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Anxiety & Stress
This article was reviewed by John Ferrera Ph.D, a Child Neuropsychologist and Learning Specialist. As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be taken as medical advice.
There’s no way around it: we’re living in a stressful time. Even if your usual motto is “Don’t worry, be happy,” you may find that suddenly, you’re unable to dismiss unhelpful, repetitive thoughts from your mind.
Stress is a normal part of life, and our bodies have physiological mechanisms for recovering after a nerve-racking event, whether it’s a car crash or a job interview. However, chronic stress is a different ballgame.
When you’re unable to manage stress, it can begin to overwhelm you, affect your immune system, and make a difficult situation worse. So how can you manage the stress of living through a tough time? Nervousness and overthinking are a natural response to a global crisis. Yet it’s important to focus on what you can control. This is your guide on how to manage stress in life to help you stay calm, grounded, and healthy—both physically and mentally.
When you’re stressed, it’s normal to want to escape your feelings. After all, stress can come with a number of unpleasant physical symptoms: a racing heart, sweating, an upset stomach. Beyond the physical symptoms, you might tie yourself in mental knots, beating yourself up for your feelings.
In the midst of a stressful situation, have you ever had thoughts like the following?
This kind of overthinking can actually make it harder to cope with stress. You’ve begun to introduce new stressors into your internal monologue. Before you know it, you’re not just worried about one thing—you’re worried about everything in the past, present, and future.
However, it’s important not to stuff your nervous feelings down. If you do, they might end up coming back to bite you later. Stanford professor Dr. Mickey Trockel, M.D, explains that:
"The biggest concern is when anxiety starts to create an avoidance cycle. When something is provoking those emotions, then avoiding it feels good -- and because that feels good, it's reinforcing the anxiety. Then, the next time the situation comes up, without any conscious decision-making, it creates greater intensity."
When you avoid your own emotional response, your future self may have a harder time coping in the long run. Instead of ignoring your overthinking, it can be helpful to take a closer look at your thoughts in an intentional way.
Writing down your thoughts is one of the ways to manage stress. In a 2006 meta-analysis of over 100 studies on journaling, Joanne Frattaroli, Ph.D., found a positive correlation between journaling and decreased stress. While the exact reasons why journaling is so effective remain unknown, Dr. Frattarolio reviews several theories:
Not sure what to write about? Sometimes, having a specific task can make self-reflection easier. The below strategy can be used in writing, or you can simply make a conscious effort to apply it to your thoughts.
We often take parts of our internal monologue as factual, when in fact we’re only speculating. Try the following strategies from Psychology Today for recognizing and coping with your thoughts as they arise:
Sometimes, you’ve had too much of your own inner monologue and you need to take a break from your overthinking. If you find yourself looping the same thoughts, it’s important to have strategies to get into a different mental space. Try the following:
Any of the above ways to manage stress may help to improve your overall mental state, making it easier to dive back into self-reflection, or to try another strategy for managing your thoughts.
Not in the mood for physical activity? If your thoughts speed up at night and you’re unable to get up and move around without disturbing others, it’s helpful to have other strategies in your toolkit.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ve probably been told to take a deep breath, whether by your therapist or your parents. In the heat of the moment, this can sometimes feel difficult, especially if you tend to take short, shallow breaths when you’re stressed.
However, that simple piece of advice is rooted in ancient wisdom.
Did you know that breathing exercises, or pranayama, are actually one of the traditional 8 limbs of yoga? The 8 limbs represent a progressive path for going deeper and deeper into stillness. Number 4 of the 8 limbs, pranayama is considered a deeper practice than asana (physical yoga), and a gateway step to meditation.
Deep breathing can be practiced lying on your back, in a comfortable seated position, or in a relaxing yoga pose like legs-up-the-wall. Try out the following exercises:
One hint for deep breathing? If it’s raising your stress levels rather than taking them down, back off. If you can’t sit still, it may feel better to follow your instincts and move around. Stress management is all about getting in touch with what you need. If that’s not deep breathing, listen to your body and move on rather than trying to force it.
Once you’ve gotten more relaxed through any and all of the above practices, it may feel natural to go into a deeper meditative state. However, if sitting around thinking of nothing feels impossible given your current mental script, it can be better to try a mindfulness practice.
UCBerkeley’s Greater Good Magazine defines mindfulness as:
“Maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and observing your thoughts and sensations as they arise. And it’s more than just a buzzword: mindfulness has been found to decrease stress and improve your sense of well-being. You can practice mindfulness during meditation, or while washing the dishes. Consider the following mindfulness practices:
Simply maintain this practice, noticing what’s coming up most frequently, for 1-10 minutes.
The great thing about mindfulness? You can do it anywhere, at any time. Practice mindfulness for a couple of minutes at a time to reconnect with the present moment and stop speculating about the future.
Sometimes, when you’re feeling stressed, it feels impossible to take a step forward. You know you’re caught in a closed loop of unhelpful thoughts, but the idea of hitting your yoga mat or sitting down to meditate makes you feel even more nervous.
Luckily, there’s an all-natural, plant-based solution that can help you break your mental script and get some much needed relief from nerves: CBD.
How does it work?
It all comes down to CBD’s interaction with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a network of nerve cells that regulate sleep, appetite, stress, and more. CBD influences ECS receptors and helps calm an overactive nervous system.
Once you’ve experienced CBD’s relaxing effects, your ECS can better do its job—and you can take further action to tackle your overthinking head-on.
Plant People’s organic, Colorado-grown CBD products are specifically formulated to help you cope with stress. Our Be Calm capsules combine hemp-derived CBD and adaptogenic herbs to promote relaxation on a daily basis.
When you’re stressed, you can feel overwhelmed and out-of-control. However, there’s one thing you can control: the way you manage your feelings. With a little know-how and effort, it’s possible to conquer your overthinking and start experiencing a little more peace each day.
Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy
Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.
Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.
Huffington Post. How to stop an anxious thought in its tracks. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-stop-feeling-anxious_n_5481988?guccounter=1
Psychology Bulletin. Experimental disclosure and its moderators: a meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17073523?dopt=Abstract
Psychology Today. 9 ways to calm your anxious mind. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201506/9-ways-calm-your-anxious-mind
Psych Central. 3 tips for dealing with anxious thoughts. https://psychcentral.com/blog/3-tips-for-dealing-with-anxious-thoughts/
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Exercise for stress and anxiety. https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety
Yoga Journal. Get to know the 8 limbs of yoga. https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/the-eight-limbs
Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10865-007-9130-7
Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Tai Chi, yoga, and qigong as mind-body exercises. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5244011/
Greater Good Magazine. What is mindfulness? https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition