This article is for anyone who drinks coffee – or tea, or any other caffeinated drink – and in particular anyone who has recognized that doing so is having a negative effect on them.
Some of my reactions to coffee might seem extreme but they may be relatable to you on a lesser scale. My despair might be your discomfort.
Coffee electrifies me. It fills me with energy, confidence, focus, purpose and optimism. Then it breaks me. Within a few hours of a fix I’ve crashed: I’m tired but unable to sleep, anxious, insecure and sad.
But coffee makes me feel so good that being aware of the sufferings it causes doesn’t put me off from installing myself in an inviting café and getting the shots in (two usually, served with a cup of hot milk). When the caffeine starts to take effect, any reservations I had about imbibing the black gold fade into the ether and I ride a wave of enthusiasm and positivity.
Business is failing? No, I’m establishing myself. I’ve achieved a lot in the last few months, just keep going.
Tired and lazy? Fixed, now where did I put my gym card.
Bored? My mind is buzzing with places to visit, people to connect with and films to watch.
Financial troubles? Let me look at my accounts again, I’m sure I can make the numbers work.
And so it goes on.
Later, in the throes of the crash, when my caffeine coloured world has crumbled around my feet and the half-truths it stirred have been replaced with their depressing counterparts, I vow that I’m done with it, that the last cup I had really will be my last.
But then a day or so later, the thought of all that confidence, purpose and optimism seduce me. And I’m back on the java train again, ready to crash and burn.
Highs And Lows
When I talk to people about the highs and lows I experience with coffee, they’re often surprised that they can get so extreme. And while it’s true that I’m almost certainly more sensitive to caffeine than most (I still had heart palpitations almost 2 days after a particularly strong latte earlier this year) conversations with colleagues and clients have made it clear to me that we’re all paying for our caffeine hit with negative feelings to some degree.
Consider for a moment that coffee, or more specifically caffeine, might be responsible for a lot of the discomfort in your life.
At first blush that can seem improbable: after all, it’s more than socially acceptable, it’s socially encouraged; George Clooney drinks it; it smells awesome, tastes great and comes in stylish cups served in charming cafes by shiny people. If your preferred coffee is milk-based then you probably even receive it with a heart shape in its centre.
But look closely. On the days you drink coffee (which, for a lot of us, is everyday) do you find it difficult to sleep at night? Do you feel sadder, more pessimistic or tenser later in the day? Do you worry and overthink? Are you irritable? Do you suffer from headaches? Do you see a less attractive version of yourself in the mirror?
It took me years to connect caffeine to all the negativity it was creating inside me. And even then, after convincing myself that, in the big picture, I would be better off without it, changing the narrative in my mind – that I needed it to be productive, to be at my best, to be a success – was tough.
Intellectually I understood that it would be better to have a reason to work that didn’t require a caffeine boost, that I would look fresher and feel more relaxed if caffeine didn’t interrupt my natural sleep pattern, but this had been a habit years in the making – and those neural pathways had been dug deep.
Pulling The Trigger
I had to identify my triggers – the thoughts and feelings I was either escaping or indulging with coffee – and I needed to be sure I could fulfill them without caffeine. If not, caffeine would win the war.
Two of my most persistent triggers were ‘I want to be more productive’ and ‘I want to feel more positive about my life situation’.
To address the first, I measured my productivity without drinking coffee. The hardest part of working sans espresso was getting started – without the adrenaline rush that switches me onto ‘work mode’ that caffeine provides I procrastinated more and was easily distracted.
But once I’d started I found I could work as efficiently and effectively without it. In fact, because there was no crash I could work longer – and when the work was done my head was clear; I had the results I wanted without the ill effects.
With renewed self-belief from realizing that I didn’t need a stimulant to work effectively – along with a clearer head and more sustained energy – I started to feel a lot more positive about my life situation, which dealt with the other trigger I’d identified.
Uncovering all of your triggers is a lot like going down a Lewis Carroll rabbit hole; the deeper you go, the more you’ll dig up. But, once identified, I’m certain you’ll find that, like me, you can fulfill them more effectively without the inner-drama caused by coffee.
Now, It’s Up To You
Starting out on the path to being coffee-free, or to reducing your intake such that you’re no longer dependent on or suffering from it, is a journey fraught with traps and pitfalls. There will be times when caffeine seems like it has the answers – and going without will be tough.
But as you reduce your intake, you’ll become increasingly aware of caffeine’s inability to deliver on its promises, and your resolve will strengthen.
You’ll notice how you can relate to others better when you don’t drink it, and that the inspiration and energy you were giving coffee credit for comes naturally; you’ll feel more comfortable in your own skin and sleep better.
As the benefits of less coffee stack up your conscious decision to not drink it will become unconscious, and going without will be a piece of organic cake.
With the illusion that coffee was going to give you the edge you needed to succeed and live a life of consequence gone, a new reality becomes clear. It’s up to you.
To contact Chris about his caffeine coaching services, use the contact form on the chrisnolancoach.com homepage.
To join his ‘Caffeine Freedom’ Facebook group, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/caffeinefreedom/.