I wasn’t always a coffee drinker. I got around to the bean how most people come around to it - hot chocolate, Starbucks, and eventually lattes and then coffee and espresso.
This journey, just like any journey this one has not been a straight path and has still taken turns along the way. I know I know, you’re think I’m nuts making poetic claims about a journey centered around coffee.
But if you’re a true coffee-lover you may have a stronger tie than you think.
You see, however you came in contact with coffee for the first time or most recent mug, you know that it’s more than just coffee. While not every single mug is memorable, if you’re like me you have some clear memories, almost chapters in life, about or with coffee. This, as it turns out, is the number one reasons I made the switch to decaf coffee instead of regular coffee.
1. Make Memories
For a long time coffee was just a pick-me-up. You roll out of best, put on some clothes, and stumble your way to the kitchen to hit that ‘on’ button on the coffee maker. Instead of being present in the morning, I was leaning too much on just waking up and I wasn’t even enjoying my first waking moments. I felt like I couldn’t. I’d make it to the evening and will have seemingly brushed through another day. Little to no memory of how it started, how it went, or how it ended. It felt wrong to lose time in that way. We all walk about going through the motions but with caffeine, it almost made it worse.
2. The Obvious Shakes
I started my career post-college as a teacher. It was customary for all teachers to have that crutch. For some, diet-coke on tap in the teachers lounge, for others it was the steady drip of drama throughout the day that they thrived on, for me, it was coffee. I’d make an entire Stanley Thermos (the biggest one they had) full of perfectly warm, milky coffee and sip that all morning long. By 11 am I couldn’t write neatly as my hands were shaking so much. By noon I had sweat through the shirt I was wearing - regardless of season. And by 2:00, I was just as restless for the day to end as the kids were.
3. Lower Anxiety
Something I never thought I struggled with came to the forefront after I stopped, or rather significantly reduced, my caffeine intake. I didn’t realize that the nerves for lessons, presentations, meetings, and interactions were rooted in the anxiety from too much regular coffee. I thought I was just the ‘nervous type’ preparing for the sweats, the flushed cheeks, and sometimes embarrassing stammers each time I went in front of someone - anyone. It wasn’t me. That’s not ‘just the way you are’. It’s the caffeine talking.
4. Regulated Hormones
Worrying about your hormones is not just for women although there seems to be more challenges in regulating theirs than men seem to have. There are a ton of factors influencing this but something no one is talking about is how caffeine impacts your hormones. When it comes to caffeinated coffee, we’re talking about some of the most important hormones, for both men and women, the stress hormones. Caffeine enters the brain directly, increasing your blood pressure and your stress hormones. You’re in a constant state of fight or flight at the atomic level, we’ve just normalized it.
5. Mindful Mornings
I used to rush through mornings. Walk (read: stumble) to the kitchen, get the coffee brewing, and go through the day in a eye-half-open haze until you get into your car. Since switching entirely to decaf, I don’t lean on coffee to wake up and that alone has been life changing. It’s opened up a host of new ways to help wake myself up in the morning. I can stretch, read, meditate, sit and stare, journal (like now), or just simply lie in bed, awake, and acknowledging each toe, finger, and hair follicle until my body is ready, lively, and eager to get out of bed. From there, I slowly make a cup of decaf and spend some time reflecting. Even if it’s only the few minutes I have while I sip the mug empty, it’s a few minutes spent thinking, pondering, wondering, instead of simply doing and waiting for the energy to urge me forward.
6. Improved Focus
One of caffeine’s best selling points is the focus and energy it gives you. And while that’s true, I think most people have gone well beyond the acceptable and recommended amount of caffeine to really even experience those effects. Sure, you will have some focus and energy but it will not last. It never does. Just like any other stimulant, the feeling is fleeting and the come-down is harsh. For me, after about a week without caffeine, after the symptoms of withdrawal had passed (finally!), I saw a different kind of focus while working. It was more intentional and my brain was almost singular. Caffeine will help you focus but the focus is fickle and flighty - jumping around from this to that with no real progress made on anything in particular. A lot of doing with not much really getting done, you know what I mean?
7. Getting Things Done
Speaking of getting things done, along with more focus, I was actually more productive. Not only was I able to focus on just one thing for an extended period of time, I was making noticeable progress. Now I know what this is going to sound like but time actually felt like it slowed down. While working, I was focused in, going through and what felt like an hour only was about 35 minutes after peeking back at the clock. It’s like I was wearing noise-canceling headphones on my brain but it was completely natural. Very little caffeine in my system and my brain working with me to get things done - it was incredible. Once again, I always just thought I was scatter-brained and lots of young professionals and adults call it “undiagnosed ADHD” but really, it might be the fact that you’re always on the way up or down in your internal systems and with that comes ups and downs with focus and productivity.
8. Sleep Quality
Of all the items on this list, this has been the best. I love sleep. And I’m good at it. I fell asleep relatively quickly and could get great rest when I was younger and even through college. It’s easy to see now that it was because of the workload - classes, jobs, athletic practices, etc - that was helping me sleep so soundly. As I got older, falling asleep was easy but it wast restless, interrupted by the littlest things, and I never felt like I got enough when the alarm sounded in the morning. With a heavy reduction in caffeine, sleep got so much better. Deeper sleep, sounder sleep, and overall, more comfortable sleep . Caffeine, even just in the morning, is shown to linger in the system for 8 hours and up to 12 hours after ingestion.
9. Embraced Espresso
A hidden benefit to me personally is my newfound love of espresso. Decaf espresso, right? Seems like an oxymoron at first, but all it does it get better. I purchased an espresso machine due to our recent move. We used to make a habit of walking the dog, going for runs, and anytime we were out and about to stop at a small walk-up coffee shop in Northern California. Since we’ve relocated to Northern Kentucky, there is just one coffee shop within walking distance and it’s main draw is ice cream and edible cookie dough. The hours aren’t right and the dog can’t come so we found ourselves leaning on the standard keurig - which is fine, but it’s no true latte machine. Now, I make my own decaf latte multiple times per day - how I like it when I like it. And I enjoy the entire process so much more than just pouring coffee into a mug. It’s a beautiful art I get to perfect a little more each day.
10. Found Others Like Me
Finally, one of the last benefits of switching to decaf is finding people like you. Finding out I wasn’t weird, odd, or annoying ordering a decaf latte while at the coffee shop with friends. So many of you may be living with the disastrous impacts of caffeine on your system and just going with it. You start to believe things about yourself that are not true. You may not have problems focusing. You may not be ‘just a nervous person’. You should not feel terrible at 2:00 pm every single day. You don’t have to dread the mornings. I’m not saying caffeine is the only thing causing you problems in these departments but it could be one of the easiest switches you can make to start finding out. I’m finding that more people don’t realize great decaf is out there. It’s clean, naturally-processed, and full of flavor - just like regular coffee. You won’t taste the difference but you’ll feel it.
Thanks for being here.