Caffeine is used by many of us daily – we love it, we know that it’s a stimulant, we associate it with ‘alertness’ and drink it to help us stay on top of work for instance – it’s pleasurable and useful. But, most of us are not aware of it’s exact effects on our nervous system, and how too much coffee can literally induce panic attack symptoms – we are not aware that far from being a stress management tool, it can often be a high stress inducer.
In these days of Nespresso, and Grande and Venti two and three shot fancy coffees, we need to be aware of what the over consumption of coffee is doing to our bodies, and consider how that influences our feelings and our behaviours. Especially if we have an anxiety disorder of any level (as studies show anxiety sufferers show sensitivity to caffeine, so even average levels may be unhelpful), or if we are ‘shy’ and/or prone to shakiness anyway. And forget about mainlining coffee in preparation for a public speaking gig, or indeed anything we are nervous about. It will only amplify the nervousness.
Okay, to put it simply – over stimulation of caffeine puts your body into fight or flight. The caffeine triggers the stimulation of the adrenal gland, which kickstarts the release of the stress hormones and the body response required for dangers and hazards – putting your body on high physical alert.
So, if your stress has become a disorder, and you suffer from even low or moderate anxiety that is accompanied by panicky shakiness and sick feelings and overheating and so on, coffee is going to turn that on and turn that up, and give you over excitement and physical anxiety – and even though ‘feelings are not facts’, many of us are ruled by emotional reasoning, eg “I feel bad, therefore it must be bad”, so we often react to fight or flight symptoms with self limiting or self sabotaging behaviours (avoidance/hiding, procrastination, mania – our over excitement causing innapropriate behaviour, and so on).
Oh, coffee can also cause excessively loose bowel movements (makes you poop), and it dehydrates you. It’s really not as sexy as it’s reputation. Think on. Here’s a science bit:
“In a study of long-stay psychiatric in-patients, switching to decaffeinated coffee for 3 weeks led to an improvement in anxiety, irritability and hostility, which was reversed when caffeine was reintroduced; reintroduction of caffeine also caused an increase in psychotic features (De Freitas & Schwartz, 1979).” ~ ‘Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine‘ by Anthony P Winston, Elizabeth Hardwick and Neema Jaberi.
So, too much coffee makes you physically and mentally and behaviorally shaky – and you need that like a hole in the head when you have anxiety or depression, right? If you don’t want to give it up completely (I know I don’t), it might be time to make a plan to tweak and change your coffee habits, bit by bit. Here are some suggestions:
- Order a medium instead of a large, and ask the barrista exactly how many shots your coffee will have – and lower the dosage if it’s too high.
- Buy smaller cups for home or office, so pouring less coffee each time.
- Make every second or third coffee in the day a decaff, you won’t really notice the difference (especially if it’s disguised in a fancy coffee of frothy milks and chocolates or syrups), but your body will.
- Stop with the espressos already.
- Gradually introduce flavoured tea into your life (mint, ginger, red berries, whatever, there’ll be flavours to suit you).
- Help to work off coffee effects with physical activity.
- Develop a habit of regular water drinking.
- And such……..
.A cursory google will confirm this information and much more – knowledge is power, it helps you to understand how and why you feel and behave as you do, and enables you to plan real concrete changes for the good.
Note: visualisation is very powerful – little tip: to interrupt your bad coffee routine, get into the habit of consciously conjuring up an image of you shaking madly with panic attack symptoms, that will help you to choose a different action. Be well……