Self-proclaimed caffeine addict, over here (insert brunette girl hand-raised emoji). Mornings have always been rough for me, even when I was a child. I guess it’s just my genetics. Coffee is not only something that I love so much, but it’s a way of life for me. Without it, I tend to feel really groggy, tired, and foggy. Unlucky for me, though, coffee and anxiety are not BFF’s. There have been certain circumstances where I’ve had said goodbye to coffee and hello to tea, and I’ve noticed an overall benefit for my anxiety.
When I’m going through a really bad phase of anxiety, I actually have to cut out coffee (and sometimes caffeine entirely) until I’m in a better place mentally. I would never hate on my beloved coffee, but those “coffee jitters” that just about everyone has experienced actually produce symptoms very similar to a panic attack. Coffee is a stimulant and essentially takes the nervous system into sudden fight or flight to boost alertness, and with that can come side effects such as: shaking, upset stomach, nervousness, sweaty palms, and nauseousness. For those panickers out there -- these symptoms sound familiar don’t they?
If I must have caffeine during an extremely anxious time, I turn to tea because it gives me a longer, more even keel boost of energy instead of the high spike and subsequent low crash. Although some teas can actually have more caffeine than coffee, the molecule of caffeine found in tea is called theine, and is slightly different than that found in coffee. Caffeine is not attached to anything in coffee which means our body adsorbs, and essentially un-absorbs, the caffeine much quicker. Theine is connected to the tea leaf therefore it takes our body longer to break it down, causing a slower caffeine increase and decrease.
This tea is one for the books. Literally, as it’s been used forever in curing many ailments, and is most popularly known as tea that can boost your immune system. It has also been used as a mild sedative. Studies have shown that a constituent of chamomile can enhance GABA, which is the main neurotransmitter in the amygdala - the part of your brain that processes threat and can trigger an anxiety response (more on that from Dr. G. here). One study showed that a derivative of chamomile was more potent than diazepam, an anti-anxiety medication. There is no caffeine in this bad boy, so it’s great to sip on to relax before bed. This Citrus Chamomile from Soirée Tea is delish!!
Often times a side effect of anxiety includes an unsettled stomach. The menthol found in peppermint is a natural muscle-relaxer, and can help to ease the nausea and stomach pains that can come as a side effect of anxiety. The smell of peppermint is also often used in aromatherapy to reduce stress and this tea is also caffeine free.
This is my go-to for an afternoon pick me up or my first drink the morning if I’m not having coffee. This tea does have caffeine, so if you are on an anxiety bender, you may want to avoid it all together. If you are needing a little caffeine though, matcha is great because it has an amino acid in it called L-Theanine. Theanine increases the production of our friend GABA (mentioned above) and also dopamine which is that happy chemical you produce when you exercise. Therefore, matcha is an overall calming concoction for the brain even while it gives you that caffeine boost. My favorites are from Soirée Tea and Vital Proteins.
Is there anything better than a warm cup of cinnamon tea by the fire during a cold winter? Painting that scene alone makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. It’s also a nice way to curb any cravings for sweets prior to bedtime. On that note, refined sugars can make anxiety symptoms worse because the side effects are similar to the symptoms of a panic attack, and they ultimately inhibit the way the body deals with stress. Cinnamon has been proven to help regulate blood sugar levels, which means it addition to the warm and fuzzies, it can also help anxiety. The Black Tie Tiramisu from Soirée tea tastes like tiramisu and cinnamon is the first ingredient! The taste is so comforting.
The studies surrounding the benefits of turmeric are impressive. In fact, at one point I was taking a turmeric supplement because I was so on board with the benefits that turmeric can provide. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory (inflammation = illness), and a powerful antioxidant. In addition, turmeric can increase the production of DHA, which is also found in Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that boosting DHA can help with the prevention of anxiety. Also caffeine free and great to sip at any time during the day. I like this one from Soiree Tea because it includes peppercorns, which helps the body absorb turmeric.
I’m a big proponent of everything in moderation—aside from when I crush an entire pizza on a Sunday. While I don’t want to let anxiety take over my life, I do need to listen to my body when it’s giving me signals. I absolutely love the taste of coffee, but that being said, I can never have more than one cup of coffee a day due to the anxiousness that comes with it. Tea is a wonderful alternative for a caffeine boost if needed, and provides many mental and physical health benefits. As Sophie Turner (the Queen of the North) would say…”and that’s the tea.”
Written by Nicole Webber -
Positively Anxious Nic is a blog that talks about living your best life with anxiety. For more content visit www.positivelyanxiousnic.com or follow @positivelyanxiousnic on Instagram.