Freelance contribution by Indiana Lee
Stress and anxiety is something that everyone feels from time to time. A small amount can be good in that it prods us to accomplish a task that we’ve been putting off or encourages us to work through a difficult situation. However, intense or long-lasting periods of stress can wear on the body and lead to a variety of negative mental and physical side effects.
Unfortunately, chronic stress is something that more and more people are feeling. All of this stress can lead to burnout, which is described as long-term feelings of unmanaged stress, emotional exhaustion, diminished personal accomplishment, or cynicism towards work, loved ones, or other stressors.
Studies have indicated that about 33% of Americans report feeling extreme stress and upwards of three-quarters indicate that stress impacts either their mental or physical health. Almost half say that stress impacts their ability to sleep at night.
One underappreciated means of helping to address stress in our lives is through tea. Multitudes of evidence indicate that various types of tea naturally contain compounds that can help our bodies manage stress and anxiety as well as improve sleep. Many would argue that it is one of the original medicinal beverages.
Anxiety and Stress Reduction
Experts believe that stress and anxiety are likely at a generational high as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of people have been thrown into situations where they are uncertain about their jobs, families, or childcare situations. Unsurprisingly, medical professionals are consistently experiencing some of the highest levels of stress that lead to burnout as a result of high patient loads and the political complexity of COVID.
Though tea may not be able to remedy all of the factors that are causing stress and burnout, it can certainly help manage it. Numerous studies have indicated that herbal teas can reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body. This can help the body calm down, feel a bit more relaxed, and wind down after a period of stress.
Some of the best teas for combating burnout are readily found in most tea shops and include tisanes/herbal teas such as:
- Rooibos — a non-caffeinated, South Africa herb with multiple antioxidants and health benefits
- Chamomile — a well-known relaxation herb that has been linked to antigens that promote relaxation in neurotransmitters
- Mint — encompasses a family of plants, all of which have been linked to relaxation in the GI tissues, anesthetic effects in the nervous system, and antimicrobial properties
- Lavender — a flower herb that is linked to relaxation and anxiety reduction
Increased Focus and Performance
Another crippling symptom of high stress and burnout is an inability to focus on one particular thing or to absorb information in a meaningful way. Many students who experience test anxiety understand this type of stress well. Here, again, tea may not provide the cure, but it can help with managing stress and anxiety and increase productivity.
Many teas, particularly green tea and some black teas, contain the amino acid L-theanine. It isn’t produced naturally by humans, but its presence in the body can lead to several major benefits. Some of these benefits include better mental focus and increased cognitive performance.
Tea consumption has been tied to greater alertness, memory, and logical reasoning as well. If all of these benefits are coming together with each cup of tea, it follows that drinking tea is likely to increase productivity as well. Small benefits such as these can help someone to combat feelings of burnout that are caused by an inability to focus or retain information.
Combating Burnout Through Better-Quality Sleep
Nearly everyone at some point has suffered from a sleepless night. Whether this was caused by a screaming sick baby or a build-up of stress, chances are the next day or even the next couple of days were challenging. Lack of sleep is among one of the most significant, preventable causes of mental and physical health problems.
Certain types of tea have long been associated with sleep help such as chamomile. The tea is known to contain multiple active compounds that actually have a mild tranquilizing effect that can help reduce stress and induce more restful sleep. Numerous other types of teas such as lavender, valerian root, and magnolia bark can serve similar purposes.
Getting into the habit of drinking tea nightly can help to build better sleep patterns over the long term as well. For instance, brewing a small cup of your favorite evening tea as part of a nightly routine can help train your body to ready itself for bed. Following tea with a bedtime routine such as brushing your teeth, stretching, journaling, or meditating every night can signal your body to start getting itself into sleep mode.
Tea has a special place in our lives. Beyond that though, it can be a real benefit to our lives during some of our most trying times. Though tea may not be able to cure all of our problems, it can help combat some of them, particularly those associated with burnout.