I’ve always had my mind first and foremost on my career: I worked hard in high school, got a scholarship to university, and busted my ass to get a 3.8. But there was always one part of the whole “build a career” thing that threw me off, one thing that I always struggled with and hindered my career development: networking.
I HATE IT. It’s not that I’m antisocial — I love a gathering with friends as much as anyone — but something about the canned, formalistic, “hey how ya doing, fine how are you” kind of interactions that are the bedrock of networking makes my skin crawl.
In business-related social situations I clam up and get nervous. I’m terrified that I’m going to say the wrong thing. I sometimes stutter and blurt things out. I panic and see embarrassment in people’s eyes. It’s rough. BUT. Recently I’ve found something that I never expected to find — a remedy for my anxiety that isn’t a pharmaceutical. Enter CBD.
CBD: a natural alternative to pharmaceutical anti-anxiety meds?
I first discovered CBD through my mom, who’s a naturopath. She recommended it in topical form for some joint pain I’d been experiencing due to weight-lifting. I tried it and had some mild success, and in my curiosity about how and why it worked I dove DEEP into the science on CBD.
When I read that some studies had successfully used CBD to treat anxiety I decided to give it a shot, but I was very skeptical at first — how is this non-psychoactive compound supposed to relieve my anxiety, I thought it’s non-psychoactive? Well, turns out it’s a little more complicated than that.
It’s true that may anxiety always felt like more a physical sensation than anything: a sick, topsy-turvy feeling in my stomach that left me uneasy and agitated. And it turns out that aligns with the science: anxiety, along with feelings like nausea and pain, is in part regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Pain-sensation, nausea, and lack of appetite can all result from imbalances in the ECS, and CBD can function like a tonic for the ECS, diminishing these maladies.
That’s the theory, anyway. I put it to the test.
Daily dosing CBD: an effective anxiety reliever
My first test was a simple one: consume a moderate dose of CBD (about 25mg) twice a day, (once before work and once after), to see if it helped reduce my anxiety at all. And to my surprise the physical sensation of anxiety, the ball of tension that resided in my stomach, dissipated a bit upon regular CBD dosing.
This relief was also dose-dependent: when I upticked my dosage from 25mg to 40mg, and then 40mg to 50mg, I saw noticeable improvements in my anxiety. At work, I could now cruise through conversations that once consumed me with worry and left my heart racing. It really worked well for me. But taking CBD to relieve my normal daily anxiety is one thing, could CBD also alleviate stress and anxiety over a big event? Something that would normally get my stress levels way above normal?
On to the second test: the networking event test.
Trying CBD before a networking event
Even just reaching out to people over email or LinkedIn was stressful and anxiety-inducing enough for me, but the thought of an actual networking event — a conference for my work that would require me to socialize and interact — was mortifying. Yet that’s the exact calamity that befell me when my boss requested I attend a convention in Houston.
This convention would involve lunches, dinners, meetings, and every sort of socialization. Yep, I was in trouble.
But I had CBD in my back pocket. It was a game changer for daily anxiety, so why not this?
In the hour preceding the first day of the convention I took a whopping 50mg dose of CBD. I felt the cool, relieving wave creep down my esophagus and into my stomach, and the terror gripping me slipped away a little. By the time I was on the floor of the convention I felt like one cool cat.
Lunch was the first real test — I had to go out with some prospective clients and get on their good side. This is always the part of networking that kills me: once I’m comfortable with people I can talk to anyone, but breaking through the early formalities and forging a relationship is the hard part.
But that difficulty with the getting-to-know-ya phase is largely just a result of that pit in my stomach from anxiety. It distracts me and makes me uneasy, so did I do any better without it? Did the CBD get me over my anti-social hump?
The answer? Yes, kind of!
The CBD relaxed me just enough to keep the conversational juices flowing. The calmness and relaxation also let me quick build confidence: I got into a rhythm quickly, joking around and talking about the convention, and managed to maintain this vibe throughout.
After the lunch ended I felt a huge wave of relief come over me: I’d done it, and it hadn’t that bad! The usual things blocking me from connecting with people went away, and with these barriers gone I managed to create some real relationships.
This is how I would describe the benefit of CBD for anxiety and (especially social anxiety): it removes some internal psychological barriers that can lead you to doubt yourself, lose confidence, and have a difficult time talking. It’s by no means a miracle cure for social anxiety, but it can help “lubricate the joints” so to speak. It worked for me!