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Death before decaf? My year without caffeine

My first and all-time favorite job was working as a barista at a local coffee shop. However this job included two stipulations- 1. I was destined to be a coffee snob forever and 2. I would become addicted to coffee. I could drink two shots of espresso at 9 p.m. and fall asleep no problem. Honestly, this didn’t bother me for a long time. I saw it as a necessary part of my life until anxiety made its way into the mix.

My sophomore and junior years of college included many panic attacks and anxious nights. I was struggling to pinpoint the causes and did not fully understand what it was. During this time, I was fortunate enough to get an internship in Pittsburgh, PA. I was ecstatic, but knew I was in the midst of my battle with anxiety. I was nowhere near finding coping mechanisms that worked for me and I finally realized coffee was not helping my process.

I made the decision to give up coffee that summer- a feat that surprisingly lasted a year. Here’s what I learned in the process:

  • Caffeine is a major anxiety trigger

This one may be obvious, but I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me until I gave it up. I was able to calm down a lot quicker and had less fight or flight moments throughout the day.

  • Rooibos tea is a great substitute

I had a barista recommend that I try rooibos tea when I informed her I wasn’t drinking caffeine. The herbal tea is a great non-caffeinated substitute because it has a similar earthy undertone that mimics coffee.

  • You spend a lot of money on coffee

I was spending around $780 a year on coffee. That is ridiculous when you look at in the long-term.

  • You have natural energy

I realized that by relying on good sleep patterns and natural energy in the morning- it wasn’t as bad as I thought. My body adjusted and a workout produced the same, if not more, of the energy I needed to power through my day.

  • Ignore “Death before decaf” comments

There were many people who did not understand how I could give up caffeine or drink decaf coffee during brunch. Don’t let other people influence your decisions- drink all the decaf you want and be proud!

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  • You’ll drink more water

I realized that because I didn’t constantly have a coffee cup in my hand, it was being replaced with water. I drank more water than I ever had that year and that became a permanent change in my life.

  • You’ll have more time in the morning

I planned every morning around coffee prior to this year. My route always included a coffee shop, no matter how out of the way it was. I was able to sleep in a few extra minutes and actually eat breakfast during this year.

  • Caffeine is addictive

I won’t lie- not a day went by that I didn’t think about coffee. A Starbucks was located directly on my route to and from work and I wanted to stop each day. However, I prioritized my mental health over a cup of coffee.

  • You can still visit coffee shops

For awhile I thought I couldn’t even step into a cafe because just smelling the freshly ground espresso was enough to tempt me. But I realized smoothies, tea and delicious pastries can be enough to get your through your study session.

  • I love coffee

With all that being said- I am writing this post while sipping on an iced latte in the middle of a local coffee shop. That year made me realize that I didn’t need coffee, but rather found enjoyment in the experience. I love getting to know the baristas, sharing stories of my many years in their place. I love trying out new roasts and discovery eclectic cafes in new cities. It will always be a major part of my life because coffee is not just a drink to me- it is a reminder of a huge part of my life that shaped who I am today.

Do what’s best for you. It is possible to give up caffeine, even if it starts as just cutting back at first. Focusing on solutions to your anxiety, or realizing that you can function without it is much more important than having a cup every day. When you start to realize that your anxiety is fading and you are regaining control of your life (because it will happen), by all means, pick up that latte again.

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