Stopping Caffeine for Better Health
Want to give up caffeine? As you know, it can be highly addictive, and the jury is still out about the supposed health benefits of popular caffeinated drinks like coffee. If you are like most, you’re a creature of habit with a morning coffee to get your day started.
But if you suffer from anxiety, excessive stress, or depression – you might be better served to wean yourself off caffeine altogether. Does the quitting sound too daunting?
Let us help. Over the next 21 days, you will slowly ween yourself from caffeine. Each day, we will ask you pointed questions to help you understand the complex emotional relationship between you and caffeine. Trust us, its more complicated than you think!
We will also educate you with scientific information about the downfalls of too much caffeine like elevated blood pressure, anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and even depression. Are you ready to kick this habit once and for all?
Well, com’on, let’s get started!
Step 1: Track Your Daily Consumption
Keep tabs on your overall caffeine consumption. The first step to breaking the cycle of caffeine addiction is to identify how much you're consuming. This way, you can get a sense of how much to cut back each week to gradually taper off caffeine.
- Read labels when you consume a caffeinated beverage. Write down how much caffeine you're consuming, and also keep track of, say, how many cups of coffee or soda you have each day.
- Some surprising foods, like chocolate, contain trace amounts of caffeine. Be sure to read all nutritional labels, even for foods you assume are not caffeinated.
Step 2: Set Goals for Yourself
Set goals for yourself. Quitting caffeine takes a lot of commitment, so set small goals for yourself along the way. Make a schedule with milestones to reach by a particular date. If you make small goals over time, you will feel a sense of accomplishment that will keep you going.
- If you're abstaining from caffeine cold turkey, the first week will be difficult. Set small goals. For example, former Navy SEALs often speak about BUD/S training as the most difficult military training program in the world. They are often quoted as saying to focus on "one evolution at a time" - knowing that a hot meal, or a break is in order after they make it through an evolution. With that same mentality, break your day around meal times and use each meal as a goal.
- "All I need to do is make it to lunch without caving", or "All I need to do is make it to bedtime without caving."
- If you're gradually reducing your coffee intake, you can aim to get down to a certain amount of coffee in, say, a month. A goal could be something like, "Reduce caffeine intake to one cup a day by March 1st." Have small goals along the way. For example, "Skip the afternoon coffee three days this week."
Step 3: Find Hidden Sources of Caffeine
Look for hidden sources of caffeine. Caffeine is everywhere. In addition to being in surprising food sources, you can find it in certain medications. If you're reaching for an over-the-counter painkiller to alleviate caffeine withdrawal, make sure your chosen painkiller isn't loaded with caffeine.
- Teas, coffees, energy drinks, and sodas are the most obvious sources of caffeine.
- You may also find caffeine in unusual places. Protein or diet bars, coffee-flavored ice creams, migraine medications, and chocolate may contain caffeine.
Step 4: Try Herbal Supplements for Energy
Step 5: How to Socialize without Caffeine
Socialize without caffeine. Caffeine is often a major component in socialization. You may, for example, meet a friend at a coffee house in the afternoon. Look for ways to socialize with others without consuming caffeine.
- If you meet your friends at a coffee house, opt for herbal teas, which do not contain caffeine.
- You can also find places that specialize in herbal tea. Going to a coffee place for tea can be disappointing, as tea-based drinks may not be as flavorful. If a friend wants to meet up at a coffee house, try to find a place that specializes in tea as well.
Step 6: Other substitutes
Find substitutes for your favorite caffeinated beverages. For many people, milky lattes and cappuccinos are a nice indulgence. You may, for example, treat yourself to a pricey latte on the weekends. You can still have these treats on occasion. However, work on altering them to consume less caffeine.
- The most obvious way to do this is to order a decaf variety of your go-to coffee shop treat. For the most part, workers should be able to accommodate this request. Many coffee houses can also make "half-caf" beverages, where they use half decaf coffee or espresso with half regular coffee or espresso; this is a great option if you're still cutting back on caffeine.
- If you can't get a decaf version for whatever reason, see if there are any drinks without added caffeine on the menu. A cup of hot cocoa, for example, can be as satisfying as a latte. Cocoa does contain small amounts of caffeine, but much less than coffee. You can also order a "steamer," which is hot milk mixed with a syrup or sweetener of your choice, like vanilla or honey.
- If you're a soda drinker, substitute sparkling water for soda.
Step 7: Try Protein & Naps to Battle Fatigue
Rely on protein or naps to address afternoon fatigue. You may find yourself reaching for caffeine in the afternoon. There are other healthier ways to wake your body up, however. Instead of going for a cup of coffee, have something small to eat or take a brief nap.
- If you're able, take a nap for about 20 minutes. This will leave you feeling rested and refreshed. However, be sure to set an alarm. Many people end up accidentally napping for over an hour.
- Try a small energizing snack. Healthy proteins can boost your energy as much as, or even more than, caffeine. Have a small slice of turkey or a cup of nuts instead of reaching for the coffee. Also, avoiding processed carbs at lunch can help reduce afternoon fatigue.
Step 8: Be Patient with Yourself
Have patience. At first, withdrawal symptoms may seem unbearable. However, keep in mind they are temporary. Remind yourself of all the benefits you're getting from lessening your reliance on caffeine. You will be saving money and improving your health. Give it time and it will get easier.
Step 9: Stay Hydrated
Stay hydrated. Since heavy caffeine users often get their fix through drinks like coffee or soda, cutting out caffeine means you'll be cutting out some of the major sources of water in your diet. Be sure to replace this with other liquids like water, herbal teas, or diluted juices.
- Drinking water throughout the day can help you stay more alert. It also gives you something to do with your hands besides drinking coffee. Instead of having a thermos or mug by your side, have a bottle of water.
Step 10: Try Peppermint
Try peppermint for withdrawal headaches. If you're feeling a caffeine headache coming on, try using peppermint. The scent and taste of peppermint may reduce headaches, lessening the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
- Try dabbing some peppermint-scented lotion or perfume behind your ears or on your wrists.
- Have a peppermint flavored candy, chew peppermint gum, or drink a cup of peppermint tea.
Step 11: Create a New Morning Ritual
Make a ritual out of preparing your replacement beverage. Another element of coffee you may miss is the ritual of preparing your first cup in the morning. Create a ritual out of making your replacement beverage so it feels as important and essential as your cup of coffee. Over time, you may end up enjoying your replacement beverage more because you are able to prepare it and make it just the way you like it.
- If your replacement beverage is tea, you may want to read up on how to brew tea properly. You can also invest in a brewing basket, which you can place in a teapot or a travel mug to steep loose tea leaves properly.
Step 12: Do you feel calmer?
Notice how refreshed and calm you feel. Many people who permanently report back with feelings of calm, alertness, and contentment. Once you get through the withdrawal symptoms, you may have very few cravings for coffee and feel like you could give it up completely.
- You may decide to cut back more on coffee but still indulge in it occasionally. This may mean having tea in the mornings and then one cup of coffee in the afternoon, or having only tea one day and then one cup of coffee the following day.
- Another option is to cycle through your coffee habit, where you have coffee for a month and then give it up for one month. Then, the following month, you may gradually drink more coffee to build up your tolerance. Over time, your body gets used to caffeine and can become immune to the effects of caffeine, especially if you tend to drink coffee on a consistent basis. Cycling through your coffee habit can allow your body to maintain a balance and feel the effects of caffeine on a moderate basis.
Step 13: Make Sleep a Priority
Get enough sleep. Let your body use its own stores of natural energy so it doesn’t need to rely on caffeine to get through the day. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night at a minimum. As you withdraw from caffeine, you may find it necessary to tack on an extra hour of sleep each night. Allow yourself the freedom to do so, and give your body the rest it deserves.
Step 14: Cultivate Healthy Relationships
Healthy relationships set the perfect tone for an overall healthy lifestyle. If your spouse, friends or other loved ones encourage eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, etc., you’re likely to follow in their footsteps. It’s a lot easier to take on healthy behaviors when you surround yourself with people who are doing the same.