Caffeine and Anxiety Brew Together

I’ll admit it, while I practice mindfulness, do yoga, and meditate, I do love coffee. Not necessarily Starbucks shockingly burnt acid roasts (their Fraps are great, and their Green Tea Frapps are awesome.) I’ve recently found that a Chemex might be the best way to make coffee, with good roasts, but I digress lol.

caffieneandanxietyWhen I started drinking coffee heavily in my mid-twenties, I’d noticed the awesome power that caffeine has on the mind. It was subtle, but I was alert and able to learn things at an accelerated rate. This made teaching classes in technology and design much easier. Though it would be years before I learned why.

While the coffee helped me on the job, and really helped when I was in graduate school, there was another side to drinking that much coffee. I’d started to get very nervous. I don’t mean like a little jittery, but really, really nervous. I didn’t put the two together at the time, but the coffee was definitely behind it.

Caffeine Is a Stimulant!

It has been shown to decrease fatigue, promote alertness and focus, and increase metabolism. As with anything though, the reverse effects can suck. Those being anxiety (usually over 300mg a day, or a few cups of coffee), reduced fine motor control, increased blood pressure, and, well, it makes you go to the restroom a lot more often.

While most of those things weren’t affecting me one way or another in my mid-twenties, they started to in my 30s. I was drinking about 3 to 4 cups a day, and eating chocolate. My intake was probably close to 500mg a day or more. That’s into the anxiety range.

So, what do we do then if we suffer from anxiety but still love our coffee? We learn to live with it. We need to realize that the anxiety we feel is simply enhanced by coffee. Caffeine intake and anxiety go hand in hand.

If we try to quit cold-turkey, many of us have withdrawl symptoms. These can be jitters, headaches, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, among other less common things. That’s certainly no fun, and doesn’t help us give up or lower our coffee consumption.

What we can do, however, is learn to consume coffee mindfully. We can establish how we feel before we have coffee by meditating and taking stock of how we feel, then do that again after we drink coffee, and compare and note the effects and differences.

That way, we can learn what our bodies do when caffeinated, and what we can do to mitigate it. We can learn to not be affected by the coffee, but to welcome it and live with it. We learn that the anxiety we feel after drinking coffee is just that, anxiety triggered by drinking coffee.  It’s all just the dance of caffeine and anxiety.

When you learn to practice mindfulness, you will know what your body feels like. You will be able to see what your mind feeds you. You’ll also be able to tell what happens when you are exposed to things like alcohol and caffeine. It’s all about feeling. We get out of our heads and into our bodies. It’s a really cool experience.

Mindful Drinking

Establish how you feel at your most normal and write it down. Then, have caffeine or alcohol and see how you feel then. This will give you a solid understanding, in time, of your body and what things like caffeine do to you. This will take some mindfulness practice.

Getting in the zone is easy if you sign up for the newsletter. It will help you get mindful quickly. Just stick with it.
Or, if you’re in more a rush, get this course and follow it. It will teach you how to use mindfulness in every day situations. It’s very practical and immediate. While it’s not my course, cause I haven’t made one yet, it’s pretty darn good.

Then, get a Chemex, some filters, and some good coffee roasts. Oh, and get a burr grinder, it does a better job of smashing the coffee beans and releasing the flavor.

Weening Yourself Off Of Coffee

Here’s how to do it. It’s simple but takes a while.

Get yourself a measuring glass, like a pyrex or something. Then, pour the coffee into that thing before you pour it into your cup. Yeah, you’ll look like a freak, but it’s all good, so own it.

Then, every couple of days, measure out less and less before pouring it into your cup. Take a few weeks or months to get down to nothing. The caffeine withdrawl might be much easier to cope with if you gradually let yourself down instead of quitting cold turkey.

Of course, you could just quit cold turkey, then observe the effects on your body mindfully. That would be great practice, but unless you’re really seasoned in it, I don’t suggest it. It could make you go friggin crazy, and we have enough crazies in the world right now. So yeah, probably do the measuring cup thing.

The Great Coffee Alternative

But what if you want to get off of coffee, but you love the caffeine fix?

Simple.

Drink Matcha Green Tea.

It’s loaded with caffeine, but it doesn’t hit you all at once. Have you ever had a Green Tea Frapp from Starbucks? Did you notice that you were more alert and had a bit more energy throughout the day? I have.

That’s because the caffeine in Matcha, one of the key ingredients in the Green Tea Frapp, is naturally time-released. That means that instead of getting the huge surge from caffeine like you do from Espresso or coffee, you get the release over time.

It’s a much nicer caffeine high and it lasts longer. There’s also no crash, unless you load the thing with sugar. You can make your own by getting Matcha and making your own smoothie, with stevia or some other natural sugar substitute like xylotol or something.

Here’s a good recipe:

  • 2 Cups of Ice Cubes
  • 1.5 cups of either Soy or Coconut Milk
  • 1.5 teaspoons of Matcha Powder
  • Natural Sweetener to taste

Put it in a blender until smooth and drink it in front of your friends, cause it will make you look cool.

So that’s it.

You can drink coffee, but it can increase anxiety. Just practice mindfulness and see that your anxiety is probably heightened by the caffeine. Then take steps to either cut coffee out, or continue to enjoy it with the added benefit of mindful awareness. Or switch to Matcha like the other cool kids 🙂

If you want guided all-day active mindfulness, check out this very inexpensive course on Udemy. I bought it and have been through it, and it's good.

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