We live in high stress environments. With jobs, school, families, social groups, the economy, bills to pay and your health to concentrate on, it's no wonder stress quickly becomes a typical part of the American adult life. Worries are amplified through constant noise from our many TV channels, limitless radio, the unending internet and ringing smartphones. Our days become so rapid that often, if we don't notice it, stress invades our minds and bodies and reeks some serious havoc. I'm beginning to get stressed just thinking about it!
Effects of stress on the body include, but are not limited to:
- Anger or Anxiety
- Restlessness or lack of focus
- Depression or social withdrawal
- Fatigue or sleep problems
- Muscle tension
- Chest pain
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Increased use of alcohol or tobacco
Wouldn't it be wonderful to eliminate stress and be able to enjoy each part of your day relaxed and to the fullest? This isn't just wishful thinking...it is something you can attain! You may be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard of the health benefits of tea; from it's anti-oxidant effects and ability to keep you alert to it's soothing and healing properties. What many people may not know is tea, and even the act of making daily hot tea, has powerful effects on decreasing stress and in turn many of the associated symptoms.
For centuries, tea has been thought to decrease anxiety, unwind the mind and create alertness in the body producing calm feelings and reducing tension. A few years ago, a study in the journal, Pharmacology, determined that men who drank hot tea in stressful environments had no change in many indicators of stress, but did show a decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, faster than the group who did not drink hot tea. Another study conducted at the City University of London sought to measure the effect of tea at inducing a calm state during an anxiety episode. The results concluded the group who drank tea, as opposed to the group who only had hot water, were reported to have less anxiety than they did before the experiment even started! While the evidence of how hot tea specifically decreased anxiety is unclear, the study encourages more research in the effects of tea on mental health.
I believe one theory holds a lot of weight when trying to understand how tea decreases stress in a hectic environment: the act of making and drinking tea provides a healthy ritual and meditative moment in your day. Taking the time to boil water, steep and drink your hot tea is another way of pressing the pause button. By creating a routine whose purpose is so simple and so productive, you can allow your body to chill out and reset to "relax" before heading back into stressful activities. According to Webster's dictionary, "to meditate" is to engage in contemplation or reflection. A hot beverage forces us to sit still and go slowly. What better time to contemplate, reflect and reset than when we are sitting still, unable to do anything but go slowly?
Coffee drinks, alcohol, sodas and energy drinks often use high levels of caffeine, sugar, chemicals and other agents that send us back into the world amped up for only a short amount of time before crashing harder than before creating a greater physical harm and more mental stress. By disconnecting from the world for a few minutes and truly enjoying the smell, taste, warmth, comfort of your tea, you are choosing a healthy way to de-stress and regroup so that you can tackle the rest of your day with poise and focus!
Aside from the ritual of brewing your daily tea, plenty of teas are believed to further reduce stress and stress symptoms through their physical components. These teas contain ingredients such as chamomile, valerian root, St. John's wort and lavendar just to name a few!