Staying Calm in a Stressed-Out World
We’ve had a lot to stress out about in the last few years: COVID-19, lockdowns, loss of income, not to mention the polarizing politics that have dominated the media…
Unfortunately, all of this stress has led to some very severe consequences.
According to Mental Health America (MHA), which screened 1.5 million individuals in 2020, the number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed.
From January to September 2020, 315,220 people took the MHA anxiety screen — a 93 percent increase over the 2019 total number of anxiety screens. In addition, 534,784 people took the depression screen, a 62 percent increase over the 2019 total number of depression screens.
The number of people screening with moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety has continued to increase throughout 2020 and remains higher than rates prior to COVID-19.
In September 2020, the rate of moderate-to-severe anxiety peaked, with over 8 in 10 people who took an anxiety screen scoring with moderate-to-severe symptoms.
More than 8 in 10 people who took a depression screen scored with symptoms of moderate-to-severe depression consistently since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
These lockdowns haven’t been easy for those already struggling with alcohol use disorder or other serious drug addictions.
According to a 2020 December study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, harmful drinking among adults increased the longer they spent at home in lockdown.
The findings reveal that heavy alcohol consumption among binge drinkers — those who, within two hours, consumed five or more drinks for men and four or more for women — increased an extra 19% for every week of lockdown.
The risk of increased alcohol intake overall for binge drinkers was more than double that of people who did not drink excessively (60% vs 28%), especially those with depression or a history of the disease.
Thankfully, there are much better alternatives to binge drinking. Siesta Botanicals offers a variety of products: kava, kratom, Delta-8, yerba mate, as well as stress-reducing Ayurvedic botanicals.
Kava is a tall evergreen shrub in the pepper family native to the South Pacific Islands. Traditionally, kava has been used as a ceremonial drink, consumed to bring about a state of relaxation during rituals and social gatherings.
The active compounds in kava are called kavalactones, which account for 3-20% of the root’s dry weight. Research has shown that kavalactones may help reduce anxiety and pain. Kavalactones appear to work by impacting the brain’s neurotransmitters, primarily GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which decreases nerve activity.
Many people report that kava helps with anxiety. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, researchers looked at the effectiveness of kava on patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). A total of 75 participants were enrolled in a 6-week trial of a kava extract versus placebo. The findings revealed a significant reduction in anxiety for the kava group compared with the placebo group.
Kava may also help with insomnia, often with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs or over-the-counter sleep enhancers. It is believed that a specific type of kavalactone, called kevain, may be behind kava’s sedative effect.
In a pilot study of 24 patients struggling with stress-induced insomnia , researchers looked at the effectiveness of kava and valerian separately. Stress was measured in three areas: social, personal and life events. Insomnia was measured in three areas also: time to fall asleep, hours slept and waking mood.
According to the findings, total stress severity was significantly relieved by both compounds individually, with no significant differences between them. There was also improvement with the combination, significantly in the case of insomnia.
Delta-8-THC has been described as a “middle ground” between hemp, CBD and delta-9-THC (the most common cannabinoid in THC).
Specifically, delta-8 THC is a double bond isomer of delta-9 THC. Because delta-8 is so structurally similar to delta-9, it tends to exert similar effects. But even this subtle shift in a single carbon bond can cause quite a difference in experience.
For example, both delta-9 and delta-8 bind to CB1 receptors; however delta-8-THC seems to have a reduced affinity for these receptors. Therefore, delta 8-THC may be more stable and less potent. It has also been estimated to be anywhere between half to two-thirds as potent as delta-9.
According to PotGuide.com, “Delta-8 can be psychoactive for some consumers, just less so than delta-9. A good way to think about it generally is something like the ‘Weed Light’: many of the effects and benefits of delta-9, though toned down a few steps.”
“It is still euphoric and stimulates appetite. It can energize or relax the consumer depending on the larger terpene and cannabinoid profile, similar to delta-9. And yes, it can induce some of the typical heady, psychoactive experience.”
For many, however, Delta-8 may come with fewer unwanted side effects (like paranoia and anxiety).
“While many people use cannabis to help with social anxiety, delta-9 effects tend to be too racy or hard to focus under certain circumstances. When clarity is higher on the priority list, a regular cannabis consumer might reach for delta-8 above delta-9,” according to PotGuide.com.
If you’re feeling down-in-the-dumps and are looking for a gentle pick-me-up, you might be interested in yerba mate, a popular South American herbal tea that outrivals even green tea in its antioxidant content.
Yerba mate contains trace amounts of every vitamin and mineral your body requires, as well as seven out of ten essential amino acids. It will also give you an energy boost with its 85 milligrams of caffeine per cup. This is almost double the amount of caffeine found in black tea but less than half that of coffee (100 to more than 200 mg per cup). As a bonus, many yerba mate drinkers say it increases alertness and energy like coffee, but it doesn’t have the same jittery effect.
Yerba mate contains an array of beneficial compounds including the following:
- Caffeoyl derivatives: The main health-boosting antioxidants in yerba mate.
- Xanthines: Stimulating compounds including caffeine and theobromine, which are also found in tea, coffee and chocolate.
- Saponins: Bitter compounds with anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.
- Polyphenols: This is a large group of antioxidants, tied to a reduced risk of many diseases.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, belongs to a class of medicinal herbs known as adaptogens and has been used for more than 3,000 years to help reduce stress, improve stamina and increase concentration levels.
Many of ashwagandha’s health benefits are attributed to its high levels of withanolides, hormone precursors that can convert into human physiological hormones to help bring balance to the body.
Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help improve sleep and reduce stress. In one review, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, ashwagandha was shown to outperform psychotherapy by reducing anxiety in a group of subjects by 56.5% compared to only 30.5% in the psychotherapy group.
In an overview of ashwagandha in the African Journal of Traditional. Complementary and Alternative Medicines, the authors write, “Being a powerful adaptogen, it enhances the body’s resilience to stress. Ashwagandha improves the body’s defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.”