I decided to give up caffeine a couple of months ago and am feeling so much better for it. I used to LOVE my morning coffee and caffeine hit. In fact I loved a coffee any time of the day. I sometimes went through phases of drinking up to four cups a day. Being a teacher, it’s a very easy habit to slip into and is part of the staffroom culture. It was something I was unwilling to give up for many, many years because it made me happy. I used this as my excuse not to give it up. Why give up something that brings me great joy? But at the back of my mind, I always felt uncomfortable at how dependent I was on a hit of caffeine in the morning to feel normal. I had tried to give up caffeine in the past and had horrendous withdrawal symptoms and up to two weeks of headaches. Eventually I always caved and went back to drinking coffee. I felt grumpy in the mornings without it. In fact I always felt that my brain didn’t kick in properly until I had had one. That’s crazy to me now that I felt so dependent on it that I couldn’t function without it. 

I remember going on a multi day hike in Abel Tasman, New Zealand. My friend and I wanted to pack lightly so we only had the bare minimum amount of food, drink and equipment we would need for the four days. That didn’t include coffee. I remember sitting next to someone on the third morning in the camping lodge and them pulling out a bag of coffee and starting to prepare themselves a drink on their mini camping stove. I think I must have just been staring *possibly drooling* because the poor guy felt sorry for me and offered me a cup. I recall hugging this stranger and telling him I loved him. Three days without coffee had taken its toll.

I remember on a separate occasion attempting to go cold turkey and give up coffee as a New Year’s Resolution. The school I worked at had an awesome system where you had your mug hanging underneath your name and hot drink order. Every break time, a lovely assistant had already prepared your drink for you by the time you escaped to the classroom. Everyone had tea and coffee and I changed mine to hot water and just added a slice of lemon. I felt like an oddity and looked around the staffroom in envy at everyone else sipping their caffeinated drinks. That week, I recall having to run out of a science lesson to be sick in the toilet. My migraines were so so awful. They were all for nothing though as I quickly slipped back into drinking coffee. At the time, it was just too difficult for me to give up.

Then a number of things happened recently. I heard that my dad had given up coffee for a while. He is even more of a caffeine fiend than me so I realised that if he could give it up, I could. The following week, I was accidentally served decaf coffee at home for a few days without realising it. As soon as I knew, I switched straight back to the regular stuff but was also a bit surprised that I hadn’t noticed the difference. Then back at Rich’s parents’ place, I decided to try a decaf coffee in the evening and it wasn’t half bad. I announced to the room “I think I am going to give up caffeine” (much to Rich’s shock) and that was it. I had the usual 5 to 9 day of withdrawals, feeling tired, a bit grumpy and a few horrendous headaches when I gave up but I am over it now and, two months later, I honestly don’t think I will slip back into old caffeine habits anytime soon.

I now drink decaffeinated coffee (which does still apparently contain a very very miniscule amount of caffeine). I wasn’t willing to give up coffee completely but now I am not dependent on it. I can enjoy a decaf as part of English sharing a cuppa culture happily knowing that it isn’t my first thought every time I wake up. I don’t have the same energy dips or cravings for a caffeine hit. 

There are many habits worse than caffeine and I appreciate the joy that coffee lovers get from a hot steaming mug of the stuff. It is a personal decision. For me, it felt like the right time to see if I could go without. I am not preaching that everyone should give up caffeine. In fact, there are some health benefits and people have different tolerances to it. Personally, I just didn’t like the feeling of dependence on it to feel normal. It also often gave me heart palpitations if I had too much. It’s a relief to me that I don’t rely on something so I wanted to share in case it rang true with others. Of course, timing is also everything. We have to be in the right headspace to make these changes. A series of events led me to try decaf and I am grateful for the changes I have made.

Do you have any habits you want to change? This Covid era has been a difficult time for lots of people but it has also been a time of self reflection and people wanting to make positive changes and lifestyle choices. Maybe, the time is now!

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