What I Learned from Giving Up Caffeine

I’ve always been a coffee-lover. I picked up the habit in middle school, when I started having a cup of coffee with breakfast. Throughout high school I upped my caffeine intake to two cups of coffee each morning. I didn’t think anything of it, because everyone drank it, and I even heard that a moderate amount of caffeine was good for you. Honestly, the only thing that kept me from sleeping through my alarms in the morning was the smell of freshly brewed coffee coming from the kitchen.

When I got to college, I started drinking a lot more coffee. I just love how it tastes and how it gives me the energy to get through the day or whatever assignment I’m working on. The fact that Starbucks and Dunkin are only a few blocks away from me at any given time fueled my habit even more. I liked to have a cup or two in the morning at home and another in the afternoon, which I’d usually buy somewhere on campus. I even started a Pittsburgh coffee shop bucket list with the goal of trying every brew in the ‘burgh before graduation.

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Then, one day, I decided to quit caffeine. I abruptly went cold turkey, and here’s why.

 

I noticed that caffeine could be a trigger to my anxiety. I’ve had anxiety since before I even picked up my caffeine habit, but lately I’ve noticed that my afternoon cup of coffee makes me shaky, nervous and can even bring on panic attacks. I figured a natural and easy way to combat my anxiety would be to try cutting out the caffeine.

 

Buying coffee was adding up. I started keeping a budget last year and noticed that one month I spent a whopping $70 at Starbucks. $70. That’s insane, and that’s when I knew I needed to stop wasting my money on vanilla lattes and caramel macchiatos.

 

Too much caffeine is unhealthy. Yes, it’s true that a cup of coffee a day is good for you. According to John Hopkins Medicine, coffee has antioxidants and has been correlated with lower risk of heart failure and other diseases. However, the amount I was drinking was definitely not healthy. Excessive intake can cause increased heart rate, raised blood pressure and of course, anxiety.

 

I just wanted to see if I could do it. Above all of the other reasons, I simply wanted to challenge myself to try something new. I didn’t like that I had a dependency on caffeine, and I figured that I’d be better off without it.

 

So, how did it go? I completely cut myself off from any type of caffeine in September and I haven’t gone back to it since.

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At first, I was tired. No, I was exhausted. I expected to be tired, but I didn’t expect to have as much trouble getting through the day as I did those first few days. I have up to six classes a day and I was literally falling asleep in some of them. However, I luckily didn’t experience any side effects that a lot of people do from quitting caffeine, like headaches or nausea.

 

By the second week, I was completely used to not having caffeine. I had more energy throughout the day and wasn’t “crashing” in the afternoon like I used to. My bank account was also thanking me, because I was spending way less money throughout the day. Still, I did really miss the taste and smell of my morning cup of joe.

 

The easy solution to this was to get decaf coffee pods for my Keurig. Now, I can enjoy my old routine of a cup of coffee with breakfast without depending on it. I also started going back to Starbucks every once and awhile to get decaf lattes, because I missed the taste of those, too. I think one reason I went to Starbucks so often before was because I love the atmosphere in the store – it’s perfect for studying. But now that I keep a budget, I’m limiting myself to one store-bought drink per week.

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One day, Starbucks accidentally gave me a caffeinated latte instead of the decaf one. I didn’t notice until after I drank it and I was suddenly super energized. I even powered through writing my essay that I had been putting off for a while. But I also got really anxious again and I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. I realized that my tolerance was way lower than it used to be.

 

Now, I’ve gradually reintroduced caffeine into my diet, but I don’t have it as often as I did before. I’ll have a cup of caffeinated coffee on the weekends, but for the most part I stick to decaf. I’ve noticed that I’m a lot calmer and I’m able to get things done without relying on a drink to get me through it.

 

If you think your coffee habit is out of control, I recommend trying to go a week without it. I learned a lot about myself, and you could too.