When life’s pressures and anxieties get to us, chronic stress can have a serious impact on your heart health. It is important to manage stress and develop a calmer mindset in order to keep your heart strong.
From work to family and day-to-day tasks, stress and anxiety have become part of our routine. Stress activates the release of cortisol and epinephrine. Cortisol increases blood pressure, while epinephrine makes the heart beat faster. Over time, this puts individuals at risk of high blood pressure and heart conditions.
What Causes Stress?
Chronic stress is something that many people struggle to manage, and resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as taking sleeping pills or alcohol to help you sleep, or stimulants like caffeine to remain focused. According to a recent study, moderate amounts of alcohol actually decreased sleep quality by 24%. All of these issues contribute towards high blood pressure and lack deep, restorative sleep.
Equally, lack of exercise and consuming unhealthy foods work together to increase blood pressure while chronically stressed. Constantly reaching for sweets or comfort foods every time you’re stressed might not be the way to go. Using these types of foods to change your mood can have a negative impact on cardiovascular health.
Parasympathetic vs. Sympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system control homeostasis and the body at rest and is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” function.
The sympathetic nervous system controls the body’s responses to a perceived threat and is responsible for the “fight or flight” response.
The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems work in opposition, so actions that can activate the parasympathetic system may help dampen the physiologic effects of stress. It’s for this reason that meditating or taking deep breaths turn on the parasympathetic system and promote calm.
How to Calm Stress?
From minor challengers to major crises, stress is part of life. While you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them. When stress becomes overwhelming or chronic, it can affect your well-being. That’s why it is essential to have effective stress relievers that can calm your mind and body. According to experts, there are a few steps you can take to lower your stress levels:
Identify the source of your stress
Kerri Masutto, a board-certified internal medicine doctor highlights that the best thing we can do it to cut stress out wherever we can. If you’re unable to cut the stress off at its source, learning healthy coping mechanisms could be the way forward. Watching the news, being constantly connected to a digital device, drinking alcohol, and consuming too much caffeine are just a few of the things that may add more stress to your life. Making some changes to your daily habits could be instrumental in helping you feel better.
Outline steps to address the issue
By taking time to outline concrete steps to address the issue, we can recognise that we do have the resources to cope. Charissa Chamoor, PhD, a New York-based clinical psychologist emphasises that stress occurs when we believe that we do not have the resources to cope with the challenges we are facing. So, stop and write down the source of stress when it strikes and engage with it. Identify two concrete steps you can take to address the issue, and you will feel empowered to handle the sources of stress in a productive way.
Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night
This is very important in order to improve your ability to cope with stressors. Adequate sleep can actually decrease cortisol levels and improve your ability to cope with stress. Stress gets in the way of high-quality sleep and creates a “stress-sleep cycle.”
Being physically active
Dr. Eva Shelton recommends being physically active to help with both sleep and stress management for heart health. Studies have found that adults who exercise sleep better, cope with stress better and have better heart health and stable blood pressure. Furthermore, meditation can be a great stress reliever, as it turns on the parasympathetic system and promotes calm.
What’s The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
There’s a fine line between stress and anxiety. Both are emotional responses, but stress is typically caused by an external trigger. The trigger can be short-term, such as a work deadline or long-term, such as being unable to work. People under stress experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping.
On the other hand, anxiety is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor. Anxiety leads to a nearly identical set of symptoms as stress – insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability.
Both mild stress and mild anxiety respond well to similar coping mechanisms. Physical activity, a nutritious and varied diet, and good sleep hygiene are a good starting point, but there are other options too.
How Does CBD Help Stress?
CBD can be an effective way to support a return to a calm, balanced nervous system. Combined with some simple relaxation techniques, CBD can aid different forms of anxiety and help with insomnia. It does so by acting on the endocannabinoid system, a neutral network that is part of the central nervous system, which plays a role in modulating cognitive and physiological functions.
CBD can help to ease both mind and body, creating a sense of balance that is often disrupted by the long-term effects of stress. For example, our CBD Bed Balm can be gently massaged into pulse points to help soothe physical and mental tension. The relaxing qualities of the CBD are accentuated by tranquil ingredients such as lavender, arnica, and juniper.
There is ongoing research as to the benefits of CBD, however, there have been promising results from studies into how CBD helps with stress. A 2020 study in New Zealand found that patients with anxiety and depression saw measurable increases in their quality of daily life after 3 weeks of using CBD. Therefore, we remain optimistic that more people will find CBD to have an enriching effect in their daily lives.