I reluctantly gave up drinking coffee a few months ago and it’s been a revelation. If you experience anxiety I encourage you to stop drinking coffee too. In this article I’ll explain why, examine the pros and cons and suggest some awesome alternatives.
Coffee is consumed in copious amounts around the world. It’s social glue, a cultural mainstay, and for many people an essential aid to waking up, staying awake, adequately concentrating on the days’ work and defeating a hangover.
I love the taste of coffee but a few months ago I decided I had to get real with myself. Coffee was messing with my head.
The caffeine was agitating me. It was making my already over-thinking brain think even more.
If something in my world was a source of stress, drinking coffee would make anxiety about it that much worse.
If I was serious about reducing anxiety and calming my nervous system it just had to go.
What giving up coffee was like for me
I actually moved to drinking caffeinated teas for a week first, as I was curious see if that would be enough.
It wasn’t, so I stopped drinking those too.
I’d say it then took about a week for my body to adjust to the lack of caffeine. It really wasn’t that bad. I didn’t experience headaches although I hear that can occur during the withdrawal period.
The benefits even increased after a few weeks, and since then there’s been no looking back.
As a result I now don’t require any stimulants to wake me up in the morning, and I usually feel ready to go first thing. I can also honestly say it’s been really helpful in maintaining a calmer baseline state.
Stressful events don’t get to me as much because my mind isn’t racing like it used to under the influence.
I know giving up caffeine is a tall order. That’s why it took me decades to do it!
I’m also well aware that coffee has numerous health benefits, being rich in antioxidants, neuroprotective and useful for weight loss.
And there’s no doubt that it’s incredibly energising and far more preferable than a dirty Red Bull, Monster Energy or Relentless.
To be honest, personally I love nothing more than a bulletproof coffee first thing in the morning. But this year I decided I was serious about giving up anxiety and learning to calm my nervous system.
It followed that if I really was serious I had to make some disruptive lifestyle choices, this being one of them.
The difference has been profound though, and I would go as far as saying that if you’re still drinking coffee you’re not serious about your anxiety.
Pros and cons
So what are the pros and cons of giving up caffeine?
- Noticeable reduction in anxiety and a calmer nervous system. Seriously, if your anxiety levels are problematic you need to stop drinking coffee.
- Potentially saves some money if you become content with just drinking water throughout the day, although quality mineral water and coffee alternatives could cost just as much
- It’s possible to feel refreshed and start the day without a stimulant
- Opens up a world of interesting teas and herbal drinks
- Might help you to fall asleep more easily. Caffeine stays in your system long after the initial caffeine hit, and can affect your sleep quality.
- Your body might absorb certain nutrients more better
- Your teeth might appear to be whiter
- It might lower your blood pressure
- One less addiction in your life
- People will think you’re a bit strange such a pervasive social trend, and they will ask you why, which you might not feel comfortable revealing
- You will invite a date out for coffee and then not actually have a coffee
- When you meet people ‘for coffee’ the alternatives might not be that great
- You will have times when you feel sleepy and you cannot power your way through with a coffee
- The intoxicating smell of roasted beans will drive you crazy
- You will miss out on the health benefits of coffee
What about decaffeinated coffee?
The problem with decaffeinated coffee is that it’s typically an afterthought at most decent coffee shops. Passionate baristas consider caffeine to be integral to the coffee experience and give decaffeinated coffee short thrift.
Therefore, if you ask for decaffeinated coffee at a specialist coffee shop, they will dig around the back for some bag that’s been lying around for years and you’ll receive a crap cup of coffee.
I did a bit of a search online and it does seem that there are some potentially good brews out there, so home-brewing could be worth a try. If you’re not a coffee connoisseur and just like it as a pick-me-up you’ll find it easier to find something.
Decaf is a great way to get some of the health benefits of coffee, but keep in mind that decaf is not completely free of caffeine, only lower in caffeine, so it still might not be ideal for you.
One of the best things about giving up coffee is that it opens up a whole world of teas and herbal drinks.
When I first gave up I spent time in specialist tea shops drinking pu-ehr, green and white tea, which I loved. However, I had to reluctantly avoid these too, as I found a few cups still resulted in a high caffeine intake.
My current poison of choice (if you can call it that!) is butterfly pea tea. At night I add saffron and lavender to it to make a sleep-inducing brew.
There are so many other teas that you can try.
Rosella, jasmine, rooibos, mint, ginger, lemon balm, lemongrass, passionflower are all good alternatives, and there are many more to discover.
I dislike fruity teas but earthy teas go down great.
What’s even better is that some of these have anti-anxiety properties, and with time and research you can get really nerdy and concoct a bespoke brew to sip throughout the day or knock you out at night.
Listen to me!
To conclude, if you struggle with anxiety and still drink coffee, I strongly encourage you to cut it out.
I realise the prevalence of coffee in society makes doing so almost seem unthinkable, but I urge you to give it a go.
Find a tasty alternative you like, and be sure to give it a few weeks to settle in to your newly-found freedom from caffeine.
I’m sure you’ll find this a highly productive exercise in your efforts to reduce anxiety, as I did.