When you get to the end of a long day, sometimes it helps to sip on a relaxing drink. Which drinks can do the job best? That’s up to you to decide. Listed below are several popular beverages used to soothe nerves. Some you’ve heard of, but others may be new to you. Learn more below and see which calming drink land at the top of your list.
Does alcohol help calm anxiety?
Alcohol pulls a bait-and-switch on your body, so be careful about using it to relax. Chemically speaking, alcohol has a depressant effect on your body. It slows things down and gives you a fuzzy buzzed feeling.
Drinking alcohol stimulates the release of dopamine in your bloodstream, giving you a boost of the “feel-good” chemicals in your body. When the alcohol is processed and is flushed out of your body, the dopamine boost crashes out. Your body's out of whack, leaving you feeling jittery and anxious.
Alcohol itself also has properties that interfere with neurotransmitters and your body’s relaxation response. You may not notice much if you have one moderately sized beverage. But if you have several, you can get a hangover with a side of anxiety.
Stimulants like coffee or energy drinks
Caffeine and energy drinks are often used to make up for lost sleep, better focus, or simply out of habit. Unfortunately, the stimulation your nervous system gets from these drinks can also amp up your anxiety. Depending on the amount you drink and your body’s tolerance, you may notice yourself feeling jittery or restless.
You may also feel like the brain has been turned up a notch or two in your brain. For a person trying to calm feelings of anxiety, this all goes in the wrong direction. Even if you have a small amount, late-day caffeine can disrupt your sleep. Poor sleep can put you at the beginning of this vicious cycle, looking for easy ways to stay awake.
Drinks to calm and relax you
These drinks all have properties or substances that promote relaxation. You’ll find beverages covering a wide spectrum of temperatures, textures, and flavors.
Reishi mushroom tea or elixir
Triterpenes are the active substances in reishi mushrooms, and they show anti-anxiety effects in animals. These are being explored as a treatment for PTSD and anxiety. You can blend the mushroom powder into a warm tea-like drink or an elixir mixed with other botanicals.
Matcha and green tea
Matcha is made from the same plant as regular green tea, but each is processed differently. Both have L-theanine with calming properties. Green tea is often in the form of crushed leaves and is steeped like traditional tea. Matcha is the entire tea leaf ground into a fine powder. It has a rich, buttery flavor when mixed as a drink. And because you consume all parts of the leaf, you get the benefits of every nutrient.
No smoothie is going to be an anti-anxiety treatment on its own. But when your body is well-nourished with vitamins and minerals, it’s better equipped to handle the ups and downs of your day. Smoothies are a delicious and fun way to get more power-packed foods in your diet, too. Try making smoothies including more of these nutrient-dense foods:
- Fruits: Plums, apples, sweet cherries, avocado
- Veggies: Kale, spinach, other leafy greens
- Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
- Nuts: Almonds (almond milk), walnuts, pecans
This substance originates from the ginseng family and may improve symptoms of stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha powder can be mixed with other ingredients into lattes, tonics, and other warm, comforting drinks.
Drinking warm milk will help soothe and relax you for a few reasons.
- It contains tryptophan, the enzyme with relaxation properties also famously present in turkey meat.
- The warmth of your beverage is likely to feel soft and creamy as you drink it.
- It's likely to add nostalgic comfort if you associate it with comforting memories from childhood.
Magnesium blend tea
Getting a sufficient amount of magnesium in your diet may help you get better sleep, prevent headaches, and avoid fatigue. Get your magnesium boost by drinking tea infused with the nutrient.
Decaffeinated herbal tea
Relaxing with a cup of tea has been a time-honored tradition for generations. While some people enjoy decaffeinated versions of black and green tea, herbal teas are naturally decaffeinated. Here are a few ways herbal tea can help you relax:
- It’s an aromatherapy experience with delicate scents and flavors.
- You’ve created a calming ritual with your tea.
- Herbs like chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, and peppermint are known to have some relaxation-inducing properties.
Ever wonder why it feels so good to drink a nice, cool glass of water when you’re really thirsty? Your brain trains you to enjoy the experience, so you'll want to look for more the next time. Part of feeling thirsty is that you are rewarded with a release of dopamine when you drink enough water to feel refreshed and satisfied. Dopamine is one of the body chemicals that triggers feelings of relaxation and contentment.
Valerian root tea
Valerian root is often used as a sleep aid in herbal medicine, so drinking it as a tea before bed could help you fall asleep faster. There are some cautions about using valerian root long-term, but if used occasionally, it appears to have few side effects, if any.
Drinking black tea is one way to get a caffeine boost during the day. But some properties of black tea can also relax and calm you. The amino acid L-theanine is known to have a calming effect, especially when paired with caffeine. Experts aren’t entirely sure how this works, but caffeine, L-theanine, and the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) all work together for this effect. Plus, like herbal tea, the aroma and warmth of black tea can be psychologically soothing.
One caution about drinking beverages close to bedtime
If you have a sensitive bladder, you may create the need to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night. So be aware of how your body processes liquids, or you may unintentionally add sleep deprivation and anxiety to your day.
A calming drink for daily relaxation
Is your new go-to calming beverage in the list above? You’ll never know unless you try a few. Finding a favorite can take a little trial and error, and these choices cover a wide range of flavors. Keep in mind that these drinks aren’t meant to be a complete solution for stress or anxiety. But you can enjoy them as part of your daily routine or a calming ritual at the end of the day. Bottoms up!