Caffeine Anxiety

in #healthlast month


In my last post I wrote about my efforts to try and get healthier and drop body fat. I'm still on that journey, and have a goal of 148 pounds and/or 10% body fat, at which point I'll switch from a calorie deficit to maintaining.

With heading back in to the office again part time and the fact that the weather is all hot and muggy now, my running program has really suffered. I guess I decided to compensate by trying to find other areas of my life where I could improve my health.

I learn new things all the time thanks mostly to the internet. YouTube videos are really informative, and I read a lot too. I used to think I had a pretty good grasp on most "basic" things, but I keep getting surprised. For example, I've always known about the dangers of getting stuck in a riptide in the ocean after witnessing the effect firsthand as a teen and needing to be rescued. I refuse to go into the water farther than waist deep as a result. But something I had no clue about was the dangers than can come from your humble BBQ wire brush. So now I don't use those either.

Learning, learning, always learning. Life is a lifelong journey of learning I suppose.

One of the areas in my life where I wanted to improve was to conquer my anxiety. I don't have a high level of anxiety really. I don't need medication or anything to help manage it. But it was part of why I used to drink too much beer. Alcohol "took the edge off" very effectively. I could finally feel like I could relax after a few.

Anyway, after being 100% alcohol-free this past year, I noticed that my anxiety was still present. It is most noticeable when I'm with my children. I have this constant hum of anxiety about their safety, health, cleanliness, not breaking things, etc. I don't like it. So I have been looking at ways to fix it, and then one day, this video popped in to my YouTube queue: Does Coffee make you Fat and Anxious?

After watching the video, I was convinced enough to give a coffee detox a try. If it could lessen or cure my anxiety, that would be worth giving up something I enjoy.

I didn't really think it would be that big of an issue. I've never thought of myself as addicted to coffee, mostly because I don't get a headache if I don't have any on a given day. I know several people that do, so I always felt a secret smug pleasure in the fact that I was seemingly immune. I drank my normal 48 ounces or so for the day on a Thursday, and decided to start my caffeine detox the next day, quitting the substance cold turkey.

I did not know what I was getting into.

Friday - Day 1 without coffee

My first day with no coffee started out unremarkable. I had the day off and had gotten plenty of sleep, so as I headed out with my kids for a day of activities, I didn't notice any bad effects. Throughout the day, I monitored my anxiety level. I noticed that there was a real difference in how I had felt the previous weekend on a similar outing. I was at a playground with my kids the weekend prior, and I had my cup of coffee in hand. Sipping through their playdate, I got anxious and felt on edge and after a couple hours felt a strong urge to leave. On my first day without coffee, that feeling was much improved. I felt a lot calmer and didn't feel in a rush to corral my kids so closely.

That said, when we returned home after about 7 hours of driving, hiking, and exploring, I was pretty exhausted. Chalk it up to the busy day, but perhaps deeper things were at play...

Saturday - Day 2 without coffee

I had lots of chores to take care of, so I started my day doing that. Around noon, I started to notice that I was feeling a little off. Like I was getting sick almost. I ended up going out again that afternoon to help my parents move.

I had enough energy, but did feel like I was maybe coming down with a cold, or that my allergies were kicking in or something. Nothing too bad, just a small shift.

Sunday - Day 3 without coffee

This was the day when I really started to feel like crap. My muscles were pretty sore from all the things I'd done the previous two days. I had very little energy. I just wanted to lay on the couch and do nothing. Or lay down in bed even, which I did for a bit. I had volunteered to make dinner for the family that afternoon, and it took a ton of effort to get the house clean and get the meal prepared. By the time dinner was over, I was completely wiped. I really did feel like I was getting the flu at this point. I was achy, my muscles hurt, and I was so fatigued. I couldn't wait to go to bed.

That night was the worst night of sleep I can recall having in years. My muscles were howling all night long. My lower back and thighs were in so much pain I was waking up every hour or so and had a lot of trouble getting back to sleep. I couldn't get comfortable in any position. I had chills and though I might have a fever. I was miserable.

Monday - Day 4 without coffee

I felt like garbage all morning. Sitting at my desk was uncomfortable, but laying down didn't help so I powered through. My body ached and I was still feeling fatigued. Finally around noon I decided to take some acetaminophen. It helped a lot. Later that evening before bed I took some more and some melatonin to help me sleep. That night was so much better than the night before. I had a dull headache off an on throughout the day.

Tuesday - Day 5 without coffee

I went in to the office and felt much better than the previous day, but not yet 100%. As the day went on, I felt closer and closer to normal.

Wednesday - Day 6 without coffee

From here I was pretty much back to normal, and over the next day or two I finally made it back to 100%


So yeah, my caffeine withdrawal was pretty brutal. After doing some more research, I can see it's actually pretty common to suffer like this if you've been drinking coffee for years. I found plenty of other accounts online where people shared experiences fairly similar to mine - symptoms peaking at day 3-4. Was it worth it? I think so. My anxiety is noticeably better, I feel better overall, and just the psychological impact of knowing I'm no longer dependent on caffeine to have a baseline of "normal" is a benefit in and of itself. Do I recommend you do it? Not unless you think you have issues with anxiety or sleep that might be cleared up by cutting caffeine out of your diet. I know there are lots of health benefits from drinking a modest amount of coffee, so drink up if you don't have any of the side effects! I see myself enjoying the occasional cup of coffee from time to time in my future, but I don't want to ever get back to drinking it every day and becoming dependent on it again.

I was really surprised at how much my body had grown to rely on the effects of caffeine. It's worth researching for yourself if you're interested. Take care!

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