Stress Management

 

A woman is standing arm's length back from the foreground holding out in the palm of her hand a glowing, holographic human brain.

 

Do you feel overburdened with chronic stress? Is fear and anxiety a constant theme in your life?  If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from some form of stress and anxiety. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 13 people globally suffers from anxiety. So what causes anxiety?

 

A woman is sitting at a desk in front of two computers, an iPad and a calculator with her hands on her head in a state of confusion as several hands holding an old bell clock, a watch on a wrist and a phone to convey stressful demands.

 

Modern research in mental health has confirmed that an overload of chronic stress, in any form, leads to anxiety. Both physical and emotional stress can contribute to an overactive stress response. Constant emotional pressures drain our energy reserves, increasing our sense of vulnerability. When we feel unable to handle the stresses of life, such as the demands placed on us from work, finances, or family, our relaxed state is replaced by a sense of fear or danger. Too many physical and emotional demands can lead to a state of exhaustion. At that point we’re running on fumes, borrowing energy from the future and using caffeine or other stimulants to keep things going. 

A primitive ancient cave wall with several handprints drawn on red stone to indicate prehistoric times.

Ancient Origins of Stress

Before the dawn of civilizations, our ancestors lived in unpredictable environments that often put them in danger. Scientists believe that our physiology evolved in these perilous times. Constant threats shaped our nervous system. When our stress response turns on before we have a chance to process a threat mentally, it’s a survival strategy allowing us to act without thought. This is known as the fight-or-flight reflex. Our ancestors utilized the surge of energy to either fight or escape threats. There are far fewer dangers in the world now, not as many bears or tigers lurking about, but our response to stresses and demands, no matter what form they take are the same.

Free E-book! Reducing Stress: 10 Ways To Calm Mind & Body

Causes of Anxiety 

  Stress

Stress can become distress when the physical & emotional demands placed on us exceed our ability to adapt.

  Genetics 

Research shows individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders have a higher risk of developing one.

  Personality

If you are a workaholic, that must have things a certain way in order for you to be satisfied than you might be a type-A personality. Strong anecdotal evidence suggests type-A personalities develop anxiety when something occurs they can’t control. The key is to know yourself. When you understand what’s wrong, you have a better chance of discovering the solution. But it’s important to remember— we mature when we learn to live without answers. You can’t control everything— learning to let go is the key to emotional well-being. Seek out that friend or family member that goes with the flow. Try to adopt some of their habits. Keep reading to learn more.

  Trauma 

Traumatic events from childhood or war can change how we respond to stress and any demand that’s placed on us. A heightened sense of anxiety is often a symptom of trauma. Many theories point out the emotional impact that occurs when we experience a traumatic event. According to Canadian physician Gabor Maté, a traumatic event negatively affects brain circuits that regulate emotions and stress leading in some cases to lifelong feelings of fear and anxiety. At the time, our inability to adapt to emotional stress or even identify its manifestation in our life creates anxiety. If you don’t know what’s wrong than anything can take the place of the real cause of anxiety. A memory of the trauma can trigger a state of anxiety and depression. Having a strong social network or trusting mentor can promote resilience, mitigating the effects of trauma.  Keep reading to learn more about reducing stress and restoring a sense of relaxation and emotional well-being. 


Herbal Solutions for Combating Stress & Anxiety

CBD supports a balanced emotional outlook by increasing the activity of the brains “bliss molecule” Anandamide. Researchers have suggested that some people have more Anandamide than others. CBD can level the emotional playing field by reducing the activity of the enzyme that breaks down your “bliss molecule” promoting a state of joy and emotional well-being.  

 

Ashwagandha root stalks on a pure white background.

 

Ashwagandha boosts the activity of antioxidants in the body which prevents the physical stress that contributes to emotional distress. Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years because of its powerful adaptogenic benefits. If you're experiencing more stress than usual, Ashwagandha can help you adapt to the extra physical & emotional demands. 

Fresh green tea leaves on a pure white background.

L-Theanine helps increase the activity of relaxing neurotransmitters like GABA which promotes calm & wellbeing. L-Theanine also helps promote Healthy Sleep. 

Mindfulness

A human brain depicted as two hemispheres with the left showing colorful waves extending from the side to convey creativity and the right side of the brain represented by illustrations of logical paths and organizational texts.

Quiet – Meditation – Default Mode Networks

Set your smartphone aside if you’re using it to distract yourself from any deep existential thoughts cropping up. It’s no accident that you’re worried about something or experiencing anxiety. Researchers have discovered that when we’re not engaged with any specific activity, several areas of the brain turn on to create our sense of self. This includes our memories, current status in the world and possible future social interactions. These brain regions are known collectively as the Default Mode Network and could be considered the original “Social Network” because of its role in tracking our status in the tribe.

 

A young woman looking at her phone with her lips pushed to the side to show confusion.

 

When we allow our brain to power down by taking a walk or meditating, we’re decluttering our Default Mode Network. Just twenty minutes of meditation a day boosts the activity of the prefrontal cortex (logic, planning), increasing behavioral flexibility while improving emotional control of anxiety based memories. When we have to go to the bathroom, we don’t ignore the sensation or the urge but stop what we’re doing and release. The same goes for the brain, except the sensation is in the form of anxiousness and worry.  Default Mode Networks need the time between tasks to sift and process through all of the data we take in. Each of us should take an active role in the process because the result is the picture/idea of ourselves.

 

A young woman is sitting on a small plateau in shorts enjoying a sunset.

 

If you don’t actively take stock of your life, emotional centers in the brain seize control of higher brain regions and fill you with fear. Some of the greatest minds in history took time out of each day to seek solitude and let their thoughts wander. So turn off the television, leave your phone at home, and find a quiet place to sit and meditate. After a few days, the fragmented chatter of your thoughts begins to take on the ancient form of a calming brook.   

Meditation Technique for Self-Replenishment

 

A young woman is meditating in the early morning on a beach.

 

The art of living is the art of letting the life stream flow in such a manner that every aspect of living is supplemented with intelligence, power, creativity, and the magnificence of the whole life.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Meditation cultivates creative consciousness which brings out the peace & stillness that is your Absolute eternal self.

  • Find somewhere quiet, free of distraction. Sit with your legs crossed or in a position that’s most comfortable for you.
  • Close your eyes, and let your body relax. Take several slow, deep breaths, smiling with each exhale.
  • Let your mind go on chattering as you sit breathing.
  • After 3mins, begin chanting a mantra such as Mahdi – Samadhi…
  • After 20mins, open your eyes.
  • Throughout the day, speak softly and with compassion.

 

An illustration of a human brain colored red, green and blue.

 

Meditation replaces the discrete, fragmented units that constitute our cluttered mental worlds with the natural flow of consciousness. You’ll begin to notice as you talk it’s with your own thoughts, as opposed to the opinions of others. Meditation allows you to understand yourself in a profound context.

References

  1. Lieberman, D. (2014). The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease. New York, NY: Vintage.
  2. Scott, John. "An Evolutionary Perspective on Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders." New Insights into Anxiety Disorders, 2013. doi:10.5772/52902.
  3. Selye, Han. (1978). The Stress of Life. McGraw Hill
  4. Selye, Hans. "Stress without Distress." Psychopathology of Human Adaptation, 1976, 137-46. doi:10.1007/978-1-4684-2238-2_9.
  5. Crippa, José Alexandre S, Guilherme Nogueira Derenusson, Thiago Borduqui Ferrari, Lauro Wichert-Ana, Fábio Ls Duran, Rocio Martin-Santos, Marcus Vinícius Simões, Sagnik Bhattacharyya, Paolo Fusar-Poli, Zerrin Atakan, Alaor Santos Filho, Maria Cecília Freitas-Ferrari, Philip K. Mcguire, Antonio Waldo Zuardi, Geraldo F. Busatto, and Jaime Eduardo Cecílio Hallak. "Neural Basis of Anxiolytic Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder: A Preliminary Report." Journal of Psychopharmacology 25, no. 1 (2010): 121-30. doi:10.1177/0269881110379283.

  6. Fusar-Poli, Paolo, Paul Allen, Sagnik Bhattacharyya, José A. Crippa, Andrea Mechelli, Stefan Borgwardt, Rocio Martin-Santos, Marc L. Seal, Colin Ocarrol, Zerrin Atakan, Antonio W. Zuardi, and Philip Mcguire. "Modulation of Effective Connectivity during Emotional Processing by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol." The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 13, no. 04 (2009): 421. doi:10.1017/s1461145709990617.
  7. Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H., Chagas, M. H., de Oliveira, D. C., De Martinis, B. S., Kapczinski, F., Quevedo, J., Roesler, R., Schröder, N., Nardi, A. E., Martín-Santos, R., Hallak, J. E., Zuardi, A. W., … Crippa, J. A. (2011). Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology36(6), 1219-26
  8. Nathan, P. J., Lu, K., Gray, M., & Oliver, C. (2006). The Neuropharmacology of L-Theanine(N-Ethyl-L-Glutamine). Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 6(2), 21-30. doi:10.1080/j157v06n02_02
  9. S P Banerjee, S H Snyder and R Mechoulam. “Cannabinoids: influence on neurotransmitter uptake in rat brain synaptosomes.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics July 1975, 194 (1) 74-81.
  10. Pratte, M., Nanavati, K., Young, V. and Morley, C. (2018). An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).
  11. Buckner, R. L., Andrews-Hanna, J. R., & Schacter, D. L. (2008). The Brain's Default Network. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1124(1), 1-38. doi:10.1196/annals.1440.011
  12. Immordino-Yang, M. H., Christodoulou, J. A., & Singh, V. (2012). Rest Is Not Idleness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(4), 352-364. doi:10.1177/1745691612447308
  13. Luders, E., Toga, A. W., Lepore, N., & Gaser, C. (2009). The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. NeuroImage, 45(3), 672-678. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.12.061
  14. Yogi, M. M. (2001). Science of Being and Art of Living: Transcendental Meditation.