With the daily grind becoming more demanding of our time and energy, the stimulating effects of caffeine have become commonplace and accepted in our modern society. For me, one cup of coffee usually sends me off the walls but I'm in the minority of people with a sensitivity
to caffeine. Most people value caffeine as a part of their everyday life and don't even feel the effects of it unless they don't have it.
If your tolerance for caffeine has you telling time by how close to you are to your coffee breaks, you're probably addicted. Even if your caffeine consumption isn't that specific, you could still have a dependence on the stuff. After all, caffeine is a psychoactive drug that stimulates the nervous system and creates a dependency.
Well, something like that. There's a big debate about whether caffeine addiction is truly a bad thing. Googling it brings up a lot of "is it addiction or dependency?" After all, it's not ruining lives like other drug or alcohol addictions right? But research shows the withdrawal symptoms can be disruptive to everyday activities and can set in as early as 12 hours after the last dose.
There's also connections to anxiety and mood disorders associated with caffeine that has research conducting many a study. And even if you consume caffeine early in the morning it can still disrupt your sleep schedule which has a bunch of its own health issues. Coffee and tea can also lead to teeth stains that are some of the hardest to get out.
Caffeine tolerance can be something you experience when you're consuming caffeine just to ward off the side-effects of withdrawal. You stopped experiencing the energy and stimulating effects of your coffee but probably continue to drink it out of habit or taste and experience a headache if you miss your regular cup.
None of this is as bad as hard drugs or alcohol addiction. You can always return to a casual cup of coffee pending you haven't burnt out your nerve receptors (but that's only for the heavy caffeine drinkers to worry about). Still, if it's something you're interested in cutting out of your life, we've got your back.
Break The Habit
There are two ways to break any habit: cold turkey or slowly weening off. You can simply cut off all ties to caffeine, promise to never call it again and hope for the best or you can supplement smaller doses until you're not taking it anymore.
Each method has its pros and cons. Cold turkey has you off the stuff quickly and you only have to ward off withdrawal symptoms for a week or so before you're free. Depending on your dependency, however, your symptoms could be enough to disrupt your life and easily tempt you back. Stepping down gradually lessens the symptoms but makes it a longer affair to quit. Plus, that means you have to monitor everything you're eating and drinking. You'll want to decrease it by about 50 mg a day until you're coffee free and you could still experience withdrawal. About 40-70% of everyone does and it could begin anywhere between 12 to 48 hours after cutting off the caffeine fix.
Have no fear, it's not as hard or as serious to quit as other habits like smoking. Ready? Here we go.
Tip 1: Replace Your Coffee Break
Whether you're going cold turkey or taking a step down each day, breaking the habit is not the easiest thing to do when you've developed your life around it. Try to go about your morning routine without your coffee cup in your hands. It feels weird.
So make it a little easier on yourself. Try tea. Preferably green or herbal, which doesn't contain as much caffeine as coffee (30-70 mg for green tea). It takes about as much time as brewing coffee, you can get it from your favorite coffee shop and it comes hot or cold just like your favorite bean brew. It may take a bit of experimenting to flavor to your tastes if you're new to tea. Try our handy guide
If you can't get into tea, switch to decaf. While it still contains caffeine it's not anything near a normal cup (around 4 mg compared to the usual 100 mg in regular).
Tea drinkers can switch to non-caffeinated tea like rooibos and most herbal teas. If none of that sounds appealing try to adapt to water, juice or why not start a new healthy habit like wheat grass
Tip 2: Eliminate One Caffeinated Drink (or more!) Per Day
Ok, this one's more for the step-downers. Chances are you consume more than one cup of coffee per day. And I know I'm being overly focused on coffee but that's not the only caffeinated drink out there. Caffeine is in tea and soft drinks and chocolate and chocolate milk and coffee ice cream or yogurt and caffeinated gum and lots of weight loss products and you get the idea.
Cut out one or more (or all) of these each day until you're caffeine free. Replace it with water or juice, something you don't mind drinking. Maybe it's time to take up protein drinks
It's also time to start reading labels. While you really don't have to worry about smaller amounts of caffeine (unless of course you've been doctor-ordered to avoid), it won't effect you too much in smaller doses. But reading labels is a good habit to start and so is becoming aware of what you're putting in your body. If you didn't know decaf still had caffeine in it, what else does? The only way to know is to read.
Tip 3: Create a New Habit
Dependency and addiction creates habits during your day and while some of them are harder to break than others (like keeping a mug at your desk to drink from), take this as a chance to create a new habit to distract your from what you're no longer doing. Instead of the three o'clock call to the break room for a fill-up, try stretching instead. Not only does it help your muscles and joints but it helps reduce stress too. And getting up to move helps circulate your blood which could boost your energy levels.
Whatever you replace your old habit with, remember this is a chance to improve your life for better so make it something healthier like a new daily walk or a few minutes of reading. Make it fun and make it positive!
Tip 4: Increase Your Energy Without Caffeine
Alright, what kind of friend would I be to let you go without telling you how to replace the energy you're losing by dropping your fix? Here are some quick and easy ways to boost your levels so you can get work done.
Stretch. As I said above, get your muscles moving and get out of the same position especially if you feel yourself slow down. You can do it right at your desk or better yet, get up and move around for a few minutes.Change it up. If you're not focusing on a task, change it up. Focusing on a different mental task for about 10 minutes can help stimulate your brain and get you back on track. Do a quick crossword puzzle or check your email, just make sure not to get sucked into the internet abyss.
Aromatherapy. Smells can stimulate many different reactions including waking you up so if you feel like you're about to doze off, try a citrus blend of essential oils. We have a great guide to aromatherapy to help you get started.Music. Get yourself an upbeat playlist to listen to. Even just ten minutes can really pick up your mood and get your going again. If you're already playing music during your day, change up the styles or playlists every few hours to keep it from becoming background noise and putting you to sleep.Get some sun. Go outside for at least ten minutes. Not only will you be getting some much-needed Vitamin D but it's also good to breathe in some fresh air.
Whatever your reasons or methods for quitting caffeine, it's a chance at a new lifestyle. Tell us how you manage your energy levels and what gets you through the day at our Facebook
pages. Or tell us what you'd like to see here on the blog and join us again next Wednesday to see what pops up!