Stress, it's unavoidable, but should it be the defining 21st century characteristic that it has become? In small doses stress can be healthy, helping our bodies to perform better and get the task at hand done. But as we also know, stress can burn us out and take over our lives. In order to stop stress overwhelming our everyday, it's important to take measures to prevent and manage it.
In evolutionary terms, stress is designed as our body's response to a threat - this is more commonly known as the fight or flight response. When our brain recognises that it needs to respond to a potential threat, it releases a hormone which travels to the adrenal gland. Said glands then release stress hormones, such as cortisol, through the bloodstream. This feeling is what we recognise as a state of stress. During the period of acute stress, the body undergoes several physical changes:
Airways widen, letting more oxygen into the lungs
Our heart rate increases to improve the circulation of nutrients and oxygen
Glucose is released into the bloodstream to boost physical power for the body
The digestive and immune systems shut down to allow the body to narrow it's focusing on the muscles and the brain
Neurotransmitters heighten awareness
In this period of acute stress, we are temporarily sharper, stronger, and more focussed. We have higher energy levels and become momentarily numb to pain and discomfort. This state of stress can be incredibly valuable to certain short-lived scenarios, like responding to an emergency.
Following this it is imperative for the body to recover by going into "rest and digest" mode, thereby slowing down and reversing all of the changes made during the stress response. The production of cortisol is halted, blood sugar returns to normal, blood pressure declines, and our digestive and immune systems kickstart back up. However, this isn’t always the case. And for those who live in a constant state of stress, due to elements like work, finance, and relationships (i.e. constants in our lives that aren’t going to disappear the next day), this can trigger a hyper stimulated state of stress.
This state of constant stress is extremely damaging to the body, leaving us vulnerable to any illness, and ageing us beyond our years. Internally stress has the ability to affect our sleep-wake cycle, immune system, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and digestive system. Being under constant high stress and hyperstimulation also makes us susceptible to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Using managing tools, such as CBD oil, will help control the effect of stress and protect your body from its potential damage.
CBD works through our endocannabinoid system, which provides communication with receptors throughout the body. By making sure everything is functioning within their limits, the endocannabinoid system keeps the body in balance. This balance is known as homeostasis. So how does CBD help manage stress? There are three ways:
The hypothalamus In this region of the brain there are receptors looking out for cortisol levels, when there is a sudden spike of cortisol the hypothalamus should give out signals to halt the production of this hormone. However, when we are chronically stressed the hypothalamus can become desensitised. Nevertheless, studies have found that CBD can in fact boost the ability of the hypothalamus' ability to sense cortisol, thereby triggering stress reduction. (1)
Oxidative damage Our bodies are already regularly exposed to contaminants and pollutants known as free radicals which can damage our cells through oxidation. High blood pressure and heightened metabolism from stress can also lead to a build-up of free radicals. CBD has natural antioxidant properties which neutralise the destruction of free radicals, preventing their damage.
Rest and digest As discussed earlier, in order for the body to recover from “fight or flight” mode, it needs to enter “rest and digest” mode. The body needs to regain balance and control by lowering the sudden spike in a variety of chemicals and certain neurotransmitters. The key to this is yet another neurotransmitter, GABA, which slows us down - enabling relaxation. A study found that CBD was able to enable GABA production, promoting relaxation and preventing hyperactive seizures in mice. (2) Naturally occurring terpenes found in full spectrum CBD extract also increase GABA activity. (3)
CBD is a natural, simple, and effective supplement which can easily be integrated into your daily health routine to increase wellness and minimise the harmful effects of stress. Of course, depending solely on CBD to negate your stress is not the most responsible way of dealing with it. But in learning to cope, manage, and deal with our stress mentally, we should also care for our body, physically - which CBD allows us to do.