Why anxiety is taking over?
Before we get into the science of how CBD can help with anxiety, it’s important to unpack some of the facts around anxiety.
At its essence, anxiety isn’t a bad thing. We, as humans, have a stress response that is designed to keep us safe. Often called the ‘fight or flight’ mode, it is a response triggered by stress hormones like cortisol that allow us to act quickly in an emergency. Where the problem comes in is that, in our daily lives, our bodies can’t tell the difference between physical stressors and emotional and mental stressors, and we get stuck in that fight or flight mode.
As this happens over and over again, our brains are graduallyrewired to feel anxious, leaving us with the feeling that we need to constantly anticipate unknown dangers. Unfortunately, chronic stress and anxiety can cause a number of serious health conditions such as heart disease, depression, a compromised immune system, fatigue, weight gain, digestive problems, headaches and muscular tension.
How CBD can help with anxiety
There are a number of health benefits associated with CBD, and many studies look at the cannabinoid’s ability to regulatethe body’s endocannabinoid system, restore sleep, support neural regeneration and even rewire the brain (through a process called extinction learning).
It does this by:
Influencing your serotonin levels
Serotonin is often referred to as the ‘happy hormone’, which is true, but it’s also an over-simplification. Serotonin is, in fact, the key hormone that stabilises our mood, our sense of wellbeing and, yes, our happiness. It also helps with eating, digestion and sleeping.
This vitally important hormone affects the whole body as it works as a neurotransmitter allowing cells within the brain and the rest of your nervous system to communicate with each other. But, it is essential to have the right level of serotonin in the body, and while many people with low levels of serotonin may struggle with anxiety, higher levels can trigger symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and can even lead to death.
CBD is thought to play a regulating role as it supports the serotonin receptor and thereby modulates the anxious response.
High levels of anxiety impact the quality of our sleep, which affects our ability to respond to triggers in our daily lives. This can then lead to an unhealthy cycle of poor sleep and higher anxiety. It’s estimated that around 16 million adults in the UK struggle with sleeplessness, and at least a third of those have insomnia.
In addition to reducing anxiety, CBD has been shown to improve sleep quality. And these findings are supported by an animal study which showed that CBD was able to prevent REM sleep suppression caused by anxiety. Most notably, CBD interacts with receptors in the endocannabinoid system, thereby helping to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Restoring homeostasis in the body
Balance, or homeostasis, in the body is maintained by your endocannabinoid system, which affects many of your body’s physical and mental functions. When your body comes under stress, it can become unbalanced and dysregulated.
CBD (a phytocannabinoid) simulates that work of your body’s endocannabinoids (naturally occurring cannabinoids) and may support the work of the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the endocannabinoid system, thereby restoring optiomalfunction.
Stimulating neural regeneration
Studies show that chronic stress can damage your neuronsand, over time, can cause the size of your brain to shrink. But don’t lose hope; research indicates that parts of the brain can regrow damaged or destroyed brain cells.
CBD is linked to stimulating neural regeneration, most notably in the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that affects learning, memory and mood.
Unlearning anxiety triggers
Called extinction learning, this is the idea that we can learn to let go of our anxiety triggers, essentially rewiring our brain to respond differently when faced with a stressful situation. This is easier said than done, because many of our triggers come to use on a daily basis – such as emails, driving in the car or talking on the phone.
A natural approach to reducing anxiety
Chronic stress and anxiety can be difficult to escape or regulate in our busy, modern lives. But, with the frightening impact that it can have on our physical and mental health, it’s important to take proactive steps to address that balance.
For many people, CBD forms an important part of a multi-faceted approach, but should always be integrated in consultation with a health professional. Keep in mind that taking steps to holistic wellness is a complete lifestyle change, not a passing fad. It has taken you a long time to get to this point, many years of cumulative stress and unaddressed worry, so it makes sense that it will take time to reverse these effects as you retrain your brain and rebuild on a deeper, more fundamental level.