Ah the holidays…. the most wonderful time of the year. Except for the crowds. Except for the stress. Except for the impending visits from in-laws. Yes, this time of year giveth and then it taketh away. In fact, it is the holiday stress the next week brings about that makes it an ideal time for cannabis: forget the holidays; it’s time for the holi-blaze.
Cannabis and Stress
But science doesn’t advocate for large amounts of cannabis as a way to manage the stress of the season (or stress that occurs any time of year). High amounts of THC tend to make a person feel more anxious (not exactly breaking news, of course).
The key is the moderation: when it comes to nerves, low-dose THC is indeed an ally
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago looked into this: they discovered that the amounts of THC able to produce even a “mild high” can add to stress rather than relieve it.
The study involved 42 young adults between the ages of 18 and 40 (yes, 40 is a “young adult” – mainly because I’m turning it next year). The volunteers were not heavy users but they did report experience with marijuana.
They were randomly divided into three groups: those who received 7.5 milligrams of THC; those who received 12.5 milligrams of THC; and those who received a placebo. They most likely opted to use ingested THC as opposed to inhaled because it’s easier to measure the dose accurately.
Those involved in the study attended two separate sessions two hours after consuming THC (or the placebo). In one session, they were asked to participate in a mock interview. They were also asked to count backward from a five-digit number by subtracting 13 (this went on for five minutes and was intended to induce stress). Other things they were asked to do were speak to lab assistants, discuss favorite books and movies, and play solitaire.
Low Doses of THC May Relieve Stress
The researchers found that those who received 7.5 milligrams experienced less stress than those who took either the placebo or the higher dose. The 12.5-milligram group, on the other hand, found the tasks more threatening and challenging. The increase in anxiety was described as “small but significant.”
Other studies like the one above are limited, but they do suggest that low-dose THC is helpful for stress reduction. Still, it comes with a fine line (in this case, it lies somewhere between 7.6 milligrams and 12.4 milligrams)
For those who use cannabis regularly, these studies may ring true or they might not seem that familiar at all. A variety of things, including your baseline anxiety level and the strain you smoke, all remain a factor.
Yet the research is interesting and something to be aware of as we head into this hectic time of year: less THC may be more in terms of stress control. CBD, of course, helps modulate stress too.
Ways to Reduce Stress During the Holidays
If you find this year especially challenging, you’re not alone: according to the American Psychology Association, people who live in the United States are more likely to feel their stress increase rather than decrease during the holidays. This is especially true for women.
So, what kind of things can we do (besides doobies) to help manage the holi-craze?
Try some of the following:
Delegate: Many people have a hard time delegating – after all, if you want to do something right, do it yourself. But the holidays are set up for delegation, particularly for parents. If you celebrate Christmas, for example, the idea that Santa knows when kids are sleeping and knows when they’re awake works to your advantage (Santa is clearly a stalker, but never mind that). Use this! Kids are especially willing to volunteer to help around the house this time of year. They might need a little push, sure, but that’s why blackmail is a thing. In other words, if they want a new video game console, their room better be tidy.
Keep a routine: From shopping to guests, from the eight nights of Hanukah to Christmas Eve and day, routine sort of flies out the chimney in December. But, trying to adhere to some sort of normalcy works for you. Don’t let the next month be a time when you forgo your workout routine or your self-care regime. You might have to deviate some, but try not to abandon ship altogether.
Expect something to go wrong: Many of us feel as if we need the holidays to be perfect – great-grandmother’s gravy boat better shine at the dinner table! But when we accept that something will go wrong, it’s easier to let go of the ideal. There’s no reason the holidays need to go off without a hitch… no matter what your mother says.
Volunteer: Volunteering during the holidays is especially hard – your plate is already full. Yet it’s also when charities need help the most. This provides options for you, as most organizations aren’t looking for long-term commitments; they only need you for an hour or two. It’s a great way to cultivate gratitude: your plate runneth over – now your cup will too.
Let go of the little stuff: The bulb that won’t light on the roof’s eave. The pie that’s burned around the crust. The present you got your coworker Sally that – it turns out! – she already has. There are a million little things that add to stress. But take a cue from Frozen (if you’re a parent, you know the movie by heart!) and let it go. The little things are little for a reason.
The holidays are filled with joy and filled with annoy and stress tends to tip the scales. The above might help you have a holly jolly holiday or you may prefer to wake up in 2018. But if you’re going to use cannabis as a way to manage the trials and tribulations, keep the study mentioned above in mind: in the tradition of elves, think small.