Caffeine and Anxiety

Caffeine and Anxiety

Sixteen days ago I made a decision to participate in Lent. I have given up things for Lent before, but this year I wanted what I chose to “give up” for 44 days to make a difference in my life. As I began to consider what would be difficult, coffee came to mind. I am a daily coffee drinker, actually an hourly coffee drinker, an every day, all the time coffee drinker . Wow! How did this happen? As I analyzed my daily routine, I was shocked to discover how addicted I had become to coffee.

Actually, drinking coffee was really easy for me. I have a fancy coffee maker that crushes the beans and makes a single cup of coffee on demand. Nice! And about five years ago, my dad upgraded the one pound coffee roaster at work to a six pound coffee roaster, making sure we always have fresh roasted coffee there as well.  And since I work for our family businesses, I am guaranteed fresh roasted coffee! And, if I am desperate, there’s always the handy quick coffee maker with coffee pods as well as the local coffee stores for the quick fix. This dang coffee is everywhere!

Without any further hesitation, the decision was made–I’m not just “giving up” coffee for just this designated period; I am quitting cold turkey right now! However, I had no idea how severe the withdrawal symptoms would be four to five days later, but I was  determined to kick this caffeine habit  to the curb. I really did not realize how adversely the excessive caffeine was affecting my body. I began to consider that perhaps many of the things I was dealing with like anxiety, stress were related to my caffeine consumption. 

Today, at Day 15, my body is quiet. For as long as I can remember, during those coffee days, my body always seemed to be humming at what seemed like a low vibration, but I had become so used to that feeling that it had  become my normal. Because I knew that my decision required discipline and would be difficult, I started a small daily diary of what was going on with my body. The following are the thirteen days of withdrawal and sleeplessness on this journey to better health.

Day 1:  Everything was fine. I just wasn’t sure what to drink instead of coffee. I liked water, but coffee tasted better…and drinking water was not nearly as much fun. Maybe I just liked hot beverages in the morning…maybe?

Day 2:   Getting used to having substitutes for coffee was rough…juice was good, but too much sugar. I started drinking Zevia (a soda substitute), using stevia as a sweetener, no sugar, no caffeine…. tried to eat healthier.

Day 3:  Still looking for things to do when not drinking coffee. Sauna helped me feel better and get my mind off things.

Days 4, 5:  I awoke abruptly at 3 a.m., slightly trembling. ( In Chinese medicine this is known as “liver time,” a state where your liver is “angry.”) After dealing with the sleeplessness, I awoke again to feel as if I were still trembling and began having random, sporadic thoughts like hearing the same thing over and over in my head. I felt anxious and depressed and had difficulty concentrating. Thanks to my brother, I learned that Zevia Colas (not the other Zevia drinks),actually contained caffeine, Whoops! It pays to read the labels! 

Days 6, 7, 8:  Struggling…I was not prepared for this…I was dizzy, couldn’t focus, didn’t want to eat. I was irritable, just not myself (I love my wife for helping me). Water was getting harder and harder to drink. My anxiety kicked into high gear. My cycling thoughts got worse. I started thinking about death and felt I was in the future. The worst part was that I didn’t get tired. I couldn’t get comfortable. I was shaking constantly. I kept sighing and taking deep breaths. I couldn’t sleep. When I did fall asleep, I woke up at 3 a.m. in a full panic attack, shaking uncontrollably with those crazy thoughts.  I thought I was dying. On Day 7 I started to do Tummo breathing to help calm me–huge help, by the way. I stopped taking all supplements because I didn’t want anything to affect my mental state.  Those three days were some of the worst I have ever experienced.

Day 9:  I’m starting to rely on my routine–wake up, drink lots of water (8 to 16 oz.), wait fifteen minutes, then drink a magnesium supplement (Standard Process MG supplement) with 8 oz. of water.  This routine is what kept me going in a straight line. I didn’t have time to think about what to do next; the routine just moved me along. After consuming my water, I ate whole foods.  Breakfast has been two eggs sunny side or hardboiled with some butter and toast. Many times I had to force this down because I did not want to eat. 

The water helped flush my system as best it could. Caffeine stays in your body for a long time after consumption. I had been taking in so much caffeine that my system was overloaded. The half life of caffeine is 5-7 hours, which means that half of the caffeine is gone within 5-7 hours; therefore, with 100mg of caffeine, 50mg is digested within 5-7 hours. Then the next 5-7 hours you will digest 25mg, then 12.5mg, then 6.25mg, then 3.125, and 1.5 until it is gone.  This process with 100mg takes approximately 36 hours to complete. I can only assume my caffeine levels were in the thousands.

My biggest source of joy these last few days has been my family, the sauna, and working out. Sweating has been a big answer for me. I am now back on my supplements, including CBD, Magnesium, Turmeric Forte, and Catalyn. (The last three supplements are produced by Standard Process.)

Days 10, 11, 12:  Slowly, day by day, I felt my brain and body coming back under my control. I began to feel hungry. I began to sleep a bit, even relax a bit. When I felt those waves of anxiety, Tummo breathing helped immensely. I kept busy during the days eating as healthy as possible and drinking water. I actually began to fall back in love with water! Guided evening meditations using Headspace helped diminish my anxiety before bedtime. Sleep at this point reminded me of panic attacks causing me to be afraid to relax or sleep. Learning how to control those sporadic thoughts through Headspace allowed me to breath through the waves of emotions and process them correctly. 

Days 13, 14:  I am feeling like a normal person! Water is the best, and I started drinking Kombucha to get some flavor. I am starting to enjoy my breakfast and morning routines. I actually slept comfortably for 6+ hours. My cycling thoughts have diminished and are being replaced with rational thoughts of plans for my future. I am discovering what I am passionate about again. I feel happy and rejuvenated; and from all the Tummo breathing, my lungs feel amazing and strong. 

Day 15:  I can concentrate, and I am able to write this post to share with others and, perhaps, be able to inspire change. I woke up early, feeling fully awake and motivated. I  did my daily routine of water, magnesium, breakfast. And I cannot stand the thought of drinking coffee! I am about 90% today and am getting closer and closer to my goal of feeling good on a regular basis. I am proud of myself, and I want to share my knowledge and experience with others.

Day 16:  I feel great! My body is calm for the first time in a very long time.  I was able to go to my Jiu Jitsu class for the first time since starting this detox. I don’t think I am ever going back to caffeine!

In conclusion, caffeine is a horrible drug with some wicked withdrawal symptoms that need to be addressed in a serious manner.  Throughout this journey, my family was a tremendous source of encouragement and support, as was my friend Dr. Kendall Gregory, who helped me with my supplements and answered my questions. If it weren’t for him, I may have gone to the emergency room during days 6, 7, and 8.  I advise each of you to stop the caffeine now and have a healthier life. 

I have included below some articles about anxiety and caffeine. Caffeine triggers anxiety. The processing of caffeine affects your liver when this anxiety kicks in. The stress kicks in, hitting your body hard, overloading the systems and causing the fight or flight mode. For me, any added stress was breaking me. My family’s history of slow liver function was made worse by caffeine, resulting in unnecessary anxiety. I am going to do all I can to improve my inherent slow liver function through good health choices. Caffeine is done for good, and alcohol will be kept at an absolute minimum.

Anyone wants to chat about it, leave me a comment or email me anytime ae@anthonyernst.com

More info that relates to this article.

https://www.psycom.net/anxiety-and-caffeine

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/progress-not-perfection/201106/i-quit-coffee-cure-my-anxiety