Warning: long post coming up! You might want to grab a cup of tea (decaf?), maybe a kit kat, and get settled in. Ready? Here we go...
Sometimes, I would say I am reliant on caffeine. Normally around exam time, when the stress starts to kick in and procrastination means that a trip to Costa for a cortado is an "essential" in order to a) keep me going and b) give me a well deserved break after all that studying done since the last coffee run about 30 minutes ago. OK so I'm not that bad, but I will say that during exams I hit around 4 cups a day. Otherwise, I'm pretty good - normally 1, rising to 2 if I'm feeling like I need/want to. Addicted? Maybe a little. Can I survive without a cup for a day? Sure. Nonetheless, this year lent rolled around and I realised that I had given nothing up. So spontaneously, almost the night before, I decided that the only thing which would really be a challenge and that I was willing to try would be to completely give up caffeine. No tea, no coffee, no caffeinated drinks at all. Not even a single chocolate covered coffee bean. I was going cold turkey.
40 Caffeine Free Days
The first week was tough. I didn't have any of the fabled withdrawel headaches or shakes, probably because I don't drink heaps of caffeine every day and actually had only had one cup of coffee in the few days leading up to lent anyway. I did however miss that little boost in the morning telling me it was time to get ready and face the day. I bought decaf coffee to try and trick myself: this does not work! Nevertheless, it wasn't bad enough to make me want to throw in the towel.
Fast forward a few weeks, and with Easter just around the corner, the end was in sight! About 2 weeks before the end of lent, I came home for the holidays. Even though I was by then used to being caffeine free it was definitely more difficult because we have better quality (therefore much more tempting) coffee at home than I would ever buy as a student, and also I work in a café where there is naturally a lot of yummy coffee waiting to be drunk! However determination won out and on Easter Sunday I finally had my first cup since giving it up over a month ago.
If I make it sound relatively easy to give up caffeine, it's because for me, it actually was. I realised that I really wasn't as addicted as I thought and whilst I missed it, it wasn't a huge struggle. I can imagine had someone asked me to give it up straight after exam time, this would be a very different story! As it is, I gave it up and it was OK. But what now?
At the beginning, I had expectations of coming out the other end a permanently bright eyed, energetic and pretty much glowing version of myself. I had heard of other people's experiences: they gave up caffeine and now they won't touch the stuff! Well for me that's not quite how it's gone.
Firstly, I didn't feel significantly better for giving up caffeine. I was still a bit sleepy in the morning, I still felt like I needed a pick me up mid afternoon. I was also drinking decaf coffee - I'm sure this is fine but I prefer my food/drink to be a bit more natural. Coffee is meant to have caffeine in it, that's how it is. So drinking decaf, whilst without the addictive caffeine, must also have some kind of chemical in there too. So I'm not convinced that was any more healthy! Also Green Tea is ridiculously good for you and also contains caffeine...it's a grey area, I think.
Now that I've been allowing myself caffeine for over a week, it's easier to see whether or not it made a difference. Having more than 1 cup a day now does make me feel a bit odd, I don't know how to explain it but I feel like 1 cup is actually more than enough. I actually got really shaky after having 2 cups which shows how much of a negative effect too much can have! Considering it didn't transform my health and have an amazing effect on the way I look/feel, I wouldn't say I've been converted entirely and won't be giving up caffeine completely again, however I will 100% be cutting down and having it more as an occasional treat instead of something I rely on. If you're someone who has a lot of caffeine every day, I think cutting down is really beneficial, I definitely notice now that I feel so much better and more lively on days when I don't drink a lot!
I hope you enjoyed this post, I just thought I would share my experience as I know that caffeine is something which features so heavily in almost all our lives, and I always find it interesting hearing about different people's experiences!