How to De-Stress with Tea

Story by Renae Sutton
Video by Anne Langan

Dealing with stress as a college student can feel somewhat like a free for all. We are in between being teenagers under our parents’ supervision and being full-time adults. We can choose to de-stress irresponsibly – being lazy, lashing out, drinking or even ahem recreational drugs. Alternatively, we can act like the responsible adults we are becoming and find healthy ways to de-stress, namely, with tea.

Benefits of Tea
This ancient drink has seemingly magical powers. Around exam time, tea can aid in mental focus, sleep and calm our nerves.

  • Black and green tea can help calm you down and focus at the same time.
  • Mint tea can help with attention and memorization.
  • Chamomile tea can help settle an upset stomach and bring on sleep.

To learn more, we spoke with Dr. Hildebrandt, PhD., RD, CMU Foods and Nutrition Services professor and Chippewa Sports Dietitian, about the de-stressing power of tea.

Dr. Hildebrandt suggested that we can use various types of teas at different times of day to give us maximum benefits. Here is what a tea schedule for exam week might look like:

  • Studying in the daytime: mint tea mixed with black tea
  • Studying at night: mint tea
  • Exam time: black tea, green tea or black and mint tea
  • Bed time and to help calm you when nervous: chamomile tea

Black Tea
Black tea (the kind the British love) and green tea contain an amino acid called theanine that has a calming effect on the body. They both also contain caffeine. Dr. Hildebrandt explains that when taken with theanine, caffeine helps you focus, rather than hyping you up. Natural Medicines notes that black tea can help with mental alertness.

Tea Preparation
If you’re new to black tea, you can try it the British way with milk and sugar. Chai is also a black tea and is generally taken with milk and a sweetener. Green teas are good with honey or sugar.

It is worth mentioning that black and green teas also contain antioxidants. Matcha tea is a powerhouse of antioxidants. If you are drinking tea for the antioxidants, though, avoid adding milk as it may nullify the antioxidant effects.

Mint Tea
Mint tea can benefit you in many ways, both by drinking it and by smelling its aroma. First of all, I’ve noticed that it can stave off the munchies. When I am spending many hours studying, I often find myself wanting to snack. I’m not hungry; I just feel the need to consume things to help fight the boredom that long study sessions bring.

However, mint tea helps keep away the munchies because it is so refreshing. Besides that, though, mint is known to help with concentration, which is perfect for study time and exam time. Mint tea has another benefit, and that is the pleasing aroma it exudes. Dr. Hildebrandt noted that, in order to enjoy the aromatherapy effects of mint tea, it is necessary to keep the lid off your cup.

Mint tea is a Moroccan specialty, so I went to my Moroccan sister-in-law, Naoual, for the recipe. Boil your water, then put it in a teapot. Add two scoops of 100% Ceylon black tea and a handful of fresh mint leaves. Let steep for five minutes. Pour in tea cups and add sugar or honey to taste.

However, if you’re not likely to spend the time to go through the above process, you can buy mint tea bags. Some mint tea bags contain black tea (like Naoual’s recipe above) and therefore will contain caffeine. Others do not. Be sure to read the ingredients list to determine the caffeine content.

Chamomile Tea
Let’s face it, cramming all night seems like a good idea at the time, but deep down you know that sleeping well is a better way to prepare for an exam. Do yourself a favor, schedule your studying so you finish at a decent hour, and then brew yourself some chamomile tea. It will help calm your test anxiety and let you sleep.

According to Natural Medicines, chamomile is effective against insomnia, anxiety, and stomach upset. It is strictly an herbal tea, so it contains no caffeine. This makes it perfect for bedtime.

Non-nutritional Benefits of Tea
Drinking hot tea can also be a stress reliever when it is enjoyed with friends. When I think about stress relief, I think about settling down, chatting and redirecting my thoughts away from whatever is worrying me. Hot tea is perfect for this. You can’t really enjoy hot tea if you’re rushing around campus while holding it in your hand. You have to sit and relax when you drink hot tea. Invite friends to sip with you and have a nice chat. Re-energize, re-prioritize, and reset. Those are the keys to stress relief.

During this stressful week, drink tea. It has so many nutritious benefits and it can help keep you away from doing other not-so-healthy stress-relieving activities.