Welcome to the twelfth day of Blogmas with Sara Laughed, where I’m blogging every day ’til Christmas Day. Head over to my Blogmas calendar to see the full collection, or click on the gift tag below!
I started drinking coffee in middle school (and before you ask, I’m 5’10, so it didn’t stunt my growth). In the years since I started drinking coffee, it’s become such a big part of my life that specific kinds of coffee bring back memories. For example, every time I drink cheap, burnt coffee, it brings me back to the college dining halls where I’d camp out for hours studying. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee brings me back to volunteering at Camp Sunshine. “Grootmoeder’s koffie,” made the way my grandmother used to, reminds me of mornings chatting with my mom.
But despite all those happy memories, I have my doubts about the stuff. Coffee might keep me awake, but it can also makes me jittery, which isn’t great for my anxiety or my stress levels in general. Over the last few weeks, I noticed myself drinking more and more coffee every day to feel more awake, and being jumpier and more anxious at night as a result.
So, what did I do? I quit cold-turkey, of course.
I once joked to a friend-of-a-friend that I like finding the things that make me happy and testing whether I’m strong enough to live without them. That might sound a little intense, but I think it’s good to question the invisible things that make up so much of our lives, like screen time and coffee. At best, I’ll learn something about myself. At worst, it makes for a fun blog post.
Day 1: Breaking the Habit
The first day of quitting coffee wasn’t too difficult. I had heard a lot of horror stories about caffeine headaches and withdrawal symptoms, but for the most part In just felt groggy on Day 1. We had a guest over for dinner and watching a movie with her perked me up a bit, though by the end I definitely noticed myself drifting a little. I managed to stay awake until my normal bedtime — around 12:30 — but fell asleep the second my bed hit the pillow.
Day 2: The Headaches Set In
The second day of my no-coffee journey was rough. I had intermittent headaches throughout the day, and sometimes felt a little dizzy or nauseous, though most of those symptoms went away with water. At night, I could barely keep myself from falling asleep during dinner, and took a nap after dinner. That night I went to bed around 11 and slept until 9AM the next morning!
Day 3 to 5: Pros and Cons
By the third day, I was experiencing fewer headaches, so I had a better chance to pay attention to my sleep and anxiety. I didn’t notice a huge change in my feelings of stress or anxiousness during the day, though my sleep was significantly better and deeper than it had been before — I woke up less often, for less long, and generally felt better-rested when I woke up. The problem was that I often had a harder time getting up in the morning as a result; I struggled to feel that burst of energy and mental clarity in the morning without coffee.
Another negative that I noticed was that I was pretty irritable because I felt so tired during the day. I snapped more quickly and had a hard time focusing on things, which made me grumpy.
Days 6 and 7: Tea Just Isn’t Cutting It
By the last few days of my experiment, I was drinking a lot more tea than usual, but I found that it just wasn’t giving me the same boost of energy and clarity that coffee used to. That makes sense — coffee has much higher levels of caffeine than tea does, so even several cups of tea won’t measure up.
I didn’t find that coffee had a large measurable effect on my anxiety, though I definitely noticed that I slept better when I stopped drinking it. What I really realized, though, was that the addiction that I had to coffee wasn’t just physical; it was psychological. Part of the reason that I missed coffee was because I associated it with my favorite parts of the day — getting to work, taking a break, or relaxing in the evening. More than that, I felt like I needed it in order to work hard, stay focused, achieve my work goals. Realistically, no amount of caffeine can do that for me, but in my mind, coffee played an integral part in achieving those things.
Answering Your Questions
I’m trying to find new ways to include my readers in me content, so in addition to sometimes including polls on what I should write about next, I’m going to start including your questions in my blog posts! The first is from @perfectlysass on Twitter.
Did you experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms? If so, and tips on getting through them?
— perfectlysass (@perfectlysass) December 11, 2017
I definitely did! My headaches only lasted the first few days, but I was pretty groggy and irritable throughout the whole week. I’m not sure that I can give much advice, other than staying hydrated! I read that drinking a lot of water helps mitigate the withdrawal headaches, and it definitely helped with me!
The second is from @hininetyseven.
How has quitting coffee affected your morning routine? Do you have more/less energy?
— helloninetyseven (@hininetyseven) December 11, 2017
I had a really difficult time getting my act together in the morning, honestly. I wish I could say that quitting coffee brought me tons of energy — and I think that maybe, given enough time without coffee, I’d regain my normal energy levels. But doing it for just a week only left me tired in the mornings!
Though I didn’t achieve many measurable results in this week, I did learn something interesting about myself and my relationship to the things I crave. Now that my experiment is over, I’m drinking coffee again — but I might be interested in trying a longer-running experiment to cut out all caffeine for a few weeks, and see what that does for my energy levels. I think that a large part of the reason that I didn’t experience big results with this is that I didn’t cut out caffeine entirely, and that I also didn’t do it for long enough. So who knows, maybe a month-long experiment is next for me!