Whether it’s all-night writing session or a morning wake-up call, coffee and other caffeine loaded drinks are the vices of choice among most people. Sure, the next day or the evening is hard to deal with in your droopy ADD kind of way, but it was worth the added burst of energy. Right? I am in the belief that quitting coffee and those other chemically-enhanced liquids, can actually make you considerably more efficient in the long run.
It seems like everybody drinks coffee. You know how I know this? I have worked part-time at a coffee shop for nearly three years. Old people drink coffee, business types drink coffee, housewives and nannies, high schoolers and policemen, and even kids (those caramel blended drinks have around the same amount of caffeine as a nice-sized adult cup of joe). Starbucks
and the rest of them have really taken coffee from a solely early-morning wake-up call to an all day, free-for-all that goes across all races and socioeconomic classes. So why are you included in that group?
Let’s go back to the root of how and why you started drinking coffee. You were tired one day. It’s as simple as that. There was a day that you felt like you needed an extra boost. So you looked at that wonderful list (that I hate) of what society does to deal with this problem.
Well, a lot of people drink coffee.
Bingo! Then you got a cup and drank it. It may have tasted great and it may have tasted horrible. It may have pumped you up too much or it may have been just right. In any case, it was close enough to the boost you wanted that you decided to make it your #1 choice for dealing with tiredness and a lack of focus. The next time you needed a boost, which could have very well been the next day, you picked your best perceived option and got another cup.
For a lot of people, this initial choice leads to a life-long habit. An expensive one if it’s upgraded to lattes. But why would it not lead to a habit? It keeps you up when you’re sleepy and there are hundreds of places to get it throughout your day. It is a perfectly logical choice. But is it the best choice?
If you’ve read any of my other articles, you know that I’m not one to accept even the most logical of societal choices. Sometimes you need to test other options. Let’s just think about what would happen if you embarked on a journey of quitting coffee.
You would feel really, really tired. There is a good chance that you would not be able to function up to your current standard of achievement. You might fall asleep at work or at school.
Depending on how often you drink coffee, you may even have a splitting headache. If there are all these awful potential consequences of quitting coffee, why should you do it?
Just because you have withdrawal from a substance, does not mean that you shouldn’t make an effort to not be dependent on it. In fact, the fact that you have withdrawal is probably a sign that you should attack the problem head on.
I used to drink diet soda all the time; it was one of my best friends in college. Me and my diet soda would write late night papers together and then it would help me pump back up in the morning after a couple hours of sleep. I typically only relied on it during these late night escapades, but I did experience some fogginess for the next 24 to 48 hours. When I began working at the coffee shop I was wooed by the joys of free caffeine. I was getting up at 4:30 AM every morning to prepare drinks for the unruly mob that walked in there daily (just kidding, they were very nice…after they got their cup ;) ). I was so tired that I decided to utilize the free wares around me. I started drinking a double espresso con panna (whipped cream) every single morning that I worked.
The reason I was serving java at that time of day, is because I was hell bent on working early and spending all day looking for acting and producing gigs. But that is not what I did. I returned home and I felt like I wanted to pass out. By the time I woke up in the afternoon, I felt grumpy and depressed. I spent the next hour or two before the sun went down moping around and wasting time on the Internet. I went to the occasional improv comedy class or theatre audition, went to bed as early as I could and then repeated the same thing the next day. This went on for about a year or so.
After all that time of not finding the success I wanted, I started looking for a change. Of course, at first I believed that my problem had little to do with caffeine. I had been drinking it all my life, after all, and this was the first time I had felt so unsuccessful. I started looking up information about setting goals and going toward success. I did not expect to find any articles about quitting coffee.
Why on earth would
appear on a personal development website? I read onward. The author had seen a great improvement in his creative capacities and his sleep when he was off of caffeine. Just like me, he had found he had mood problems after the initial high wore off. Seeing as I am kind of a rush into things person, I gave up caffeine immediately. But like a yo-yo dieter, I was on and off the stuff for the next year or so.
The thing that kept me coming back was the exceptionally tired days. The days when I knew I wouldn’t be able to function unless I had something to pick me up. But there are lots of factors that go into feeling tired. When I was able to control those, I was able to more effectively start quitting coffee.
Diet – Too many heavily cooked foods and preservatives will make you sleepy in a hurry. Going with a more raw diet with fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts can keep your energy up throughout the day.
Exercise – A consistent routine of any kind can help make your sleep more efficient. Whether its ten minutes a day or an hour a day, doing anything in this area will improve your energy.
Time Management – Figuring the best time of the day for your body and scheduling the most important tasks for that time will help your stress levels and improve your sense of accomplishment.
Sleep – Funny how sleep would affect tiredness, huh? I know that it is tough to get those magical 8 hours every night and I would be lying if I told you I got that much. Like with exercise, consistency is the key. Try to sleep similar amounts at the same time every night. This will help get your body into a more natural rhythm instead of trying to sleep at inopportune and random times.
By bringing these four areas more into control, it will make the first steps of quitting coffee a whole lot easier. Once I felt more balanced in the above four ways, and I had been off caffeine for about a month or so, I began to notice some definite changes.
I stopped getting tired nearly as often. My clarity was much improved throughout the day. I had an easier time forming ideas, perhaps not as easy as when I was on caffeine, but definitely less scatterbrained. I was able to sit and write for a longer period of time ( I say this as I’ve been sitting down and writing for the last four hours or so ). My mood no longer depended on the endorphin stimulation of coffee; my exercise and diet were taking care of that just fine. When I do get tired, I try to go for something more natural, like an apple. Apples have a natural chemical Procyanidin which has been found to improve blood circulation and oxygen reception. It always seems to give me a nice coffee-like boost without any side effects to speak of. I can live with that :).
As with most of the ideas I have on this website, quitting coffee can be a slow and painful process. For those of you who are math minded, I have created an Algebra problem to prove that the change is definitely financially worth it. To improve your life, you sometimes have to take a couple of steps back in productivity and generally feeling good before you can move forward. If you are having trouble going as far as you want to on your creative projects, than you need to improve some aspect of your life, caffeine or not. This is just a good and financially sound way to kick things off.
I wish you good luck in your quitting coffee attempt and I promise you a clearer head :).
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.