That’s right folks, I’m in the midst of trying to end a long-term relationship.
I’ve been drinking coffee since I was about 16, which seems pretty young when I think about it. I had a lot of issues with energy in high school, likely due to my crappy dietary choices (bagels, pizza, pasta…. ugh. wish I had known better), and I became essentially dependent on coffee to get me through the day. I’d come home from school or sports practice and just crash… hard. As a senior, I’d literally drive home during study hall to take a nap. I don’t know why I didn’t think to make a change in my life at that point, but hey, teenagers are dumb.
Then came college. In many aspects, my lifestyle got much healthier. I was on a D3 volleyball team for my freshman year, which helped me shed about 20 pounds through intense exercise multiple times a day. Also, the cafeteria provided a lot of great food options to help me start eating more healthily, and I suddenly started caring much more about what I put in my body. Perhaps I noticed how much better I felt and looked when I was exercising and eating fairly well.
Either way, my health consciousness kicked in and I started to become very interested in nutrition.
That said, I still relied heavily on coffee. I always had a mug in the morning before class. Sometimes if I was up late studying, I would grab a cup to take to the library. Mind you, this was in the evening, when most normal humans are winding down. But no, I decided to wait until the very last minute to start my papers, and just caffeinated myself until 5 AM so I could finish my work. Definitely not a healthy habit, but my body managed to tolerate it. (Somehow it managed to tolerate a boatload of alcohol too, though that’s another story altogether.) Heck, I even drank Redbull before going out at night to make sure I could keep up with my drugged/boozed up peers at 3 AM!
Long story short, I was definitely relying way too much on caffeine to get myself through life.
Fast forward to my year spent living and traveling in Australia. At one point I was working as a barista, and the coffee down in Oz is DAMN good. (All 3 of my Aussie readers will agree, no doubt.) But I wasn’t a huge fan of my job. Ok, so I hated it. Therefore, I made the obvious choice and self-medicated with a hefty dose of nearly intravenous cappuccinos to help keep me motivated throughout the day.
Let’s just say my stress level at that job was at an all time high.
When I finally started getting up to 4-5 espresso drinks in a day, I realized that something had to change. So I decided to go cold turkey on the caffeine for a month, which was pretty horrendous. I had crazy headaches, lightheadedness, and the shakes for the first couple days. The withdrawal was pretty intense, and walking past coffee shops made me a little bit crazy.
Slowly I came off my caffeine withdrawal, but despite how much better I felt without being so stimulated during the day, somehow coffee snuck back into my life.
Because, let’s be honest, it just tastes so damn good!
Sometimes we tend to forget that coffee, or specifically the caffeine contained in coffee, is technically a drug. A stimulant. It affects your body and central nervous system in a variety of ways:
- Can promote anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and tachycardia
- Increases the turnover of many neurotransmitters, including monoamines and acetylcholine
- Prolongs sleep latency and shorten total sleep duration with preservation of the dream phases of sleep
- Causes release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which are also the source of our “fight-or-flight” response
- Increases the stimulating neurohormone, noradrenaline, and reduces the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin
- Is diuretic and a mild laxative
Wowza. So that delicious cuppa’ joe is pretty bad news for anyone dealing with any other stressors in their lives. And let’s be honest, who isn’t??
I’ve personally been dealing with a fair amount of stress lately. Being a grad student in a new state, having a part-time job, finding time to cook, shop, and exercise, making new friends, taking care of my dog, and keeping up with my blog and staying on top of relevant Paleo news – all this, whether good or bad stress, is still stress.
Add to that my 4-cup morning coffee binge, and you’ve got a nice little recipe for adrenal exhaustion and cortisol overload.
This is why I’ve decided to go off caffeine, at least while I’m trying to get my stress under control. I’ve been avoiding coffee for the last week or so, and I’m already feeling much calmer. I find myself reacting less strongly to emotional stressors, and my ability to fall asleep earlier has greatly improved. I don’t get as overwhelmed by the amount of work that I have to do, or by the life responsibilities that I’ve been procrastinating on. So for now, I think the lack of caffeine has actually made it easier to cope with my daily workload. Nice.
I’m really interested to see what other benefits come from dropping coffee out of my life. I’ve had quite the tumultuous relationship with the brew, so I feel like the only way to get over it is to just cut it out completely and focus on de-stressing and re-nourishing my body.
Sorry, coffee, but its over.
Has anyone else tried to quit coffee? What has your experience been? I’d love to hear some response from you all about your love (or hate) of coffee!