I love coffee. Everything about it is utterly seductive from the smooth taste to the way the steam drifts upwards in curls and dissipates into the air. It wants me to drink it, and I want it too, but I resist for my own sake.
I spoke with my doctor a few weeks ago about getting a particularly nasty spell of anxiety under control. One of the first things he asked was how much coffee I drink. Now, I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty smug as I proudly announced that I only have one cup in the morning. He didn’t seem as impressed as I had expected…
“Well,” he mused. “One cup is likely too much for you.”
I was being asked to give up my morning pep. I was also being asked to do every single thing within
mypower to keep my anxiety under control.
For some, any drink that contains caffeine is a trigger for anxiety. For others not prone to anxiety disorders, they may only have an anxious reaction after consuming an exuberant amount.
That caffeine buzz we enjoy is caused as it blocks a chemical in the brain called adenosine. Adenosine makes you tired, and the caffeine, being so similar in structure that the brain can’t tell it apart, ends up sat in the receptors instead, making us feel more alert. At the same time, the caffeine is encouraging the body to produce adrenaline and the stress hormone: cortisol. Which, if you’ve lived with anxiety for any time at all, you’ll know is like feeding sugar to an already hyper child.
Anxiety is a natural response to situations our mind deems to be threatening to us, triggering our fight or flight response. In my experience, I often feel extreme tightness and pressure across my chest, a racing heart and invisible walls that appear out of nowhere, ones I cannot pass no matter how hard I try. My mind races. I read recently that the average person has around 60,000 thoughts in a day. During my attacks, those thoughts happen all at once and repeat over and over in a whirlwind of my own voice.
My doctor was right. For me, coffee heightens all these things. Perhaps it’s different for you. All of us should examine what is right for us as individuals, so I’m holding up my end of the deal. I’ve given up my morning coffee and am looking for decent caffeine-free alternatives that give me the same thrill of drinking something warm in a cute panda mug.
I think there is something to putting ourselves in the best possible position to ease the swell of anxiety. I know that coffee is not the root cause of what I go through, but it’s not a useful tool for me now. Does it make things worse for me? Yes. Should I try to remove or limit the things that make my life a little more difficult? Absolutely. In the meantime, I’m working on other aspects of my life to improve my anxiety too. Hopefully, lots of little positive changes will make all the difference.