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​Lowering Anxiety with Matcha

By Mary Ladd May 15, 2018

​Lowering Anxiety with Matcha

I've often wondered, is anxiety -- defined as ongoing worries and intrusive, uneasy thoughts -- an innate part of being human? For the unlucky among us who seem to be genetically predisposed to anxiety, or anyone else who falls prey to the perpetual "go-go-go" rush of modern times, taking just a few minutes in the morning (or afternoon) to make a simple bowl of matcha is an excellent way to center oneself. This small meditation serves to balance things out and change things up in a much-improved fashion. A daily serving of matcha is a welcome respite when you take into account how stress can tax the body’s immune system, which in turn leads to feeling even more worn out.

Slowing down and being still takes practice. Everyday stress and the anxiety that follows may seem, well, never-ending. If you’d love to give that anxious hamster wheel in your brain a well-deserved break, consider how matcha can help to lower your anxiety levels and infuse some calm, flowing vibes. What’s working for matcha is how it increases alpha-frequency brainwaves, which leads to the calm “feel good” reaction the beverage has been known for through the ages.

Another way to start lowering your anxiety? Focus on each step of the matcha making process at home (or work, which is of course what we do at Breakaway Matcha HQ throughout the day). Make it a mindful practice. As you get your tea powdercup, and gear ready, how do things look? Feel? Smell? What are the colors you see? How do your hands, eyes, and feet feel as they are planted on the ground?

Instead of being another to-do on your list, this slowing down and getting into your body also minimizes how often you take each breath, which hits the pause button on the internal churn of thoughts, as well. There’s no right way or wrong way to try this out, to see how it changes the way you feel and think. Instead of judging anything that happens (meaning, don’t judge yourself or any of your thoughts and worries) in this short span of time, instead, let the meditative potential unfold. All of this is especially important when you feel new to the practice of following your breath while making tea, and DOUBLY important if anyone’s ever implied you might have a Type A personality.

L-theanine is an amino acid, and the key phytonutrient in matcha, that helps promote calm instead of amping up and increasing anxiety levels. There is no L-theanine in coffee, at all. It should also be noted that the L-theanine (also commonly called theanine ) in matcha occurs in greater quantities than other tea, because of the shading technique used in the final weeks of tea leaf growth; this removes all sources of light to the plant, leading the plant to go into overdrive, producing more L-theanine and a whole lot of that bright green chlorophyll goodness. This also helps explain the vibrant, gorgeous color of Breakaway Matcha!

Over the past few years of tea drinking research, and writing, I’ve seen how matcha helps me cease my hypervigilant focus on the minutiae of some deadline or family event. Making matcha equals a break. It’s unscripted time; a moment to loosen up and maybe even get to a place of feeling more comfortable and present in the here and now. Ok – maybe I show up debating with myself what to buy and fix for dinner, and what each step will be from shopping to dessert, etc. (What’s that saying about “once a planner, always a planner?” Guilty!)

Turns out that dinner will be served in style; quelling anxiety also means a cognitive tradeoff for the matcha loyalist. Thinking and focus are tough tasks to accomplish when anxious, but studies like this one show that alertness and accuracy improve when L-theanine is combined with caffeine (vs. sampling caffeine without L-theanine). That demonstrates the science of how matcha helps both mood and attention levels, which again, are important in day to day life – the brains of the study subjects were found to be less distracted because of the presence of that all-important L-theanine. The way we feel after drinking matcha is pleasant and ongoing. You won’t get the usual quick, rush-y buzz found in other categories of caffeinated drinks (and even foods!). Instead, the enveloping calm that happens will stay with you over the course of a few hours, well after you’ve washed your teacup and put things away.

The chaos of everyday life can seem overwhelming -- even in the best of times -- but unpacking your anxiety with a cup of Breakaway Matcha can be the mindful moment you need to center yourself before forging ahead.

Mary Ladd is a member of the San Fransisco Writers' Grotto, co author of The Wig Report, a graphic novel on catastrophic illness, and first place winner of the 2017 Liquake essay contest. Her writing has appeared in Playboy, Healthline, Time Magazine, KQED, and San Fransisco Weekly. She lives in San Fransisco, CA.