How Quitting Caffeine Has Changed My Life For The Better
The world is obsessed with coffee. If you asked most people what the first thing they do in the morning is it would be making a cup of coffee. I’ve had this conversation with many of my co-workers lately because they know I stopped drinking caffeine – they always say they could never quit caffeine because they NEED it. There is no way they could wake up or make it through the day without it. Many of them have found it absurd that I treat myself to a decaf latte every now and then because they don’t see the point if I’m not getting the “benefits” of caffeine.
Quitting caffeine has changed my life for the better. I never realized how badly it was affecting my body and mind. Now, I’m not saying everyone should stop drinking their morning coffee. For many of you, caffeine might not affect you quite as badly.
However, I am going to share my (maybe radical) idea and mindset around caffeine which is: you really don’t need it all. Your body can function just fine without it. In many cases, you just like the routine of your morning coffee more than the coffee itself.
Can you be addicted to caffeine? Technically no. Experts don’t consider caffeine an addiction due to the fact it doesn’t cause severe withdrawal symptoms. However, I do think you can become dependent on it and there are some mild withdrawal symptoms when quitting “cold turkey.” So it may not be the easiest thing you’ve ever done but I promise you, you don’t need it.
Anyway, all of that to say, I quit drinking caffeine and I feel great! Let’s chat about it.
My relationship with caffeine
I didn’t grow up in a coffee household so I only started drinking coffee on a regular basis when I got to college. It didn’t take long to get into the habit of grabbing a Starbucks on my way to class or on my way home to do some homework. By the time my 4 years were up, I was drinking some form of caffeine pretty much every day.
It is perfectly normal in the school setting to drink coffee more than you drink water. I often joke that during my college years, my blood was basically coffee.
I guess my first small stretch of “quitting coffee” was when I graduated. Like I said, I didn’t grow up in a coffee household so there was never any coffee at home (and to be honest, I’ve always preferred buying my coffee). Once I graduated I was still living at home with my parents and I didn’t really have anywhere to go on a regular basis so I wasn’t drinking much coffee. And guess what? I didn’t miss it.
My coffee intake amped up again when I started working. I got my first “real job” about 3 months after graduating. There was a coffee machine in the kitchen there and everyone seemed to drink it so I drank it too.
I really wasn’t a fan though – I’m more of a Starbucks latte kinda girl – so I stopped and instead, grabbed a coffee on my way into the office. That was a) expensive and b) the start of my caffeine-fueled anxiety.
Caffeine and anxiety
It’s no secret that caffeine can cause anxiety and can make existing anxiety issues much worse. My problem? I didn’t know I had existing anxiety.
Looking back it makes total sense. I was always a nervous kid and I had anxiety symptoms for a long time but I just didn’t know what they were. As I got older it seemed the anxiety and the caffeine caught up with me.
To make a long story short – I basically had several panic attacks, a year of feeling helpless, many Google searches, and finally the decision to cut caffeine out of my life as a last-ditch effort to improve my mental health.
A fun fact about caffeine and your body is that caffeine mimics the way your body feels during “fight or flight.” Caffeine gives you a burst of energy but your brain doesn’t know the difference between a “caffeine” burst of energy or a “danger” burst of energy. That can cause you to feel nervous, have heart palpitations, and even panic attacks.
And I can tell you that I felt all of those things. It was only when I decided I couldn’t feel like this anymore and needed a change that I realized caffeine may be negatively affecting me.
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How I quit caffeine
I wish I could tell you there was a step-by-step process to quit without any struggle but the real answer is – I stopped drinking caffeine for a week to see how I felt and I felt good. After that, I challenged myself to keep up with my new caffeine-free lifestyle for another week, then a month, then two months, then just entirely.
For me, it wasn’t that hard. I didn’t need the coffee to wake me up or get me through the day, I just liked the routine of having a warm drink in the morning.
Once I realized I couldn’t handle the caffeine anymore, I still allowed myself to have a coffee or energy drink here and there. If anything it just solidified the fact I needed to stop it. I really loved the taste of coffee and the yummy energy drinks. And I won’t lie, I missed them. I didn’t even know you could get a decaf latte!! When I figured that out I stopped torturing myself with sporadic coffees and just got the decaf instead which personally ticked all my boxes and helped me stay away from the caffeine.
Important to note: quitting caffeine is more than just coffee. Caffeine is in a lot of things that you might not even realize. For example, I have also stopped drinking Coca-Cola and Pepsi because they have caffeine in them. Dark chocolate even has caffeine in it (not a ton but still some). So part of my journey to quitting caffeine has been doing research on what foods and drinks have caffeine in them. And to be honest, if I can’t figure out if there is caffeine in something, I typically steer clear (said goodbye to my Tim Hortons iced capps because of that).
I guess if I could make a list of a few steps to giving up caffeine it would be this:
- Determine what you eat and drink that has caffeine in it
- Start reducing the amount of caffeine you consume
- Replace food and drinks with non-caffeinated options (like decaf coffee and caffeine-free soda)
- Replace old routines with something new (instead of a morning coffee, have a morning non-caffeinated tea or a smoothie)
- Take note of how you feel when you don’t drink caffeine to keep you motivated on the hard days
Benefits of living a caffeine-free life
From my own experience, there have been a lot of benefits from not having caffeine. The biggest improvement has been my anxiety. It hasn’t gone away but it has improved significantly.
For months I was keeping a journal with an anxiety tracker in it. I made note every night about how I felt during the day. Most days I was reporting “anxious” or “really anxious” (my scale was 1) feeling good, 2) anxious, 3) really anxious). When I finally stopped having coffee and energy drinks often I was only having a few anxious days. I’m not kidding, I went from having majority anxious days to maybe 4 or 5 a month.
I also noticed my overall energy was better. I was sleeping better, waking up energized, and not feeling as tired at the end of the day.
There were no more jitters, sweaty palms, and racing heartbeats. I wasn’t even craving it at all. The only thing I struggled with was the routine I had myself in. I was used to the habit of getting coffee. So I started a new habit which was getting a decaf latte once or twice a week to still give me the cozy morning feels. Gotta negotiate with yourself, right?
According to people who actually know what they are talking about (aka doctors and scientists) here are some benefits of being caffeine-free:
- Less anxiety
- Better sleep
- You could have whiter teeth
- Weight loss (from all the added sugars in sodas, energy drinks, and coffees)
- Lower blood pressure
- Balanced brain chemistry (better mood)
- Save more money
- Fewer headaches
- Less brain fog
- Healthier digestion
- Fewer wrinkles (caffeine affects collagen synthesis)
- Reduced heartburn
- More balanced energy levels
- Increased nutrient absorption
At the end of the day, everyone’s relationship with caffeine is different. Just like how everyone’s relationship with alcohol is different – you can decide how much or how little works best for you.
I found that caffeine really wrecked havoc on my nervous system! The anxiety that was already there and somewhat manageable became a monster. Having my favourite coffee or energy drink was no longer worth it (even though I do miss them).
The positive thing about quitting caffeine is that there are substitutions that allow you to still enjoy some of your favourite things without the negative impact caffeine has on you. Caffeine-free sodas like Sprite, decaf espresso in your lattes, and even pre-workouts.
Quitting caffeine doesn’t need to be hard! You may experience a few days of sleepiness or headaches without your coffee but it does pass and you’ll find that your body has all the energy it needs naturally!
Do what is right for you and remember that most things in moderation are fine! I still enjoy my Starbucks cinnamon dolce latte (with decaf espresso) from time to time because I just love it. If you have no issues with caffeine then you do you!
What are your thoughts on being caffeine-free? Do you have any issues with caffeine?