Stress can create excessive worry about a variety of topics or events, that is present for at least six months. People struggling with chronic stress usually cannot control these worries and present with a variety of symptoms, including:
- Edginess or restlessness
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches
According to data from the 2019 National Health Interview Survey, about one in six (appr. 15.6%) adults aged 18 and older experienced symptoms of Stress in the past two weeks that were either mild (9.5%) moderate (3.4%), or severe (2.7%). Of those adults, the majority were between 18 and 29 years of age. Women were more likely to experience stress than men. Stress also seems to affect communities of color more than Asian or caucasian groups. (2)
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that while most stress is easily treated, only 36.9% of those affected are getting treatment. Not only that, people experiencing stress issues are five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from stress. (3)
The Cognitive Solution
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven effective in treating stress through incorporating functional analysis, psychoeducation, and practicing new behaviors.
- Functional Analysis – recognizes the what, where and when of an anxious response, providing therapist and patient with an understanding of triggering thoughts and events and the mental manipulations that lead to increased stress.
- Psychoeducation – identifies the therapeutic tools that will encourage and motivate a change in behavior.
- Practicing New Behaviors – provides opportunity to rehearse alternate responses to situations in session and then apply them in daily life.
For example, in a therapy session, a patient might be encouraged to “imagine the worst” in a situation and then, with coaching from the therapist, can learn how to not just tolerate their stress, but identify and practice new ways of responding. Patients can then take this experience and apply it in their daily lives. (1)
There’s a Pill for That
While CBT has proven effective in treating stress, medication is usually the first-line approach. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are often prescribed for stress. These medications, in a nutshell, keep a higher amount of serotonin the mood-stabilizing hormone) available in the system, encouraging a state of well-being and calm.
Unfortunately, these medications do have some side-effects to consider, including:
- Lower libido
SSRIs and SNRIs can also affect other medications and, when stopped suddenly, have been associated with suicidal ideation.
There are other medications used for stress, such as benzodiazepines, which can be good for short term use but should be administered with caution because of their addictive nature. Beta-blockers and azapirones have also proven effective in treating stress, but have limited use – they can treat palpitations and handshaking, but don’t affect the cognitive and emotional symptoms often associated with GAD. (4)
The Cannabidiol Alternative
Cells of the human body have thousands of different receptors – protein-based structures on the surface of the cell. These receptors receive messages from all kinds of stimuli (hormones, viruses, bacteria, proteins). It is believed that cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors found mostly in the nervous system and peripheral nervous system and can impact serotonin signals. (5)
In a study published in Permanente Journal, patients using CBD reported a significant decrease in stress which not only occurred quickly but was sustained during the entire length of the study. In addition, CBD appeared to be better tolerated than routine psychiatric medication. (6)
This study, and many others, indicate the importance of reconsidering the mental health treatment paradigm in incorporating CBD and other holistic/alternative ways to manage stress. In fact, Nesas Beyond Organic CBDa Hemp Extract can be an excellent supplement to help reduce stress and minimize the negative impact on the cells.
The Holistic Approach to Reduce Stress
There is a growing body of evidence supporting the idea of integrating holistic modalities to the Western medical approach to mental health. Below is a brief list of activities to assist in reducing stress:
Exercise to Reduce Stress**
The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. (8)
Yoga, Breathwork, Meditation to Reduce Stress**
While yoga is exercise, it is also a study of the mind/body connection, a system developed thousands of years ago. Aside from improved muscular strength and flexibility, the physiological benefits of yoga can help to stabilize the autonomic nervous system which helps the practitioner become more resilient to stressful conditions. (7)
Take a Walk to Reduce Stress**
Twenty minutes walking through a park or sitting quietly in nature has been shown to significantly lower your stress hormone levels. (8)
Bodywork to Reduce Stress
Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, Tui Na, and cupping are just a few of the different modalities of bodywork available – each can provide stress relief in a unique way. The key is to find a practitioner that is licensed and well trained. Do some research before booking an appointment with any bodyworker. Ask friends for recommendations, talk to other clients, and certainly let your medical provider know if you are incorporating any complementary therapies into your health regimen.
Take an electronics break
It’s no real surprise that too much time online reading news and engaging on social media can become a stressor. For some, budgeting the amount of time spent online is a fantastic way to reduce stress – and, the time saved messaging and scrolling can be put to better use, like taking a walk or enjoying a good book. (9)
- Borza, L. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for generalized anxiety. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2017 Jun; 19(2): 203-208. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573564/
- Terlizzi, E.P., Villarroel, M.A. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder among adults: United States, 2019. NCHS Data Brief No. 78, September, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db378.htm#:
- Facts and Statistics. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics. Accessed January 22, 2021.
- Farach, F.J., et. al. Pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders: current treatment and future directions. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 2012 Dec; 26(8): 833-843. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539724/
- Cherney, K. Using CBD oil for anxiety: does it work? Healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-for-anxiety. Accessed January 22, 2021.
- Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., Hughes, S. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: a large case series. The Permanente Journal. 2019; 23: 18-041. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
- Chong, Cecilia, Tsunaka, megumi, Tsang, Hector, Chan, Edward, Cheung, Wai Ming. Effects of yoga on stress management in healthy adults: a systematic review. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Vol. 17, Iss. 1, (Jan/Feb 2011): 3208. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21614942/
- Childs, E., deWit, H. Regular Exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in Physiology. 2014; 5: 161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013452/