The American Psychological Association recognizes three types of stress, but it may want to consider adding a fourth thoroughly modern affliction – holiday stress.
Holiday stress can be brought on by many things, but apart from hatred of Christmas carols or losing at dreidel, the most common triggers are difficult family conversations, the financial pressures of gift giving and unrealistic expectations, according to the APA.
Holiday stress actually fits neatly into one of the three categories established by the APA — episodic acute stress (the others are acute and chronic). But it’s also unique in some ways, as the APA has recognized by establishing a holiday stress resource center on its website.
It’s interesting that the pre-eminent organization of U.S. psychologists makes no mention of a promising natural treatment that appears to have a significant ability to lift spirits in stressful times: Cannabis.
We’ll spare you the back story about how stress is the body’s way of trying to guide you safely out of a difficult situation, but suggest reading this informative previous Greenlight Approved post if you want to learn more about that physiological mechanism about how cannabis provides relaxation and relieves stress. Instead we will focus on ways that cannabis can help keep you on an even keel during the hectic holidays.
The first thing to recognize is that holiday stress is manageable to some degree. For example, if financial stress is a big driver of your annual anxiety, creating a holiday savings account can erase that worry next year. If you hate shopping, purchasing gifts or researching online can shave hours off the chore. If a difficult family conversation is the big issue, improving your communication skills could be the solution.
If you need a bit more help getting through the end of the year, doctors often turn to prescription drugs, which can be addictive and may cause serious side effects. Many people also medicate themselves with alcohol to combat stress, despite the well-documented toll it can take on their personal lives and health.
There are some natural remedies, including yoga and physical exercise, that have been shown to reduce stress.
But many people also have discovered on their own that cannabis – a natural herb that has been used for relaxation for thousands of years – helps. A survey by the Marist polling organization, published by Yahoo News in 2017, found that stress relief was the most common reason given for using the herb, cited by 37 percent of respondents.
Scientists have only recently begun to study the effects of cannabis for stress, but believe that it may work by supplementing a natural substance produced by your brain. Stress robs your body of endocannabinoids, chemical compounds that affect motor control, cognition, emotions and behavior. They are, as the name suggests, similar to the cannabinoids that are the active ingredients in cannabis.
Cannabis For Stress – Studies Promising
Samir Haj-Dahmane, a senior researcher at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions who conducted a 2015 animal study on cannabis’ effects on chronic stress and depression that was published in the scientific journal Neuroscience, said the preliminary findings were promising.
“Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression,” Haj-Dahmane said. “Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.”
But as Haj-Dahmane noted, much more research is needed to firmly establish that thesis and determine which cannabinoids are most effective in quelling stress.
Low Dosage of Marijuana May Be Best
Other research underlines how little is known about such basics as the proper dosage.
One double-blind study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal in August 2017 indicated that low doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – one of the many cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant and the one most closely associated with the “high” produced by the plant – was effective in reducing stress. Higher doses appeared to increase negative mood, it found.
But another less-rigorous study by Washington State University researchers, which was based on self-reported data and published this year in the Journal of Affective Disorders, reached a contrary conclusion. It found that users reported a 58 percent reduction in stress after marijuana use, but concluded that the largest perceived changes were achieved by using marijuana high in both THC and CBD – another non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is drawing interest from researchers for its medicinal properties.
As is often the case when science lags behind practice, it’s best to proceed cautiously if you decide to see if cannabis can deliver the gift of equanimity this holiday season.
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