Medical Monday: Stress

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When was the last time you took a moment for yourself? For most of us, it's hard to remember the last time we felt truly relaxed. Our society values productivity, which can be a good thing. It feels good to work on something we care about, but we have to have a balance. That balance is easily lost — recognizing when we've reached a limit is an increasingly rare skill.

This loss could mean serious health consequences for us as individuals and our society. Even though you may think stress is limited to a psychological condition, it can manifest itself in a variety of physical ailments. According to this article from the American Psychological Association, stress can affect our musculoskeletal system, causing headaches or painful tension. It might affect our cardiovascular system and put us at risk for heart disease and/or stroke. It can cause ulcers, constipation or an absent libido. Chronic stress isn't good for anyone, and can actually result in you being less productive, more prone to anger or depression and insomnia. With that being said, it is imperative we find ways to take a step back and relax.

How do you decompress after a long day? Maybe you were caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or maybe you had an argument with a friend. If you're a parent, maybe the kids got sick, or fought all day. There are so many ways we are stretched too thin -- how do you recenter? For many, this a bath, meditation, cooking and enjoying a healthy meal. It might means using cannabis to unwind -- or even a combination of all of the above. The psychological effects of cannabis can offer a new perspective, a little distance from the difficulties of the day. It might help your muscles relax or help your mind stop racing.

Through the complex endocannabinoid system found in our bodies, cannabis may have a direct, biological interaction with responses to stress. Researchers have studied this system for its ability to create homeostasis, or balance, within our bodies. Cannabinoid receptors have been found in parts of our brains, such as the hippocampus and amygdala, which are known to regulate emotion, mood, stress and fear. Early research has uncovered certain connections between the ECS and our immune systems, alongside cannabis' anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) benefits.

A recent study uncovered: "A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial in 15 humans demonstrated that up to 600 mg of CBD (cannabidiol) reduced measured anxiety compared to increased levels with a 10 mg dose of Δ9-THC. CBD appears to activate other receptors outside CB2, including 5HT1A and TRPV1, both of which are involved in the anxiolytic and mitigating panic/fear responses to stress."

However, the study also notes cannabis can have adverse effects regarding stress. We all know what it feels like to over-medicate, which can result in increased flight-or-flight responses and a sense of uneasiness/paranoia. It's important to understand our bodies' limits: where we feel comfortable with cannabis and where it's a little too much. Once were able to find that place where we feel comfortably medicated, cannabis can become a valuable resource.

--Words by Taylor Haynes