What is Short-Term Stress & its Impact?
Modern life can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed out at the best of times. Many of us feel that stress takes over a large part of our days, and this can be worrying when you are aware of the emotional and physical impacts of stress. But did you know that short and long-term stress can influence your health differently? Not all stress is bad for you. In fact, science has shown us that short-term stress can be positive.
Short-term stress, defined as stress that lasts from minutes to hours, actually helps the body protect itself and improves performance in certain areas. For example, short-term stress has been shown to improve immune response and help recovery from surgery. Plus, it is also believed to improve exam performance in students. Short-term stress should be seen as a normal part of life, and according to evolutionary experts, it helps us to survive by triggering our “fight or flight response” when we need it most.
How does it do this? Well, our brain processes the stressful event and sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, a small area in the centre of our brain. The hypothalamus communicates with our body and tells it to produce stress hormones, like cortisol, ensuring that we are ready to respond with the “fight or flight response”. After the stressful event is over, our brain tells our body to return to normal and stop producing stress hormones. But when it comes to chronic stress, our brain tells our body to keep producing stress hormones, leading to trouble sleeping, digestive issues and immune health issues.
What is Long-Term Stress & its Impact?
Long-term, or chronic, stress can affect many parts of your life, including your physical health, emotions, memory and more. The science shows that chronic stress increases risk of chronic disease and can even contribute to brain changes that make someone more susceptible to mental health disorders, such as, depression and anxiety. Recent research even suggests that chronic stress may contribute to obesity, by causing a vicious cycle where there is a reduction in exercise and sleep, whilst at the same time people eat more to help cope with the stress.
Clearly stress is a really big deal and can have a huge impact on our lives and the lives of those surrounding us. It’s important to remember that people may react differently to stressful situations. But the evidence is clear that chronic stress can lead to long-term emotional and physical health problems. So, what can you do to help achieve a calm mind so that you feel ready to tackle any challenges that come your way?
Natural Solutions to Cope with Stress
More and more people are turning to natural solutions, including adaptogenic and nootropic remedies, to help them cope better with stress. Adaptogens are natural plant-based remedies that help the body to balance its response to stress. For example, they help to protect against the negative effects of stress, such as fatigue and disrupted sleep. Nootropics, such as CBD and functional mushrooms, help to combat the negative effects of stress on the brain and are well-known for their ability to boost memory and other cognitive functions.
CBD is a chemical compound that is extracted from the cannabis plant. It does not have psychoactive properties, and so is an appealing option for people looking for a natural calm. But how does CBD work?
It is thought that CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) to promote an overall feeling of calm. The ECS was identified around 30 years ago when it was found to be essential for regulating many of our bodily processes including sleep, memory, appetite, pain sensation, immune response and mood. The ECS does this by releasing natural endocannabinoids, or neurotransmitters, into the body to restore balance when a health issue develops. When you take CBD, you are basically supporting the work that your ECS is already doing.
The use of CBD to combat stress has been investigated by scientists who found that CBD was able to modulate the stress response in people’s brains, as shown on MRI brain scans. This means that researchers could see CBD working to regulate the brain's response to stress - fascinating stuff! There’s still a lot to learn as CBD is a relatively recent area of research, however preliminary results are really promising, so watch this space for a later blog where I will break down and discuss some of the CBD research that has been done to date.