I hope you’re sitting down with a really tasty cup of coffee in hand, because by the end of this you may not want another for a while. Yes, it’s time to talk about the bittersweet topic of coffee, caffeine and addiction.
Whenever I have a conversation with someone about caffeine addiction I always tell the same story. One morning, for reasons I really can’t explain, I forgot to have my morning cup of coffee. Without realising my forgetfulness, my day went on and I started feeling a little sick. As the hours went by, it became apparent to me that I was coming down with the flu; I had aches in my neck and shoulders and a headache that would send any hypochondriac to their death. In a separate, more rational part of my brain I finally realised that I had missed my morning fix. Little did I know, the word ‘fix’ meant more to my body than I thought as half an hour later, I was cured of my flu.
My name is Andrea and I’m addicted to coffee.
I know I’m not alone in my caffeine addiction. This is why I’m going to delve into what it means to be addicted to caffeine and how to rectify it. In this article I won’t take you through the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Step Program, but a much simpler Caffeine Addicts’ 4 Step Program.
Step 1: Admitting You Have a Problem
Initially I thought it was kind of funny that I was addicted to coffee. People always joke about this kind of thing, but here I was having actual withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms from what smithsonian calls the most widely consumed drug in the world – and yes, it is a drug, but more on that later. After the joke was over, I decided to use the Catholic tradition of lent – where you give something up or do something consistently for 40 days – to detox my body from caffeine. As expected, the first week was hell. Thereafter the process of no coffee was pretty easy. After the 40 days I had a lovely cup from Motherland and, much to my surprise, spent the rest of the day bouncing off the walls. I had so much energy from that one cup; I felt like I was vibrating. This was the official moment I realised how strong caffeine is and how, after constant consumption, immune to it I had become.
Step 2: The Science Behind the Drug
Now that you know that caffeine is a drug, let me explain to what degree and why. Caffeine isn’t as much a stimulant on it’s own as it is a stimulant enabler. In other words, caffeine acts as a catalyst to our natural stimulants, just like a spark that causes a fire.
Here’s a video to help explain what caffeine does to the brain:
In other words, if you’re the type of person that doesn’t like external substances messing with your body, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favours by drinking a lot of coffee.
Let’s not be too hard on coffee though. There are a bunch of other foods and drinks that have caffeine in them too! Have a look at the grid below.
|Caffeine Source||Caffeine Content|
|240ml black tea||14-70mg|
|250ml Red Bull||75-80mg|
|240ml regular coffee||95-200mg|
|1 cup chocolate chips|
In conclusion, Rooibos is the way for a full caffeine detox. There are so many different types of teas, just make sure you’re aware of which are caffeine free.
Step 3: Understanding Your Caffeine Addiction
I think that a really important question all coffee drinkers need to ask themselves is;
‘Why do you drink coffee?’
Here are a few possible reasons:
- to keep your energy levels constant
- you have 4 assignments due, 2 tests to write and a party to go to in the next week
- you’re a coffee connoisseur
- you love the taste of coffee
- you’re addicted
- you’ve fallen too deep into the crazy-cool, hipster café culture trend
Jokes aside, some of the reasons above indicate that your coffee drinking habits are not merely a choice but, in fact, proof that you are dependent on caffeine. Large numbers of people drink coffee because of the age-old problem of time management. Time management literally feeds into everything you do. If you can win that battle, then you will be happier in all aspects of your life. My dad has always promoted good time management but when I was younger I never really fully understood or appreciated what he meant. I mean, who wants to plan a schedule when you could be living on the edge and taking things as they come, right? Wrong. I’m all for flowing through life with an open mind for what lies ahead, but there needs to be a balance between being present in what you’re doing and planning what you’ll be doing.
“By being present we point the ship in the right direction. We are working towards future goals in such a way that we are present for every moment of that journey” – Andy Puddicombe
Step 4: Rectifying the Problem
If you are dependent on caffeine as a result of pulling a couple of all nighters, perhaps a goal for you could be to maintain efficiency without depending on coffee.
As someone who drinks coffee every day and thrives on last minute work pressure, I’m probably not the best figurehead for this conversation. I can, however, relate. When it comes to time management there are a million ways to do it. The real challenge is actually doing it. I’m someone who is guilty of planning and scheduling really well but then never sticking to those plans and schedules. Something I’ve learnt is that you should do whatever you need to do to get it done. Whether it’s watching a five-minute inspirational clip of someone really successful (for example this Casey Neistat YouTube video until at least 3:40 minutes), listening to a two hour-long podcast (like this one with Gary Vaynerchuk) or even hanging up some of the following posters in your room.
Now, if you’re starting to panic because of the thought of losing the perfect tool to being efficient, just relax. There are so many easy and healthy ways to keep your efficiency going – caffeine free. Visualisation often also helps so give this a read for a fun way to visualise and manage your time.
First, you need to kick your caffeine addiction. It’s not going to be fun and it may not be easy but if you want to achieve a body and mind autonomous of caffeine – this needs to be the first step.
Second, make sure you have those plans in place to manage your time better.
Third, read the list below to discover other ways to boost your energy levels:
- Eat Regularly
Figure out which eating pattern works for your body. Some people find three big meals more useful, while others promote five or seven smaller meals to keep a constant glucose level in their body. Do your research and figure out what your body needs specifically.
- Drink Water
Always make sure you’ve got water on hand. This becomes especially important in winter when it’s too cold. Often when we think we’re craving something like coffee or something yummy to eat, we actually just need a glass of water.
- Get Some Exercise
Obvious yet not embraced enough. Going for a 15 minute walk around the block or doing some jumping jacks in your garden will kick start your body. By moving your body, you’ll get your blood flowing, sending more oxygen around your body and making you feel refreshed and alert.
This is something that comes with good time management and is so important for productivity. In this day and age we often prioritize work or social time over sleep because ‘sleep is a waste of time’. Believe me it’s not, and if you don’t believe me, believe the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington.
I really do love coffee. I love the history, the process, the colour, the smell, the taste and the culture around it. I don’t, however, like what it does to me chemically; I don’t like being dependent on it. The more I research the topic, the more I realise how, if you want to treat your body like a temple, you should not be drinking a cup every day. Writing this article has opened my eyes to the power of caffeine.
Which is why I am challenging you to the 44 Days Without Coffee challenge.
The challenge: Cut out coffee completely for the duration of lent.
When: 1st of March to the 13th of April.
Duration: 44 days (I mean… that’s not too bad, right?)
The Reward: A happier, fresher you! (And the sweet taste of victory.)
Even if you only make it for ten days, I think it’s an experiment worth trying. See how your body reacts and how you can use other methods to rejuvenate your body.