In the One Project’s collection of anxiety stories, Mariana describes her “circle of hell”:
“I rehearse all the possible negative outcomes of most things in my mind all day. I practice the lines. My body clutches and my mind races to the deepest darkest corners of my fears. … It’s death, it’s an accident, it’s failure, it’s pain, it’s being mocked and lied to. I’ve experienced the tortuous cycle for far too long, and some days it is as if its bitter toxic debris still rippled through my veins.”
A 2014 Statistic Canada study reveals that at least three million Canadians are afflicted by mood and/or anxiety disorders. And more than a quarter of these folks admitted that “their disorder(s) affected their life ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ in the previous 12 months.”
About 50% of anxiety sufferers had trouble working and had to modify their job conditions to keep going, and 35% had to stop working altogether.
Luckily, there are some strategies that can help ease anxiety and quiet those racing, anxious thoughts. Everything from the food you eat to how much you sleep can influence how anxious you feel. There’s also something else you can try to help calm yourself: cannabis.
Types of Anxiety & Their Symptoms
Most types of anxiety come with the same or similar symptoms such as:
- A racing heart
- A deep sense of impending doom
Some of the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Substance-induced anxiety disorder
What often connects the different disorders is a pronounced fear of what’s coming down the road, serving as a perfect, if unwanted, companion to depression and past regrets.
RELATED CONTENT: HOLISTIC APPROACHES TO RELIEVING DEPRESSION
Traditional Anxiety Treatments
Traditional treatments for anxiety include psychotherapy and various medications, such as:
- Selected antidepressants
- Anti-anxiety medications, such as one called buspirone
- Beta-blockers (for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms)
Some of the medications are very powerful, with possible risks and side effects. So, increasingly people are looking for holistic alternatives to these medications, either complementing or replacing traditional treatments.
More Natural Methods of Treating Anxiety
But besides pharmaceuticals, there are a host of lifestyle changes that anxiety sufferers can try—and science backs them up as clinically proven ways to help the body relax and release mood-boosting and calming chemicals.
- Exercise: Studies show exercise is a good way to burn off nervous energy and relieve stress.
When you work out, your brain releases endorphins, chemicals that make you feel good. As most fitness experts agree, the best exercise is the one you stick with. Find whatever workout you like and do it regularly. Try to get in at least 30 minutes a day of cardio—even walking for half an hour a day will get those endorphins flowing.
- Meditation: Mindful meditation is an increasingly popular therapy, combatting worries about the future with a focus on the present.
Folks also turn to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) as a way to combine meditation, mindful breathing exercises and therapy.
- Avoiding alcohol, recreational drugs, caffeine and nicotine: All of these substances can worsen anxiety.
For example, caffeine is a stimulant so it can make consumers more anxious and depressed, messing with a healthy sleep regimen.
- Eating healthy: A better diet—focusing on fruits, vegetable, whole grains and fish—may reduce stress. Though more research is needed, there have been studies that show a healthy diet helps quiet anxious thoughts.
One 2017 12-week study tested a Mediterranean diet on people with moderate to severe depression. At the conclusion of the study, participants showed improvement on tests that measure depression disorders.
- Getting more sleep: It’s easier to shake off the shackles of anxiety and depression when well rested.
Regular, therapeutic sleep helps your brain deal with anxiety and as we all know, sleep affects so many aspects of our lives. So, letting your body rest will help stop those anxious, racing thoughts.
Taking Marijuana to Reduce Anxiety
Among the alternative methods of combatting anxiety, marijuana in its different forms is getting more serious attention. Medical News today, for example, cites a 2015 study, examining cannabidiol (CBD) oil as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders.
While acknowledging more in-depth research needs to be done, the study concludes: “Preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple [anxiety] disorders.”
In Brazil, researchers conducted a small-scale, double-blind study of patients coping with generalized social anxiety. Participants in the 2011 study reported that consuming CBD led to a marked decrease in anxiety. The patient reports were backed up with brain scans showing patterns of blood flow that were in keeping with an anti-anxiety effect.
Additionally, in a 2017 Washington State University Study stress test, cannabis consumers reported lower stress levels and had lower cortisol levels (a biomarker related to stress) than that of non-users.
Cannabis Strains to Relieve Anxiety
When looking for cannabis strains that relieve anxiety, the rule of thumb is to use ones that favor CBD over tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or at least balance it, since the psychoactive effects of THC are sometimes associated with anxiety. CBD, on the other hand, often acts as a sedative.
Here are a few marijuana strains that are rich in CBD that could help folks struggling with anxiety:
- ACDC: Packed with CBD and little to no THC, ACDC is a good strain for medical marijuana patients seeking relief for anxiety and other conditions without the negative effects sometimes associated with cannabis.
- Cannatonic: A cross between MK Ultra and G13 Haze, Cannatonic is a high-CBD hybrid. Originally bred to have a 1:1 THC-to-CBD ratio, some plants may have a CBD content as high as 17% with a THC content that’s seldom higher than 6%.
- Canna-Tsu: With a 1:1 CBD and THC content, Canna-Tsu allows you to stay clear-headed and high functioning during use, counterbalancing the THC effects. This hybrid strain is a mix of Cannatonic and Sour Tsunami, and has a calming, anti-stress effect.
- Jack Herer: Often described as the ideal sativa strain, Jack Herer has distinctive cerebral effects that can uplift, spur creativity and encourage intellectual inquiry. The balanced and relaxing aspects of this marijuana strain can address a wide variety of medical conditions, including ADD/ADHD, depression and anxiety.
However you treat your social anxiety, you should first talk to a medical professional to consider the variety of options. If your doctor isn’t up to date on medical marijuana, you can talk to a knowledgeable health practitioner online though HelloMD’s Talk to a Health Practitioner service.
Photo credit: Riccardo Mion