Foods You Never Knew You Liked: Mate

So, it’s pronounced “mah-tay”.  And it just might be your new favorite thing.

I was first introduced to the wonder that is Mate in college by several friends who were introduced to it by a lovely classmate who was originally from Argentina, as is Mate itself.  The drink was taking my friends by storm, and I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss as about- until I tried it.

Mate is not just a drink- when done well, it’s an experience.  Mate is a loose herb that is traditionally packed into a dried gourd in a special way that I have yet to master- then drank out of a special straw called a bombilla that filters out the herb and just gives you the mate tea.  Mate is also traditionally consumed in a communal setting- the host, who prepares the mate, drinks the first cup, then fills the gourd back up with hot water and passes it to the next person, who drinks and then fills for the next person, and so on.

The beauty of mate is the focusing and awakening properties of the herb- it is a stimulant much like coffee, but has no addictive properties nor will it give you jitters.  When lots of people are together and sharing mate, hours of great conversation can pass and seem like minutes because of how engaged and attentive you become.  It is also renown for boosting the immune system and high antioxidant content.  It can be an excellent coffee substitute in the morning, or a surefire cure for the afternoon sleepies at the office.

While it may sound like I am talking about some type of cult experience or illegal substance, I assure you that mate is available at your nearest grocery store, and now even comes in teabag form for you to enjoy in your own individual mug or loose in your French press!

If you ever want to try it the traditional way, we would love to have you over and show you.  Just be prepared for the conversation part! 🙂 The brand that we use is called Guayaki, and it comes in a yellow bag that you can find at Giant in the natural foods section.  You can also purchase delicious, beginner-friendly Mate blends and gourd/bombilla sets at Teavana.

Help Me! Anxiety

One of the most debilitating health issues that I have struggles with (and, sometimes, still do struggle with) is anxiety. It reached a head after Matt and I had been married for about a year, and I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. I had always been the type of person that didn’t get stressed out, let things roll off my back, and was all-around easygoing. Suddenly, my heart would race if Matt wasn’t getting over to an exit lane quickly enough, or if I couldn’t find my dog, or for really any reason at all. I wasn’t myself and I didn’t know how to handle it.

One quick doctors appointment later (with a primary care that I had never met before, I might add) I had a lovely little pill to take that would solve my problems- at least, that’s what I was told. In the three months I took the medication, I only had negative side effects and never felt that my anxiety was alleviated. To make matters worse, I stopped taking the pills cold turkey, which made things much worse before they got better (apparently, my doctor should’ve told me not to do that, but that never happened). I became very aware that I had only done my body harm, and that I wasn’t going to get better (or at least manageable) without some life change.

One of the biggest things that I did (and most effective) was to eliminate caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars. I was so, so addicted to coffee, and I love dessert like no other, so this was very difficult for me. However, caffeine and sugar both put the nervous system under stress, which allows anxiety to thrive. Instead of coffee in the mornings, I drank some anti-anxiety tea. You can make your own; any of these herbs work well (starred ones taste better than others):

Valerian

Kava

Lavender*

Chamomile*

Dandelion (young leaves, older taste bitter)

Lemon Balm*

Oats*

St. John’s Wort

Vervain

Many of these are available in blends or solo bags from Yogi teas or Traditional Medicinals, both of which are becoming readily available in local supermarkets. Make sure that you read up on how to prepare certain herbs- some must be boiled (like Valerian) while others are steeped like normal tea!

A hidden gem in the natural health world is a magnesium supplement called Natural Calm. Magnesium has an almost immediate calming effect, and this supplement (a powdered drink mix, much like Crystal Light) delivers deliciously. I loved having some before work, or before bed, or really anytime I needed a bit of a calming boost. Most health stores will carry it, and I have even seen it at a supermarket here and there. Very well worth it.

In addition to cutting out certain foods and adding in others, I strived to avoid processed foods and instead add whole foods into my diet- a change that now has become lifestyle for me. Our bodies readily receive the nourishment they need via whole foods, instead of having to drudge through processed foods for the sub-par nutrition available there! Keeping our bodies whole helps us function as we should.

Another key part of my recovery was the addition of exercise into my daily routine. I fell in love with yoga (thanks to the lovely Debra Corso), started rock climbing, and generally tried to stay as active as I could. Not only did this take my mind off of stressors in my life, but the exercise helped my body to function properly, which allowed me to handle situations with grace and ease that was hard to come by beforehand. These days, I practice a bit of yoga in my home, and run 3-5 times a week.

The most important part of my battle with anxiety has been conversations with people that care about me, love the Lord, and help me to focus on what is important. Christian counselors are invaluable if you are struggling with anxiety- the time that I spent speaking with trusted people about my struggle, the more I realized that focus on Christ and his Kingdom was necessary and missing from my life. Regaining vision for my life and praying through panicky situations helped me tremendously.

Please understand that I write these things from my experience and studies, not from a professional standpoint. My experience with anti-anxiety medication may vary drastically from someone else’s, nor can each persons case be treated the same. These are simply changes that helped me, and I pray that they help someone else, too.

Peace be with you,

Karli