Creating the Relaxation Response

Guest Post by  Libre Leading Light Steffany Moonaz

Stress exacerbates arthritis pain. In conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), stress can contribute to the frequency and severity of disease flares. And in the mechanical condition of osteoarthritis (OA), stress can make joint pain feel worse. In addition, chronic pain can be stressful, creating a challenging loop. And while the holiday season is a time of celebration and merriment, it can also be a very challenging time, filled with expectations and demands that take us out of our usual routine. Daily rituals that encourage us to slow down and be in the moment are a helpful antidote to the hectic swirl we might see around us. One of the ways that yoga helps to improve symptoms for people with arthritis is probably the act of being mindful- stopping the onslaught of over-thinking about the past and future to just be fully present in the activity of the moment.

When I was a girl, my mother was the only tea drinker I knew. She carried her fancy tea bags in her purse, so she could ask for a cup of hot water when everyone else drank coffee. There is something about a cup of tea that is nurturing- that makes us slow down and be in the moment. It induces something called the Relaxation Response, which is the opposite of the stress response. It calms us down from the frenzy of life. Cultures around the world have rituals for tea that are long and elaborate to ensure mindfulness, much like a yoga practice. Using loose leaf tea makes me feel connected to those rituals, and it has a nurturing feel to it. There is a reason that a hot cup of tea is such a popular home remedy for a cold or flu.

Not only is tea drinking a nurturing experience, but it has some specific health benefits. Many teas are high in antioxidants, which are part of a healthy diet of superfoods. There is also some research suggesting a link between green tea compounds and regulation of joint damage in RA. And herbal teas like chamomile can help with relaxation when joint pain interferes with sleep.*

Lately, when someone asks if I’d like to meet them for a cup of coffee, I continue in my mother’s footsteps and let them know I’m more inclined to drink tea. Fortunately, I can bring my own loose leaf with me, and refill with hot water on the go.

 *Be sure to speak with your doctor, because some teas, like any other natural supplement, can interact with medication.

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