Stress is something we’ve all experienced. And while we might not like to feel stressed, it is a valuable and necessary part of everyday life. Stress is an important signal that tells us when it’s time to be cautious, take a break, or reevaluate our priorities. However, when stress goes unchecked and unmanaged, it can wreak havoc on our mental, emotional, and physical health. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad of stress, as well as potential ways to manage stress in a healthy way.
What is stress?
Stress is a key survival mechanism that developed in response to real or imagined threats. It is the body’s way of reacting to both the good and the bad. Stress can stem from an event, thought, or experience that makes you feel frustrated, angry, nervous, or overwhelmed. It often manifests as a feeling of physical or emotional tension in the body.
When your body detects stress, the brain responds by flooding your system with hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It is these hormones that prompt the “fight-or-flight” response, or cause people to freeze up in nerve-wracking situations.
While we often try to avoid it, stress is a normal, healthy part of life, and the human body is designed to experience and effectively respond to it. But susceptibility to stress varies from person to person and there are many different factors that contribute to stress, such as environmental, emotional and biological stimuli. These are all called stressors. As the name suggests, stressors are the factors that cause you to feel stress and exhibit a physical reaction. However, not all stressors evoke the same biological response.
What are the different types of stress?
Did you know not all stress is created equal? In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) maintains there are three different types of stress a person can experience: acute, episodic acute and chronic. Many of us experience acute stress in response to situations that come up in everyday life — for example, when you get a text that says “we need to talk” and your heart starts beating faster, or you’re nervous about an upcoming work project. These are just a few of the many ways that we experience this type of stress.
Can stress be a good thing?
Stress can be positive, such as getting a job promotion, having a child or taking on new responsibilities, as well as keeping us attentive to our environment to avoid danger. In fact, studies have shown that short-term stress can boost the immune system. When the body tolerates stress and uses it to enhance performance, stress can be positive, forcing us to adapt and strengthen our abilities. This action-enhancing stress provides a competitive edge, preparing us for future stressors. And, it’s a reminder to adjust our lifestyle to better cope and maintain optimal health.
Acute stress can be viewed as an indicator that we care about the outcome of something, so we should give it our all. It could also serve as a red flag that something is amiss and a potential threat, signaling us to think on things harder and possibly avoid the situation altogether. Stress is an ally in these cases, which gives us a heads up as to when we should proceed with caution and attentiveness.
Is stress detrimental to our health?
Stress becomes problematic when we are exposed to continuous levels of negative tension without any time to recover in between. Scientifically speaking, this means that the parasympathetic nervous system isn't able to bring the body back to homeostasis. The result is that constant, unceasing fight-or-flight response.
It is important to note that stress, while it is primarily experienced emotionally, is actually a physiological response. Your body is releasing additional hormones and neurochemicals when you are stressed, so it is as much physical as it is mental. This is why long-term, sustained levels of stress can actually make us physically ill. Unfortunately, stress in our modern society is more common than you might think.
Some statistics on stress
- 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress
- 75% to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace
- Stress costs American industries more than $300 billion annually
How does the Endocannabinoid System regulate stress*?
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) regulates stress by working to maintain homeostasis, or balance.* There are endocannabinoid receptors in our brain that control emotional behavior, mood, fear and stress.* When we’re exposed to emotional, environmental or biological stressors, these receptors are activated to release Anandamide, the “bliss molecule,” which reduces panic and enables us to effectively respond to the stress.*
And while our bodies produce their own cannabinoid compounds, called
endocannabinoids, we may be able to further support our Endocannabinoid System with cannabinoids (called phytocannabinoids) found in hemp and marijuana plants.* Emerging — and promising — human clinical data has shown the efficacy of cannabinoid extracts in maintaining a balanced ECS and ensuring healthy stress response.*
How to deal with stress
While phytocannabinoids play a major role in supporting the Endocannabinoid System as it works to maintain homeostasis, it’s important to engage in a healthy routine that includes self-care and relaxation. These tips could help you more effectively manage your stress, keeping it in a healthy range:
- 1. Take time to unplug: It can be difficult in our modern, always-on society to shut off the phone, close the laptop, and turn off the television. However, doing so can help us requiet our busied minds and find a balance that brings us peace, calm, and relaxation. Try to find some time in the day to just sit quietly and reflect on life. Or, if you prefer, give meditation a try.
- 2. Enjoy grooming and hygiene: Oftentimes we look at grooming and hygiene as tasks or chores that must be completed, but if you let yourself enjoy this time it can be rejuvenating. Take a hot bath with a CBD infused bath bomb or go get a pedicure. Afterwards, pamper yourself with a skincare regimen that incorporates CBD infused topicals that make your skin baby soft and give it a healthy glow.
- 3. Savor your favorite foods: Cooking and eating can be neglected in a fast-paced world, but meals are about more than just calories. Put together a healthy, balanced meal for yourself and savor every bite. You can easily add phytocannabinoids into the mix too with products like CBD beverage infusions.
- 4. Spend time with your loved ones: Some people find spending time with their friends and family to be a refreshing, energizing experience. Good conversation and good company can do wonders for an extrovert’s stress level, so if that applies to you be sure to make time for social activity.
- 5. Enjoy your own company: Some people find solace in solitude. Introverted people might prefer to go for a long walk alone or simply stay at home in silence. This is an equally valid way to destress, so consider your preferences and act accordingly.
These five tips are just some quick ideas on how to manage your stress levels. There are different answers for everyone and there are no wrong ways to destress. Some people like to write or sing or dance, while others prefer to go outside and explore. Whatever your stress management technique is, it’s only important that you have one. In a world filled with stressors, we have to remember to take time out for relaxation, reflection, and finding balance.