Coffee and mental health....
My thoughts on coffee and mental health……
There is so much information out there on coffee. Coffee is bad for you… coffee is good for you… how much is too much? How should you have your coffee?
Now I love the taste of coffee, and there was a point in my life when I felt like I was living off coffee. I would feel really tired, irritable and stressed until I had that first coffee in the morning and I would need to have coffee throughout the day to keep me going. Since then I have cut back on my coffee intake. But as I learnt more about nutrition and have become more intuitive about what is good or detrimental for me on a personal level I wanted to try an experiment and give up coffee completely and see how I felt.
So it has been a few months now without coffee; at first or over the first few days without any coffee there were some withdrawal symptoms, I had headaches and felt very tired. But after those few days I started to feel much better - I was sleeping better, I didn’t need that first cup of coffee in the morning to wake me up, I have been less irritable, and I generally feel more relaxed and less stressed. The one thing I was worried about giving up coffee was having that energy boost both mental and physical to wake you up, keep you going, and giving you that focus that caffeine can give you. But what I found was that I didn’t need the coffee, and actually I was more focused at work, I still had the energy I needed to work and workout, mentally I felt less on edge, less anxious, less irritable and generally felt much better in myself. So I wanted to delve more into coffee, how it affects us particularly on a mental level and whether for our minds, are we better off without the coffee?
Caffeine is a stimulant; it can be used as an energy boost and to help keep you alert. But caffeine also stimulates the ‘fight and flight’ response in our body (which is the stress response and the release of stress hormones); this can be the same response when you have anxiety. If you suffer with anxiety coffee can heighten this and increase symptoms. Caffeine can, in some situations that wouldn’t normally affect you, make you feel agitated or irritable. It can also affect sleep if drunk within 6 hours before bed and it has also been linked to changes in mood.
Coffee can have some benefits, and if drunk in moderation (no more than 3 or 4 cups a day) can be ok. But I would say if you suffer from anxiety try cutting back or cutting out caffeine and see how you feel. Caffeine has been shown to heighten symptoms of anxiety particularly if you have a poor diet, little exercise and disturbed sleep and you may find that anxiety symptoms can improve without it. Also, without having a stimulant you could be surprised at how the body can actually manage its own energy levels.
If you decide that you don’t want to give up coffee, these would be my top tips:-
· Wait at least an hour before having coffee in the morning after your body has had its natural cortisol spike in the morning which gives you that natural energy boost
· Stick to no more than 4 coffees a day and these would be coffees you have at home, not the stronger shop bought ones
· Switch to alternatives such as decaffeinated coffee
· Stay hydrated drink plenty of water
· Try to have some protein when you drink a coffee
· Don’t have any coffee 6 hours before you go to sleep
· Do track your coffee intake and any symptoms of anxiety you have and if you notice a link try cutting back