While most of us need to work to pay our bills, too often the stress of work is cutting our lives short! According to the American Psychological Association, stress is common in the workplace. Just a few sources of work stress include: low salary, overwork, limited opportunity for advancement, poor job fit, lack of support, and work-family challenges. Certain jobs are highly unpredictable and workers have little control over their day-to-day activities, like police officers, medical interns, administrative assistants, waitresses and middle managers. Others are regularly exposed to dangerous and traumatic events, including firefighters, ambulance drivers, military personnel, and those involved in the criminal justice system.
In an ideal world, we would all do work we love, be paid well for our time and energy, and enjoy a flexible schedule so we can spend our remaining time with friends, family, and pursuing meaningful interests (whether that means online role playing games, bird watching in the woods or surfing at the beach!). But until that’s the norm, many of us need some help getting through the day!
Anyone can feel anxious from time to time, but stress is often ongoing. We feel it in our bodies, struggling to get out of bed in the morning, dragging ourselves to the coffee machine, preparing for yet another day of drudgery in some form. Stress reduces our creativity, makes us irritable, and creates a sense of overwhelm.
A continually stressful environment on the outside leads to oxidative stress in our insides. Oxidative stress arises with a poor balance between disease-causing free radicals and antioxidants (like those you get from fruits and veggies!). This imbalance can ultimately lead to both physical disease and mental health problems.
Work stress can lead to headaches, stomach problems, insomnia, trouble concentrating, anxiety, high blood pressure and depression. The immune system can be weakened, and diseases like heart disease can take over. To add insult to our body’s injury, the way we deal with stress often makes these physical symptoms worse! Overeating unhealthy foods, smoking or drugs and alcohol are common ways we “self medicate” that actually causes us more problems in the big picture. While eating a healthy diet and exercising can help, many of us are so used to swimming in toxic stress we have no idea how to climb out of the pool.
Researchers believe CBD is “neuroprotective,” meaning it helps keep the nervous system in a healthy, working condition and reduces oxidative stress. A recent survey found about half of CBD users polled specifically wanted to relieve stress and anxiety.
Even lab rats know about stress! In one study, rats were subjected to “inescapable stress” by restraining them for 60 minutes. CBD was injected into the rats before they got all “tied up” at very low, medium and higher doses. Interestingly, researchers found rats receiving medium or high doses had much lower levels of stress-related anxiety! To put it frankly, they didn’t give a rat’s “bottom” about being in “rat jail.” Hopefully your work life isn’t the equivalent of being imprisoned on the daily, but if it is – what do these results mean for you?
How you want to incorporate CBD into your day might depend in part on how you experience stress. Do you feel it all day every day? Or is your stress more sporadic, like when driving on crowded freeways to work in the morning or around times you have an important presentation?
For sporadic and fast relief, vaping CBD is the quickest option. CBD enters the bloodstream fastest when inhaled, in 30 seconds or less! Peak levels happen within 10 minutes and can last for 3-5 hours. Challenges with vaping, however, include uncertain dosage and added solvents. Depending on how long and hard one inhales, its hard to know exactly how much is getting into the system. In addition, some vape pens include a solvent called propylene glycol, which at high temperatures degrades into formaldehyde, potentially irritating the eyes and nose as well as increasing risks for asthma or cancer. “Solvent-free” products, however, are a possible solution.
For ongoing support throughout the day, oral use in the form of oil, capsules or edibles may help. Oils and tinctures are the second fastest way to feel the effects of CBD, typically within 30 minutes (10). Oils are best absorbed by dropping under the tongue and holding for at least 30 seconds, or spraying inside the cheeks. However, if oils are swallowed or added to food, it must be processed first by the liver so it takes longer to feel any effects. This is also the challenge with capsules or edibles – the easiest but also the most “inefficient” method of consuming CBD. Going through the digestive system takes time and how much is absorbed can vary depending on the food itself (for edibles) or how much and what else you have eaten earlier in the day. Edible CBD reaches peak levels within 1-2 hours but can take up to 6. There are various options for using CBD, so experimenting is usually helpful. At the same time, you must consider your work environment to decide what is the best method for your particular situation.
Especially if you are considering CBD usage around work, its important to stay up to date with the current law. While CBD can be obtained throughout the United States, laws are always changing and vary by state. Peter Grispoon, Harvard MD, has called the federal government’s perspective on CBD particularly “confusing.” You may want to be extra cautious if you work for or are under contract with the government.
Whether you want to use it on the job or beforehand might depend on the flexibility throughout your day and your company’s work environment. A laid-back environment may allow for vaping as needed throughout the day, however most are not so fortunate. Taking CBD before or after work may be a better option for most.
Like Vitagenne’s products, most CBD is made from hemp and it is possible, yet unlikely, that use will result in a positive drug test. By definition, for a plant to be considered hemp it must contain extremely low levels of THC, less than 0.3%. Consider this statement from a company that provides workplace drug testing: “If an employee is using hemp-derived CBD oil, they would have to consume above 1000-2000mg of the product, considered a relatively large amount, to test non-negative”. This is far higher than the most users will ever (and probably should ever!) consume. There are also likely individual differences in how the body metabolizes CBD. Even if you and your office buddy use the same dose and product, you may both have different results if tested.
CBD certainly has potential to help with work-related stress. Whether and how you choose to use it is a very personal decision, depending on your specific situation. No matter how you use your CBD, do your own research regarding the laws in your state as well as federal considerations. Talking to your doctor is always recommended! Be sure to observe how consuming CBD affects your work performance, and discontinue if you experience negative effects. Incorporating CBD into your lifestyle may help you lower toxic stress and enhance your experience at work, and considering we spend a majority of our lives in the workplace, anything that can help improve the experience is worth considering!
Sarah has a Ph.D in Sociology with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Arizona. Her current research spans the fields of trauma, psychology, neurobiology and sociology.