So I love coffee. I love it so much I work at a coffee shop. I’m what you might call a “recreational” coffee drinker; I drink it when I’m not tired or I don’t feel like I need it. There is something I just love about the aesthetic experience of going and hanging out in coffee shops and drinking a good latte.
However, this week I’m talking about why it’s important to be mindful of what we’re putting into our bodies and why it might be good to cut back on those lattes (or make them decaf). We sometimes think that moderation is important when we are thinking about substances that are regulated by governing bodies – and everything else is fair game right? Welll … this week I want to think about listening to and regulating our own bodies.
Coffee affects people in lots of different ways and as someone who is very sensitive and self-aware of how things affect my body I wanted to write about this. Because your physical health and what you put in your body is so important.
I recently heard someone remark that coffee, though addictive, doesn’t change your mental state the way some things, such as alcohol, might. I know it’s not true for myself and decided to do a little research to find out if that was a common coffee myth. I googled “does coffee make you anxious” because I’m not an expert and didn’t want to write a post that isn’t based on research (get ready for links to a whole heap of articles about coffee and stress) and what I found is, yes it sure does, it’s not just me.
Anxiety & Stress
Coffee is a stimulant which can be helpful sometimes but it can also increase anxiety and in some individuals even trigger anxiety attacks (according to this article and this blog post). It can help you be productive but if you have too much it can worsen feeling anxious or stressed. I often found during midterms I was extra, extra, extra stressed out and it is easy to attribute all of that to school assignments but being mindful of things like caffeine intake, and lessening it, helped lower my stress levels.
The description in this article about the relationship between caffeine and cortisol, often referred to as “the stress hormone”, is a helpful illustration of the dangers of too much coffee; “Because caffeine and stress can both elevate cortisol levels, high amounts of caffeine can lead to the negative health effects associated with prolonged elevated levels of cortisol. If you ingest high levels of caffeine, you may feel your mood soar and plummet, leaving you craving more caffeine to make it soar again, causing you to lose sleep, suffer health consequences and, of course, feel more stress.”
Depending on how your body processes coffee, it might not appear to have an impact on your stress levels, and it doesn’t always impact people in the same way. However, it is always important to be mindful of how much you are consuming and connecting the dots between how we are feeling and how the things we eat and drink might cause those physiological reactions.
I’ve touched on the importance of sleep in posts before, and as someone who usually aims for 9 hours a night I’m a huuge advocate for a good night’s sleep. As much as we all know coffee gives you energy and its maybe “common sense” to say it can negatively impact your sleep I’m going to briefly mention it anyway.
Know Your Limit, Stay Within It
If you’re from Ontario you’ve probably heard commercials for the OLG with the slogan “Know Your Limit, Stay Within It”. I think the moral of this week’s post is the same, because I love coffee, but it’s important to set those limits. Coffee is a great energy boost and fun to grab with friends but I know, as someone who has worked in three different coffee/ tea shops and feels the anxious effects of coffee, that it’s not always worth the boost if it leaves you feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
It’s easy to forget to be mindful that stress or anxiety you feel can actually be amplified by consuming too much coffee. And of course everyone has different tolerance – so you might really relate to this post or you might not. But no matter what, it’s important to be a mindful consumer. Be conscious of the way the things you eat and drink make you feel, and know your limits about what you can and can’t handle (eg. if you’re lactose intolerant like me cutting yourself off before adding whipped cream to an eggnog latte is a good step). Keep it to one cup a day, try decaf, make sure you’re not drinking coffee on an empty stomach, or just make sure you’re cutting yourself off in the afternoon so the caffeine doesn’t impact your sleep.
This post might be a bit of a buzz kill (yes, of course the pun was intended) but I hope it encourages you to be mindful of what you put in your body and inspires you to enjoy your coffee ~in moderation~.