Teas and Herbs for Holiday Anxiety

The holidays are laden with booby traps and potentially hazardous encounters.
 Festive Holiday Tea to Sooth Your Anxiety
Festive Holiday Tea to Sooth Your Anxiety

Making small talk at awkward office parties, getting trampled under last-minute sales, preparing for your mother to come over and have dinner at your living space for the very first time. (This is terrifying. Your nerves pop at the prospect of her all-seeing gaze upon the kitchen table. She's going to judge the efficacy of your holiday spread against hers, her mother's, and her grandmother's. You have three generations not to embarrass. Heaven help you.)

All things considered, the holidays are simply not a good time for stress.

However, before panic sets and you start scanning Craigslist for under-the-table therapy, the answer to your anxiety is right in the kitchen. Look beyond the steaming pots and pans to your spice cabinet, and make sure that you have these essentials on hand:

Cloves. Small, dark, and sultry, but with immense flavor inside. Save these from your pumpkin pie collection and drop them into a cup whenever you feel that the world is becoming a little too overwhelming, and take the moment to allow the spice to open up your circulation and breathe. Cloves also aid in digestion — and when your gut is happy, then everything else is happy as well.

Lemon Balm. It's called "Balm" for a reason. Like a healing salve for your troubles, this herb soothes your senses with a clean, fresh odor, and has historically been used to reduce inflammation and fever — classic symptoms of the holiday headache. According to Adagio, Lemon Balm has even been identified by recent studies as a form of anti-anxiety treatment. Much better than the drugstore.

Cocoa Nibs. They say that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. Steeping these allows you to enjoy a rich, pungent cup to satisfy those cravings that emerge during times of stress. Cacao also contains magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that promotes nerve health and recovery. If you're sensitive to caffeine, there's about as much as in a square of bittersweet baking chocolate, so try to avoid drinking it before bed. Otherwise, bottoms up!

Prepare these as you would any herbal tea. Eight ounces of boiling water per cup, one massive teaspoon per part of boiling water, steep and serve to taste. For a stronger cup, add more spice, or mix and match the spices to create your own happy blend.

Speaking of blends, these spices go excellently with true tea — Camellia sinensis. One of the best calmer-downers is Oolong, due to the release of L-theanine as a soothing amino. Take the opportunity to play around with the various flavors and sensations from these herbs, try out different tea types paired with different spices. A Ti Kuan Yin, for example, goes excellently with Lemon Balm. WuYi and Clove are a match made in heaven.

You might find that you have so much fun experimenting, that the stress melts of its own accord. Tea really does work wonders for the brain.