Feeling panicky first thing in the morning, or struggling to switch off before bed? You’re not alone. ‘Stress levels for most of us have never been higher,’ explains Dr Aamer Khan, from the Harley Street Skin Clinic. ‘When we are acutely stressed, we produce adrenaline and cortisol which set us up for fight or flight.’
‘Long term, high levels of cortisol cause thinning of the blood vessels, metabolic instability, weight gain and weakening of the skin. It can also affect the immune system, lowering our capacity to heal. It’s harder to fight infection, so they last longer and can cause more damage,’ he adds.
While we’re all adapting to a new normal and working through a collective grief that has caused our stress levels to soar, there are many ways to ease anxiety and make this period less unsettling.
‘The really important thing to realise is that how you feel internally is the predominant factor in the quality of the experience that you are having,’ explains breathwork coach James Dowler. ‘It's therefore really important that we use practices such as breathwork, meditation and yoga so that when we meet our external experience we are as clear and coherent internally as we can possibly be.’ From broad-spectrum CBD oil to stress-busting breathwork, here are some simple ways to help reduce your stress levels…
Let’s get physical, physical
Don't skip your HIIT session - now is the time to engage in exercise. ‘Despite often feeling too tired to exercise it really does boost our energy levels and help to reduce stress,’ explains nutritionist and Pilates teacher Ruth Tongue.
‘It increases the circulation of endorphins (the ‘happy hormones’) and boosts oxygen supply to our cells,’ explains Ruth. ‘The great news is that you’ll feel this response even with light or moderate exercise, so walking around the block can give you the same feeling as an extensive workout session,’ she adds.
‘All exercise will boost endorphins, but if you’re already struggling with a lot of stress, anxiety or poor sleep, the worst thing you can do is throw in tons of high-intensity workouts. This just puts more pressure on your body and hormonal system. Yoga, Pilates, gentle swimming, cycling or walking will help to soothe the nervous system, particularly if they include that mindful element,’ Ruth adds.
CBVIT recommends: Try streaming YouTube yoga videos such as Yoga with Adrienne, logging onto one of Ruth’s Pilates With Ruth Zoom session, getting your om on in one of Fly London’s Slow Flow Instagram Lives or even just take a walk around the block when you feel that flutter of anxiety coming on.
Cook up a storm
Constantly reaching for comfort food? While that mac and cheese might feel great at the time, try to opt for a slow-release meal instead. ‘Sugar, refined carbs and caffeinated drinks send us on a physical and mental energy rollercoaster - especially when we’re already experiencing a tumult of emotions,’ explains Ruth.
‘So, avoid having a very high carbohydrate lunch like a bagel unless you have a workout planned. Instead, high protein snacks with slow-release carbohydrates are the perfect combo,’ she adds. ‘Think almonds with a piece of fruit, hummus and oatcakes, Greek yoghurt with some berries and walnuts or a couple of boiled eggs with a slice of wholegrain toast and butter.’
James agrees that nutrition is hugely important at this time. ‘Eat whole single ingredient foods and try and eat in accordance with what your body needs metabolically. Some people will do better on high protein, high-fat diets and others will do better with a higher concentration of carbohydrates. Use this time to connect to your body and start to understand what it needs to be nourished,’ he adds.
CBVIT recommends: Why not use this time to rustle up some well-balanced meals? Alongside feeding your body, cooking requires mindfulness which can be an instant anxiety-buster.
Reach for some CBD
‘Stress has been proven to reduce the body's immune response,’ explains James. ‘It's a catch 22 – we are stressed about not wanting to get ill or being ill, but doing so makes us much more susceptible to infection.’ The key? Focus on keeping calm as soon as the symptoms of stress arrive.
When the COVID-19 anxiety cocktail kicks in (being in lockdown, not seeing friends and family, job uncertainty), broad-spectrum CBD can help keep you calm. In a recent double-blind study, where some participants were given a placebo, and others an oral dose of CBD, CBD was proven to help reduce anxiety and also change the brain’s initial reaction to experience said anxiety.
Try the stress-busting effect for yourself. If you’re new to CBD, start with a low percentage like the CBVIT 5% Active Hemp CBD Oil which is a broad-spectrum tincture containing 500mg of CBD. Place 5-10 drops under your tongue as this allows the fastest absorption into the bloodstream and wait for 60 seconds before swallowing. If you’ve been using CBD for a while, you can move to the 11% or 16% formula.
Immerse yourself in breathwork, sound and meditation
While you might not be able to visit your favourite yoga studio, you can take the elements – particularly the breathing – of those stress-reducing classes and incorporate them into your own at-home regime.
‘Pranayama techniques such as box breathing (nasal breathing - in four, hold four, out four, hold four) and cadence breathing (nasal breathing - in four, out six) can be used to downregulate the nervous system and move the body into the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system,’ explains breathwork coach James. ‘This is the branch of your nervous system that your body needs to be in for you to feel relaxed, calm and most importantly for your body to heal.’
CBVIT recommends: James offers one-to-one sessions which can help you perfect the techniques he teaches. Re:Mind Studio is also hosting sound bath and breathwork classes online, or check out The Sound Therapist on Instagram.
When it comes to helping you maintain a sense of normality, routines and rituals are incredibly important. Taking the time to dedicate to self-care might not seem particularly helpful, but it can decidedly improve our outlook. ‘I’ve found that taking extra time on my skincare has really helped me block out a lot of noise and news that can cause me crippling anxiety,’ explains Chloe, a beauty journalist from London. ‘The ritual of a skincare regime reminds me to slow down, spend time on myself and gives a sense of calm and stillness to my days,’ she adds.
Indulging in a lengthy self-care session can have amazing mood-boosting and stress-busting effects. Take the time to indulge in some nourishing body care, like the Active Hemp CBD Oil. Give yourself a deep massage, put on a relaxing Spotify playlist, and then bliss out in the bath for half an hour.
CBVIT recommends: Even dry body brushing in the morning can be enough to signal to yourself to slow down. Practice mindfulness as you massage in the Active Hemp Body Butter by really focussing on the sensation of the product on your skin.