This week we have a special blog post by guest contributor Hannah Moritz. Hannah is a writer and mom living in Auckland. She’s here to share her tips on…
How to Quit Coffee Without Completely Falling Apart!
A Contented euphoric state consisting of energy, focus, optimism and self-confidence. That’s how coffee makes me feel. No exaggeration. I love coffee. It’s the first thing I think of when I open my eyes every morning.
Despite my infatuation with Coffee Arabica, I’ve decided to take a step back and assess our relationship. I knew I needed to take stock of my coffee intake. I had noticed my consumption creeping up. I’d got to the point where morning hadn’t really started until my third cup. I was jittery, my energy was crashing in the afternoons and my night-time sleep was suffering. Without coffee I was tired and irritable (so I was never without it!). It didn’t take a genius to connect the dots…I was overdoing it. Still…the decision to cut back came slowly. You see, I’m an addict.
In our culture, coffee, teas and energy drinks are considered “beverages”…easily accessible, marketed for flavour and associated with positive social interactions, hospitality and self-care. Coffee is so linked with the idea of productivity and increased performance that most workplaces provide it to employees for free. However, caffeine is a powerful drug. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it increases activity in your brain and nervous system. It triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, giving you a pleasurable feeling. It increases the circulation of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. All of this produces the beloved caffeine high. Everyone enjoys a boost of energy and focus…and there’s nothing wrong with that, but for some people, there are strings attached.
Unlike other common, legal drugs, caffeine comes with little to no warning about it’s negative properties. You can develop a dependence on coffee and other caffeinated beverages quite quickly. Your brain becomes accustomed, so you need more and more to get the same effect. This can push you to consume unhealthy amounts on a daily basis. In order to get your high, you experience side-effects like anxiety, dehydration, headaches and insomnia. Honestly, I was starting to have them all. The fear of withdrawal and “losing my edge” was keeping me from addressing the problem. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I decided to make a change…but eventually I had to face the fact that I was tired all the time yet unable to sleep at night. So I made a plan.
There’s no one way to break an addiction. Some people choose to eliminate caffeine completely or all at once. For me, it’s more about gently tapering off to reduce the nasty withdrawal symptoms. I really do love coffee, so my goal is to be able to enjoy it as a treat once in a while without falling “off the wagon”. I’m about a week in…I’ve reduced my caffeinated coffee intake by ⅔. I’ve successfully avoided the withdrawal headaches, however I’d say I’m still tired and a bit crabby. My night-sleep is improving and I’m less anxious. Overall, I’m encouraged to keep going. I’m empowered by the renewed sense of control over my own brain and body.
If you’re thinking about quitting caffeine or just cutting back, here’s a few tips I’ve picked up on my journey:
Know your goal: Identifying why you’re cutting back and what you hope to gain will keep you on track. And as you go along, record the changes you feel. Acknowledge the benefits of your hard work.
Timing is everything: This cannot be stressed enough. Ideally begin over a vacation or long weekend so you can sleep late, take naps and limit responsibilities. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES quit coffee on a work Monday!
Protect your rituals: Do you enjoy holding a warm, steaming mug in the morning? Do you have a standing coffee date with a friend? Be sure to keep them in place…just swap out the beverage.
WATER: And lots of it.
Take naps: Quitting caffeine is a big deal for your brain. It’s adapting to changes in chemistry while maintaining the important functions that keep you alive. Sleep is when our brains perform repairs and maintenance, so let yourself nap. The fatigue will pass as you adjust.
Find a new treat: This is the fun part! Cutting back on caffeine is the perfect excuse to try new things. Of course there’s always decaf…but beyond that there’s coconut water, pressed juices, teas and seemingly endless varieties of kombucha. I’m into a hot cup of jasmine tea in the morning and a bottle of Phoric natural energy drink in the afternoon.
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