When you’re in college and midterms are here, you haven’t seen your friends in weeks, you’re late on at least three assignments, haven’t slept and it feels like life has knocked you down a couple or 25 times, there is no better comfort food than hot chocolate. We all know a cup of liquid chocolate warms the soul, but most coco powders are high in sugar and can cause a blood sugar crash and worsen your mood. Luckily, I just so happen to have an anti-stress hot chocolate recipe that can sooth your body’s nervous system, and leave you feeling relaxed and fully charged.

In the beginning of my senior year of college, I tried so hard to stay on top of endless deadlines, meetings and responsibilities that I eventually broke down. I found myself locked out of my house one night and in my frustration, fell in a sad heap on my front doorstep.

I was too tired to walk back to my car and almost fell asleep leaned against my door. Clearly something had to change.

I did a bit of research and found that the systems in my body governing stress response hormones were exhausted! Our bodies weren’t built to deal with fight-or-flight stress all the time. So, in addition to getting better sleep and meditating, I began taking herbs called “adaptogens” to quiet my over-active mind. This class of herbs has been taken for thousands of years in Indian medicine to balance the stress response, and modern scientific studies are just starting to back these claims.  So I went to Sprouts (GNC also works) to stock up on powders or capsules of maca, rhodiola and ashwaganda, and after a semester of taking them diligently, I really did feel more energized and positive. But my favorite way of getting these nutrients was in a yummy warm drink.

Anti-Stress Hot Chocolate:

1 3/4 Cups Vanilla cashew milk (or other nut milk of your choice)

2 1/2 Tablespoons Cacao powder

1/2 Teaspoon Ashwaganda

1 Teaspoon Maca powder

2 Teaspoons Maple Syrup to taste

Alana Williams

Firstly, I would warm some vanilla nut milk on the stove before whisking in the cacao powder. This unprocessed version of coco helps your body produce more feel-good hormones like serotonin and hasn’t been stripped of nutrients like magnesium, which can help your body relax and help your brain focus. Then I add the pinch of ashwaganda, which lessens the stress response by regulating the thyroid and adrenal glands. Then a small spoonful of maca, which is a root with a slightly sweet, malted flavor that’s known to benefit mood and energy levels, without the jitteriness of caffeine. And you’re done! Unless you want to add a touch of maple syrup for flavor (which I do).

And now all you need are a hot shower, your coziest pajamas, and a crackling fire….or a Youtube video of a fire. Just remember to drink this recipe before bangin’ out a paper and not too close to bedtime since it can give you a boost of energy. Now go get ‘em tiger.