Two things you usually hear people say, and that you probably feel as well: We feel tired, and we’re stressed out.
The problem is that the solution for one only makes the other worse. When we’re tired, one of the first things we reach for is caffeine. That wakes us up—but it also contributes to stress.
Caffeine affects the adrenal glands, which (as the name would suggest) secrete adrenalin. That’s the hormone that gives you a rush. Adrenaline was designed to help you survive; it’s part of the fight or flight response, and that rush of energy is supposed to either help you fight off danger or run from it.
Your body can’t tell that the only real danger is the boss seeing you asleep on your computer keyboard. Each time it gets a hit of caffeine, and the adrenal glands go into action, your body thinks it’s responding to danger. In the long term, your adrenal glands can get stressed out and even malfunction. In the short term, the caffeine you drink is elevating your stress levels.
I drank coffee for years, until it began to affect my system in unpleasant ways. So I switched to tea. That worked for a while, and I used to enjoy that wake-up buzz I got from caffeine. Then one day, I noticed that the buzz was gone. In its place was a tight-jawed, anxious feeling. I had jitters. I felt anxious and nervous.
Nothing was going on, other than the caffeine in my morning drink. After a few more jittery mornings, I switched to decaf. It hasn’t happened since.
Even if your body doesn’t decide one day that it doesn’t like caffeine, it’s worth considering your adrenal glands being taxed every day, and your stress levels elevated constantly. This is a major factor in developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other debilitating illnesses.
Another couple of issues with caffeinated drinks: They’re expensive, costing hundreds of dollars a year, and they’re full of calories that put and keep extra pounds on people. That also contributes to the illnesses.
The solution for me came in the form of Maitri tea. Maitri means kindness in Sanskrit. It’s the principle of being kind to others, and to yourself. We are each the stewards of our bodies, which are resilient but don’t have much say in the decisions we make.
I set a Sankalpa (an intention) to treat my body as well as I possibly can. I listened to my body when it said it didn’t want any more gluten or caffeine.
But I love drinking something milky and warm in the morning, which is why I started making Maitri tea. This recipe is a variation on chai, the milky, sweet tea drink in India, but minus the caffeine. Yes, there are decaf chai mixes and boxed liquids on the market, but I find they have way too much sugar; I prefer making my own and adjusting the sweetness level. Besides, making your own fills the kitchen with a lovely spicy aroma. Definitely use whole spices instead of ground ones; you’ll be straining the liquid, and ground spices leave a sludge in the bottom of the pot.
Maitri tea ingredients:
6 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
1 piece fresh ginger about half the size of your thumb, cut into equal-sized slices
1 Tablespoon cardamom pods (usually available in the spice, Indian, Asian, or Spanish food aisles of your supermarket)
4 teabags of decaffeinated black tea (my favorite is the British PG Tips, which actually has bold flavor for decaf!)
Milk (any kind)
Honey or maple syrup
Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add the spices, reduce heat, and let mixture simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and add teabags, letting them steep for 5 minutes. Sit and have a nice meditation while the tea steeps. Strain, keeping spiced liquid and discarding solids. Jai! You have chai. Add milk and natural sweetener to your preferred level of lightness and sweetness. If you like your tea creamy, heat the milk before adding. Don’t forget to thank yourself.