as the loss of a family member. Even something happy (but that requires a lot of planning and forethought) like a wedding or welcoming a baby into the family can result in shaking hands and sleepless nights. Stress can come from just about anywhere and everywhere if we’re not careful. Simple things like starting a new job or quitting an old one (even if it made you miserable) can have us reaching for a cup of calming chamomile tea and a warm blanket to take the edge off.
On the flipside, a lack of responsibilities can lead to stress as well- unemployment, lack of fulfilment in your job, or lack of leisure activities and hobbies in your life can lead to a huge build-up of mental tension. Uncertainty, change, or even just a string of small (but significant) life events can bring on bouts of sleepless nights and stress eating.
Other factors include: whether or not you feel supported, whether you have previous experience dealing with what you are facing, and the number of different pressures on you at the time. Sure, you might be able to deal with a challenging work environment, but if you’re also going through a divorce and supporting one of your loved ones through a health crisis, you are bound to experience a build-up of pressure and worry. Often, these things are unavoidable- but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.
The effects of such pressure can be far-reaching and insidious as over-eating, under-eating, turning to alcohol or cigarettes, and the list goes on. Stress can also lead to more severe mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, which lead to more stress, creating an unforgiving cycle of mental bleakness. Despite the majority of the population experiencing it, stress is an isolating feeling, with 37% of those reporting stress also feeling lonely.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress comes along with a whole host of physical and psychological symptoms. In order to recognise when you’re stressed, it’s important to know the symptoms and their effects. Many people can confuse severe bouts of stress for physical illnesses, or conflate them with mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders.
The physical symptoms of stress (as recognised by the NHS) are muscle tension, headaches, dizziness, chest pain, heart palpitations, and muscle pain. Mentally, you may become more indecisive, forgetful, lack the ability to concentrate, and (understandably) constantly feel overwhelmed and worried about different things.
These symptoms typically bring on a change in behaviour, sometimes so subtle you might not notice at first, and other times the difference will hit you like a freight train. Stress might manifest itself in the form of not being able to ‘turn off’ after work, stress eating or overly relying on alcohol and cigarettes in order to not feel the pressure of forces outside of your control; such as looming deadlines or struggling to pay the bills. You might become irritable, avoid social situations, or try to ignore the problems altogether.
Stress in the Brain
Stress isn’t just about what’s going on around you; it’s about what’s going on inside, too. When you feel intense pressure, danger, or stress, this stimulates the amygdala (the emotional processing centre of the brain), which in turn triggers a chemical signal that travels to the hypothalamus, the part of your brain connected to the rest of your body via the nervous and endocrine systems. This prompting is responsible for the symptoms of stress you already know, and some you might not: the breathing and heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and the bronchioles (air passages within the lungs) constrict or dilate; all in response to the chemical signals arriving at the nervous system.
Adrenaline is released, prompting what we know as the ‘fight or flight’ response. The increased beat of your heart gets blood pumping all over to your body, but especially to your muscles. Stress is essentially your body’s way of gearing up for a fight or getting you ready for a fast escape from one. The quickness of your breathing allows more oxygen into the brain, making you alert and ready for action.
Once the perceived threat is over, your cortisol levels fall, and you return (more or less) to ‘normal’, though it can take a while to come down from a truly stressful episode.
Where CBD Comes in
Can CBD oil help relieve stress?
Right now, you might not understand the implications of what CBD can do; but it really is an amazing plant derivative! Derived from cannabis Sativa, cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating substance that won’t get you high- but just might leave you feeling relaxed and ready to face the daunting days.
While it is derived from the cannabis plant (often hemp), CBD could not be further from the controversy of marijuana as a drug. You see, throughout the process of refining CBD, the intoxicating compounds in the plant (most famously THC) are stripped away or whittled down to low concentrations that will have no intoxicating effect on your mental clarity, allowing you to reap the full benefits of pure CBD oil (also known as CBD isolate). Other forms of CBD oil, such as full-spectrum CBD oil, contain many compounds from the plant such as terpenes (aromatic molecules), trace amounts of THC, and more- this is believed to enhance the effectiveness of CBD due to the ‘entourage effect’. Broad-spectrum CBD oil is another type that retains many of the original compounds of the plant but contains zero THC.
Many animal studies have been conducted examining the potential potency of CBD oil when it comes to combating stress and anxiety, with one study giving mice low doses of CBD before locking them in a cage with a predator. The majority of the mice who had been given the CBD exhibited fewer stress-like symptoms, taking more time to scan their environment and plan a successful route to survival. This implies that CBD has the potential to modify deeply-ingrained defensive behaviours, even in the face of mortal threats; by decreasing panic and stress.
Additionally, while there hasn’t been much evidence collected yet using human trials, CBD has been tested on groups of those both with and without anxiety disorders. One study involving the latter group saw promise. Sixty people with no history of any psychological disorders were given a public speaking task and dosed with 100, 300, or 900 mg of CBD, or a placebo. What they found was similar to many animal studies: CBD could possibly decrease anxiety responses in stressful situations. This particular study found doses of 300 mg to be most effective at lowering self-reported anxiety levels. Indeed, further human-based studies are needed in order to understand CBD’s potential effects on emotions and feelings properly. Indeed, CBD dosage is a notoriously subjective thing, and what works for one person will not work for others. Especially when using CBD to help find your own, personal sense of calm, it is important to try out small doses and work your way up until you find what is right for you.
The ECS and Stress
One possible connection between stress and CBD lies in the endocannabinoid system (more succinctly known as the ECS). The ECS is crucial in maintaining homeostasis (balance) within the body and maintaining essential functions. The ECS has connections all over the body; most prominently in the brain, endocrine system, and immune system. It is through interaction with the ECS that CBD is thought to have an effect on us. Through correspondence with the CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the ECS, CBD has the potential to be as far-reaching as the endocannabinoid system itself. This is important when it comes to how we examine possible interactions between cannabinoids (derivatives of the cannabis plant), endocannabinoids (cannabinoids the body naturally creates for itself), and the ECS.
The ECS has been shown to exhibit a certain control over brain regions such as the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hypothalamus. The hippocampus is often associated with memory, while the amygdala is an emotional centre within the brain, including in regard to stress and sending out the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) responsible for some of the physical effects of fear. The hippocampus and amygdala are two of the most important parts of the brain when it comes to how we process stress and fear. It is also important to note that the ECS’s CB1 receptors are located in most parts of the brain responsible for stress, fear, and anxiety; as well as fear-memory processing. CB1 receptors, in particular, have been found to influence the ‘biphasic’ ways we may feel after ingesting different doses of cannabinoids. Lower doses of a substance such as CBD may produce an anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effect, while too high a dose may have the opposite result: an anxiogenic effect, causing anxiety; all thanks to the way in which CB1 receptors respond to the presence of cannabinoids in the ECS.
Essentially, when a cannabinoid such as CBD enters the body, it does not bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Rather, it seems that CBD may help to prevent endocannabinoids from breaking down altogether, giving them a greater effect on the body than if they had been broken down. Another theory is that this interaction with CB1 and CB2 receptors alters serotonin levels in the brain (a feel-good chemical associated with the modulation of mood).
Stress, anxiety, and the fear that comes part-and-parcel with them, take up a lot of energy in the brain. Energy on a cellular level is controlled by mitochondria (famously known as the ‘powerhouse of the cell’). The more stressed and emotional you are, the more energy you need, the more mitochondria you employ in order to maintain efficient brain function, including regulating your mood. The presence of CB1 receptors found at mitochondrial membranes has only deepened the connection between the ECS and mood regulation, especially as it pertains to stress and fear responses.
However, as we all know, the brain is a complex and mysterious organ, and much of what we know about emotional regulation in particular still requires further study. One review concluded in part by saying that there are “strong hopes not only for a better understanding of basic behavioural processes, but also for future therapeutic interventions to tackle their dysfunctions… these reasons make the study of the [ECS] system a highly fascinating aspect of neuroscience, and the next decades of research will surely bring new and exciting discoveries.”
How can I stop feeling stressed?
If you’ve made it this far, you may feel slightly overwhelmed by all the science we’ve thrown at you. Rather than cause you more stress, we want to help you understand triggers, symptoms, and what can you actually do to stop stress in its tracks? Well, there’s no right or wrong answer to that question. Everyone has different needs; if you’re suffering from work-related stress and work at a massage parlour, shiatsu might not be the thing for you. Luckily, we have a list of the three main things you can easily do to relax those muscles, let your eyes drift closed, and surrender to tranquillity.
Take up Meditation and Mindfulness
This one might sound a little new-age for your taste, but hear us out: meditation is more than sitting in a room with some incense and making ‘ohm’ sounds every once in a while. The practice of meditation is one that has evolved over thousands of years, first used for religious purposes in ancient India. Nowadays it is being hailed all over the world for its ability to help us pause our 100-metre-dash lives, even if you only meditate for ten-to-twenty minutes per day.
There are many ways to meditate, the most well-known being to sit cross-legged and ‘keep an eye on the breath’, trying to block or ignore any thoughts that crop up. This can be hard at first, but the relaxational benefits speak for themselves. Nothing is better than being able to stop thinking about your worries at the drop of a hat.
One way to make meditation even easier for you is to try vaping CBD oil as you do so. When you vape, your focus is on the breath, just like you’re meant to when you meditate. Being mindful of the flavours you are inhaling is a good way of keeping yourself grounded and in the moment, rather than worrying about something you said yesterday, or what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Try a Little Exercise
When we exercise, this releases endorphins (the same feel-good hormones released when you eat chocolate) into the bloodstream, as well as clearing cortisol (a primary stress hormone) from the body, faster than usual. You can probably fit as little as ten minutes of exercise into your day, right? This is bound to leave your body significantly happier, and you less stressed as a result!
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress because it’s so versatile. You can go for a walk around the block, sign up to a yoga class, take up swimming or weight training; the possibilities are pretty much endless! You can also change your exercise routine to suit where you live: bicycling around your small town once a week, taking a hike to the hills out in the countryside, or signing up to the most popular gym in the city- all of these are ways you can find to exercise. If you’re an extrovert, competitive sports teams in your area might be looking for a new player. More introverted? Try listening to music on the treadmill, or a good audiobook during a stroll in the park.
Exercise can also be a wonderful way to boost your self-esteem; which in itself is a great way to say no to stress. By setting yourself goals throughout your exercise journey, you give yourself little things to be happy about along the way. Maybe you can’t run a 100-metre dash just yet, but you can certainly work your way up to that if you start out walking, then jogging, building your endurance until the thing that seemed impossible at first is suddenly possible.
Examine Your Diet
Living hectic, stressful lives often has us reaching for all the wrong things: frozen foods, sugary drinks and snacks, and that all-too-important morning coffee. As much as we all love to eat junk food, making it a habit is one of the worst things you can do for your body - and remember, stress starts in the body.
If swapping out your morning coffee for a caffeine-free tea sounds like a ludicrous idea, try incorporating more fresh fruit and vegetables into your diet. Should you stop eating junk altogether? Absolutely not! Life is for living, but you should live for your wellbeing, too. Instead of cutting out sugar and carbs, cutting back and replacing them with healthy alternatives will go a long way towards clearing up things you hadn’t even realised were bugging you.
A morning smoothie is a great way of drinking down a lot of your day’s vitamins and minerals in one fell swoop, and you can even add a few drops of CBD oil in there to reap some relaxing rewards. Meal prepping and planning can take the stress out of the question, ‘what’s for dinner?’ and help ensure you have a healthy portion of veg every time you sit down to eat.
Where can I find quality CBD?
At Amphora, we recognise the importance of stress-free living. That’s why we take significant measures to ensure our CBD products are of the highest quality. We’re dedicated to making sure you know the real science and safety behind CBD, so you can make an informed decision on what’s right for you.
We understand that simplicity is key. That’s why all of our CBD products contain just two main ingredients: 100% organic CBD distillate, and plant-sourced terpenes, to ensure you get that wonderful entourage effect – without the high from THC. Our products are third-party lab-tested and vegan-friendly. With us, there’s no need to worry about harmful additives or THC; you can go about your day with an elevated mood, thanks to Infused Amphora.
Inspire CBD vape oil is here to do as its name suggests- inspire you! Whether you feel worn down by a difficult streak at work, or just want to try something new - the earthy, herbal lilac and fresh lemon-pepper notes of this vape oil are sure to invigorate your thoughts and maybe even a whole new perspective, accompanied by a positive outlook.
If you’re living with constant stress, Peace CBD vape oil might be more your speed. It’s certainly going to take the edge off of any hard day, with hints of young green peppercorn with top notes of luscious, full-bodied grapefruit.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD Oil.
Contributor | Angus Taylor CEO
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.