This post is the first of a four part mini-series titled, ‘Why I Quit…’ in which I discuss my reasons for cutting out caffeine, alcohol, meat and dairy.
So many people genuinely believe that they can’t start their day without some form of caffeine. They can’t think, they can’t make conversation, they can’t do anything productive without that first cup of coffee.
I used to be one of those people! At the time I was waking up at 4am to start work at 6.30am, and the Starbucks next to the train station was my best friend. I felt pretty cool buying my large caramel mocha every morning, like a real London worker. It started off as just a habit, because everyone said that coffee would help me wake up in the mornings. But over time I started to feel like crap every time I woke up. I assumed that the early starts were taking their toll, and my regular morning coffee began to feel like a lifesaver. Caffeine seemed like an amazing invention, giving me extra energy so that I could think clearly and power through my day. But did I actually need it, or just think that I needed it?
While you may believe that your cup of coffee is making you feel and perform better, it’s actually just bringing you back to a normal baseline. Let me explain: when you are addicted to something, you go through withdrawals when you’re deprived of it for a certain amount of time. This can be in the form of headaches, tiredness, irritability (recognise any of these?) and so on. When you finally get your fix, these withdrawal symptoms disappear. This can fool you into believing that your coffee habit is helping you, when in reality you would actually feel fine if you had never started drinking it!
These symptoms are not just part of being human – of course we all get tired and cranky occasionally, but there’s always a reason for it. Maybe we didn’t sleep well last night, or someone annoyed us. We certainly shouldn’t feel like that every morning for no apparent reason!
I believe that a lot of people lower their expectations about how their mind and body should feel. They get used to having little energy and feeling lethargic, and start to think that substances like coffee are there to make us feel better and help us get through our day – when they’re actually what’s making us feel terrible!
Cutting down on coffee (or eliminating it entirely) is easier than you think. I quit cold turkey, but you can slowly reduce your intake and begin replacing it something like peppermint tea or a caffeine-free coffee alternative. That way you’re still in the habit of buying or making a hot drink, but it’s something that will warm and nourish you as opposed to feeding an addiction. You may experience headaches and irritability at first, but I promise these will fade. Plus, you’ll save a ton of money!
If you experience any form of anxiety, I really recommend that you cut out caffeine. The first thing my therapist asked me when I sat down in her office was whether I drank coffee, as it’s known to exacerbate anxious feelings. By that time I had already cut it out, as it was making me feel too jittery and definitely wasn’t helping my anxiety. Caffeine isn’t just found in coffee, however – it sneaks into things like chocolate, green tea and energy drinks. And don’t be fooled by decaf coffee, as it still contains small amounts of caffeine!
I fully believe in and support a life without addictive substances. Not a lot of people want to lump caffeine in with alcohol and cigarettes, but that’s where it belongs. Get to know your body and how it feels naturally – it will surprise you! It feels so good to wake up in the morning and feel as fresh as a daisy, safe in the knowledge that it’s all your own doing. No cup of coffee can ever top that feeling.