So here is the story: one week ago, I decided to run my life without coffee. I was having at least two espressos a day, without necessarily needing them. I found myself jittery, foggy, depressed, and literally overloaded. After listening to Jared’s podcast, called “The Mental Minute“, and after getting some extra motivation and support on Twitter – thanks @SimRetha! – to go through this challenge, I made up my mind and I started quitting coffee.
Jared is a specialist on gut health and his podcast episode on caffeine and its effects on mental health caught my attention on Twitter last week. I recognised I was addicted to coffee, but I didn’t think about it as a “real addiction”. I thought I was just psychologically attached to my espresso intake, because it was socially associated with the idea of being more productive and functional. However, I haven’t been productive and functional at all. I was barely able to sit down and concentrate on a single task without getting distracted. I recognise that this has been going on for years now and it might well be the reason why I became so depleted and burned out over the years.
Apparently, caffeine is a powerful psychoactive drug and it has been placed in the same category as cocaine and methamphetamine. This means that if you over-consume it, you might well become addicted to it. In fact, most coffee drinkers are addicted to it without realising it. What harm can coffee do, right? Coffee is rich in caffeine and caffeine is a highly addictive stimulant. We usually have a cup of coffee because we want to wake in the morning or perk up after lunch, and coffee does have that effect – at least for a little while. It helps us focus, since it increases alertness and sustained alertness. The effects are, nonetheless, temporary, and the ‘crash’ will eventually be felt once we stop fuelling ourselves.
For me, coffee was the holy grail and I even recently wrote a guest post on it for La Blog Café. I would never sit down at my desk to work before having a cup of coffee. In my mind, it became impossible to work without it. Coffee was my preferred messenger to let my brain know that it was time to get something done. There came a point, however, that nothing was done, and I became edgy all the time. I knew I should have quit coffee a long time, but caffeine was what allowed me to fully function and feel good, even if for a short period of time. In the beginning, it made me approachable and feel like I was in control. Little I knew that running on caffeine could well be the number one reason why my moods were so changeable and why my body became overreactive.
Last week I decided that it was enough though. I was tired of being edgy, anxious, and most of all I was sick of having such disruptive sleeping patterns. I started to assume that I was a night owl by default, instead of facing the real issues behind my disturbed biological clock. There were also a couple of physical symptoms that I couldn’t ignore anymore: my left eye started trembling non-stop throughout the day and my breasts had been sore way beyond the usual menstrual cycle. On top of that, my days were blank and my motivation to be alive was almost none. I didn’t have suicidal thoughts, but I found myself numb on a 24h basis. This psychological state made it extremely hard to do any planning or sort anything out. I would go to bed everyday with the thought that tomorrow is going to be a better day, but it never was. Instead, I would saturate myself with coffee once again to have me kick-started, but my daily performance was close to zero.
I think I started having coffee when I was 15. I started drinking it because I’m really prone to have low blood pressure. I didn’t like it at first, but I guess that’s what happens with many other psychoactive drugs. Who honestly likes alcohol? We get used to these substances and we learn to convince ourselves that we like it to the point of not being able to live without it. In fact, we like the temporary benefits that such substances produce in us and we forget, for instances, that people in the western world survived without coffee until the 17th century. Moreover, we forget that coffee was quite expensive and it wasn’t consumed so often in a day. Today, we drink cup after cup, hoping to be more productive, when in fact we are only setting ourselves to failure. There are other healthier ways to keep us going and I will surely keep sharing mine with you here on thewellbeingblogger.com.
- the in-between, and
- the results of this journey without coffee