Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Less is more - a week without caffeine

(Scatter brain post. Proceed with caution.)

Wait, you can quit tea? Why would anyone foolishly do that?

Well, I wasn't just quitting tea, I was quitting yerba mate. For the last few years I drank yerba instead of tea. Within the last year, The gourd size I used just got bigger and bigger. I eventually reached a point where the side effects of caffeine were too much. I would get wired in the morning, then anxious and depressed later in the day. I often found it difficult getting to sleep and I noticed that my sleep was very shallow. The part that scared me was that it seemed to cause involuntary muscle spasms, a racing heart beat, and occasionally an intolerance to the slightest exercise. Walking to class sometimes made my heart race, and I would have to sit down to let it pass. I'm young, at a healthy weight, and have been active most of my life, so this was very alarming. Once I connected this to caffeine, I tried to get more into tea to get away from the more heavily caffeinated yerba. I started by switching to smaller and smaller gourds, then ditching the gourd entirely to brew it like green tea. Before I actually switched to tea I decided to quit caffeine entirely after reading a number of posts online about the benefits of quitting. Also, my girlfriend quit caffeine a couple weeks before, so it inspired me to quit as well.

I had withdrawal for maybe a day, but it was just a little fatigue. No headache, no irritability, just more tired than usual and maybe a slightly depressed mood. By the second day, I felt normal. I even felt a slight rush of energy as I went over a friends house, and went grocery shopping. This was the case for the rest of the week. The only downside was for the first few days, skipping the morning ritual of yerba took a little willpower. By day 4 or 5, classes started up again which I thought would be a real test. I went from sleeping in 'till 9am over break straight to getting up at 5am and having long days all without caffeine.

This is were I started to wonder about my caffeine addiction. Compared to what I read about the horrors of caffeine withdrawal, I felt like I might not have been significantly addicted to caffeine. I woke up at 5am and got through the day just fine. By the end of the week, I started to wonder why no one commenting on blog posts I read about quitting caffeine said they quit tea. I thought maybe it's just a problem coffee drinkers face and decided to try tea again. I just decided I didn't want to get back to drinking yerba, for reasons I will cover in another blog post.

What I learned from this little experiment was that I don't need caffeine, but I choose to drink tea because I enjoy it. I noticed benefits of quitting caffeine even within the week without, which helped me get over the delusion that I need it. It also emphasized the need for moderation. I felt better without caffeine than I did when I was getting wired on yerba. My mood and energy levels were a lot more stable throughout the day, and much of my anxiety dissipated. The spasms and heart palpitations also slowly started getting better. I even did a short burst of running to the bus stop before class like I normally do, only this time I felt much less strained and I got further before becoming tired. My sleep improved modestly, though I think it would be a longer process before my sleep truly improves.

So far I attribute many of the negative effects of caffeine use I experienced to yerba and to excessive caffeine consumption in general. So far I feel fine with a few cups of tea a day. I'll post soon about my concerns about yerba clarifying why I'm avoiding it.

1 comment: said...

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