Stress is all around us in 2020. It lurks in our neurotic handwashing, around the precariousness of our gainful employment, and it is stimulated by negative headlines day after day. All three of these forces can quickly create a downward spiral in even the most optimistic individuals. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to disconnect and chill out, like cannabis, which is known to help against stress and anxiety.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the science behind stress and anxiety, how to limit its effects and, finally, we’ll introduce you to seven strains of cannabis that are proven stress relievers. Ultimately, you’ll walk away with a new set of tools for taking on the rest of the year.
Defining stress in 2020
Stress and anxiety can come in many forms. They can be the result of being overworked, living in a constant state of worry, or from something more concrete, like financial shortcomings. What’s more, as these negative feelings mount, they can quickly compound. What was once a small problem soon becomes the source of an all-encompassing feeling of dread.
That’s why it’s important to stay proactive with these tried and true techniques. A great place to start is by keeping a journal, sometimes called a stress diary.
Not too dissimilar from a daily journal, a stress diary gives you the opportunity to unpack recently experienced feelings of anxiety. The task is simple: Take time each day to identify a recently stressful event. Then, describe the event, how you reacted in the moment and how you felt after the event concluded.
You can include any of the physical feelings too, such as a headache, an upset stomach and so on. Ideally, you should write down as many features of the experience as possible. Then, after a few days or weeks, come back and look through this journal.
Having a backlog of stressful events and your reaction to those events will help you analyse any patterns in your behaviour. Perhaps you’ll notice that you often become very stressed when you speak with a specific person. Or you might notice that you’re often stressed before project deadlines approach. Whatever the reaction is, keeping a stress journal can help you better identify the source as well as your personal coping mechanisms.
Don’t be alarmed if the stressful event is smoking cannabis either. All of the observations are positive insofar as they become actionable. If you find that, when you smoke cannabis, you become very anxious, it’s very likely that you may need to switch strains, explore cannabidiol (CBD) as an alternative or even take a break from cannabis.
Once you’ve identified the source, it becomes much easier to take action and turn those stressful situations into fruitful experiences. This may mean having a conversation with the person who brings stress into your life or, if you’re constantly panicked about deadlines, it’s possible you may need to review how you manage your time.
As you begin adding more events, and you become more precise in identifying sources of stress, you can also begin including other activities. Including a brief note about any alcohol consumed, how many hours of sleep you got or even what sort of exercise you did that day can also be very helpful. If you’re a regular drinker, for instance, reducing your alcohol consumption can have an immediate impact on your stress levels.
This is because studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between alcohol and the stress hormone known as cortisol. This is essentially your ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone, and it’s an incredibly important portion of human function.
If left unchecked, however, it can have deleterious effects on the body. Like an alarm system that continues to sound without end, treating stress with alcohol will continue to trigger the release of cortisol.
Cannabis can have similar effects, but only in large doses. Research from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago reported:
‘Low levels tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, does reduce stress, but in a highly dose-dependent manner: very low doses lessened the jitters of a public-speaking task, while slightly higher doses — enough to produce a mild “high” — actually increased anxiety.’
Concluding, stress is a multi-faceted force. And solving it demands a multi-faceted approach. It means identifying the source of the problem (attempting to solve it), and also taking care of your body via a healthful diet, exercise and getting enough sleep. These activities are your primary defences against stress and anxiety.
And while both cannabis and alcohol can promote relaxation, they should never be used as a cure-all. Moreover, if one decides to include these two substances, it’s also important to consider the downsides of doing so. Alcohol is well known to have negative effects on your health. Cannabis’ negative side effects are far fewer, however.
Related: The Dangers of Marijuana Consumption
And, now that there are many ways to consume cannabis besides smoking, these side effects are very limited in the modern era. But, with so many strains on the market, which cannabis is the best for managing stress and anxiety?
The best cannabis strains for managing anxiety and stress
As mentioned in Strain Insider’s previous coverage, terpenes play a huge role in determining the effects of a particular cannabis strain.
For the purposes of this article, however, the primary terpenes that readers need to be aware of are limonene, caryophyllene and myrcene. These are the technical terms for citrus, pepper and hoppy flavours, respectively. Indeed many of these scents can be found outside of the world of cannabis.
Along with terpenes, users should also be aware of other characteristics, including the differences between Sativa and Indica, or the balance between THC and CBD.
CBD-heavy strains are traditionally more relaxing than their THC counterparts. The following list takes into consideration all of these components, but due to the diversity of reactions among users, this list is by no means exhaustive. Everyone has a preferred strain, and safely experimenting with different strains is the best way to identify yours.
The top seven cannabis strains for managing stress and anxiety are ACDC, Granddaddy Purple, Jack Herer, Canna Tsu, Jilly Bean, Remedy and Purple Urkle.
Despite its name, ACDC is a CBD-dominant strain known for its relaxing effects on its users. It includes pepper notes due to the high concentration of caryophyllene. There are also very few cerebral effects, which is why it tops our list of most relaxing cannabis strains. It’s not uncommon to find derivatives of this strain in teas and lotions too.
ACDC plant. Source: Leafly
Legendary for its colour, flavour and effects, Granddaddy Purple has a relatively high THC percentage compared to other strains on this list. But, like many other Indica strains, this cannabis is perfect for a relaxing evening at home. Users should still be wary of this strain due to the THC levels, however.
3. Jack Herer
Jack Herer is a popular Sativa strain with varying levels of THC. It doesn’t offer any sort of couch-lock and can be best enjoyed between a small group of friends. This is because of the cerebral, but not overwhelming effects, of this strain. Though the high is mellow, it may not be best suited for users looking to catch up on sleep.
This strain is relatively new to the market. However, despite the fact that it just recently emerged, Canna-Tsu has already attracted quite the following. This newfound popularity is in part due to the bud’s appeal to new users and those seeking stress relief. It balances both mild levels of THC and CBD, offering users aid against mental and physical ailments. Consumers report citrus and earth flavours, both terpenes well-known for their relaxing qualities.
Canna-Tsu plant. Source: Pacific Seed Bank
5. Jilly Bean
Just as the strain’s name indicates, this fruity cannabis is light, euphoric and perfect for a lightly energising wake-and-bake. The THC levels are around average, but its Indica roots keep users from feeling any sense of paranoia or discomfort. Naturally, paying close attention to dose and one’s personal preferences play a role in these effects. Rumour has it that this bud was designed to help specifically with menstrual cramps too.
This is the most CBD-dominant strain on the list, coming in at around 16 percent and very low levels of THC. Remedy can be identified by its woody notes and is primarily used for pain relief in medical patients. It’s also a great choice for first-time users looking for an almost exclusively body high producing cannabis strain.
7. Purple Urkle
Some more experienced users may be shocked to see Purple Urkle on this list due to the strain’s high potency. Coming in it at a whopping 21.6 percent average THC level, this cannabis strain demands caution, especially if one is prone to paranoia or anxiety. That being said, its sedative effects might be the perfect release over a long weekend. Just don’t forget the munchies!
Purple Urkle plant. Source: So Oregon Seeds
Staying anxiety- and stress-free with cannabis
As mentioned above, these seven cannabis strains are not the only buds that can help reduce stress and anxiety. There may even be some cases in which some strains, notably Purple Urkle, could increase stress among some users. This is why it is always important to start small and wait for the effects to arrive.
Users can improve their experience by creating a relaxing environment with close friends as well. Staying hydrated, eating beforehand and avoiding intense situations are all important for improving your cannabis experience.