You wake up, you drink a cup of coffee. You’re out the door, you drink a cup of coffee. What do you want to drink with your lunch? Soda, please. A mocha-latte or expresso for your meeting. An energy drink if you have to stay late. Soda with dinner. Coffee after dessert. And the next morning? It starts all over.
As a society, we certainly like our caffeine. And why wouldn’t we? Half of the time, it’s the only thing that can keep us on our feet after a long day, or a day that already seems like it’s been long. When we can’t make ourselves go anymore, it gives us a little jump-start of energy so that we can finish up what needs to be done.
Is it any surprise that there is an anxiety epidemic in our country?
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you already know most of the signs and symptoms. A racing heart rate. Sweating. Shaking. Nausea. It isn’t a pleasant experience, and more and more people are suffering from panic attacks and other anxiety disorders every day. People go on hundreds of different medications to try and control it. But do you know what else can cause a fast heartbeat, sweating, shaking, and nausea? Too much caffeine.
Caffeine is a stimulant, much like cocaine. We appreciate it for giving us energy, but it gives it to us in a way that can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. It makes your heart beat faster, tricking your body into feeling more awake than it is. It releases dopamine and acetylcholine in the brain, giving us a jolt of the “feel good” chemical, making us feel better without actually doing anything good to begin with. Lastly, it blocks the neurotransmitter, adenosine, which is what makes us feel drowsy in the first place. The effect is generally the same: A renewed source of energy, but all the catalysts of a panic attack.
Because caffeine is such a large part of our society, it’s widely accepted as an everyday part of life for most. But, if you suffer from an anxiety disorder, most doctors recommend that you either quit caffeine, or limit yourself to a modest amount that won’t leave you in a panic afterwards.
But it can be difficult to know where to start. Breaking a habit that has lasted for so long isn’t easy. And, if you have an anxiety disorder of some kind, you want relief as quickly as possible. To cut caffeine safely, efficiently, and fairly quickly, follow the advice laid out below. Of course, you should consult with your physician before starting or stopping anything if you have heart problems of any kind.
Tools and Advice to Quit the Café
Don’t quit cold turkey.
Just quitting out of the blue may seem like a good way to get rid of anxiety induced my caffeine. Generally, it isn’t. Because it’s such a normal habit that most people have had their entire lives, a good deal of the population has become reliant, or even addicted, to caffeine. Simply taking it away can lead to caffeine withdrawals, a medical condition of its own. If you try to stop ingesting caffeine, and find yourself becoming ill, highly irritable, panicked, or experiencing any other debilitating side effect, speak with your doctor. They can help wean you off of it under their supervision.
But, if your side-effects are mild (or, lucky you, nonexistent), then you can go forward on your own. Monitor how much caffeine you consume on a daily basis. You might need to chart your intake over a few days, to get an average. Then, slowly start the weaning process. Cut out a little more each day, so that you gradually lower yourself from the caffeine habit.
Decaf and Caffeine-Free
As those who have had to quit consuming caffeine for other reasons have all learned, decaffeinated coffee and caffeine-free sodas will become your best friends in this. Though these products all taste the same as their normal, caffeinated brethren, they are missing the stimulant itself. Your morning cup of coffee will taste the same, and won’t cause a panic attack! Soda at dinner isn’t a problem, because the caffeine won’t keep you up in a dither all night! For those who are so used to caffeine in their diet, this is a great alternative.
Other Ways to Regain Energy
Just because you’re doing away with your favorite pick-me-up doesn’t mean that you have to nap on your desk all afternoon. There are a great many ways to increase your energy without caffeine. For instance, instead of a cup of coffee before you leave the house, drink an ice-cold glass of water. That will jump-start your body and hydrate you, letting you feel better than you normally would. Waning while you’re at work? Put down that energy shot and do some stretching or other light exercises.
It Isn’t Just Coffee
It isn’t only your frappucino or soda that has caffeine. So many other food, drinks, and even beauty treatments come loaded with the stuff. Chocolate is a good example of this. Everyone likes chocolate (most recorded cravings are for it). But, the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine percentage. Now, there’s no need for you to give up your chocolate fix. (Who could ask someone to do that?) It means consuming it in lower amounts, and going for the kind that won’t have as much caffeine as the others. Because of this, you shouldn’t look at hot cocoa as a more anxiety-free option to coffee; you’re still getting that jolt.
Beauty treatments can be the most nefarious sources of caffeine, because few think to look there. Caffeine is used in these treatments because it can firm and tighten the skin, giving a more youthful appearance. But that caffeine is, in turn, absorbed into the skin, making its way into your blood stream and, eventually, the brain. It’s best to either not use these product, or use it in moderation.
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