Debrief: A Month Without Coffee

So as I’ve gone through this month’s challenge – No Coffee – I’ve learned several important lessons. Some of which have to do with how I should go about these monthly experiences – like setting clear rules and motivations from the beginning. Other lessons are more general, having to do with my life, health, habits, and well being. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned in May:

1. Any endeavor you set out for yourself, whether its trying monthly challenges or climbing a mountain, should be done with intention. I needed to know why I had decided this challenge, what I expected to get out of it, and how to navigate the hurdles and road blocks that sprung up along the way. For every journey, you need a map. And this experience is no different.

2. Your doctor is SERIOUS when suggesting you should reduce your caffeine intake. To be fair, I didn’t give up caffeine in the month of May. I still allowed myself caffeinated teas and diet cola. But by not drinking coffee, I know that I significantly reduced the amount of caffeine I was consuming regularly and I can feel the difference. I usually experience stress and anxiety through physical symptoms (chest pain, shortness of breath, etc) and I felt all of those drastically reduce this month. I even had some weird patches of numbness on my body that are starting to regain some sensation. Cutting caffeine is definitely not the answer to all our health problems, but this month has taught me that reducing my own intake of caffeine has made me feel considerably better.

3. My coffee cravings, just like any of your own cravings, are linked to habits and emotions. It didn’t take me long to realize that my coffee cravings usually sprang up around the same time everyday – between the hours of 2pm and 4pm. It just-so-happens that this time is also the height of my daily craziness. I’m usually running around from place to place, moving from one task to another while constantly thinking about what else needs to get done that day. Not coincidentally, this time of day is when I’m feeling most overwhelmed and scattered. Before this month’s challenge, I would escape into a cup of dessert (“would you like some coffee with your cream and sugar?”). At best, my body wanted a chemical boost of caffeine and sugar. At worst, coffee became a way for me to stick my proverbial head in the sand and avoid life for a moment. Either way – adjustments are in order. I can fuel my body with a healthy snack, a short walk, or some quick meditation. The latter two may also help with the desire to escape the real world.

Going forward, I can’t say for sure what the future looks like, but I know that reduced caffeine and taking stock of my emotions when those afternoon cravings come up will definitely be part of my daily life. When I do decide to have coffee, I’m going to opt for a small decaf and keep the accoutrements within reason. Or maybe I’ll resist the urge for coffee altogether. All I know is that, since this challenge, I’ll definitely have more coffee consciousness.

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