It’s been 18 months since my last sip of coffee and almost exactly one year to the day since my last post about my new caffeine-free life. It’s been a big adjustment – when you stop and think about it, most social occasions that take place in the daytime revolve around a cup of tea or coffee. Suddenly I had my own separate coffee capsules and my own coffee tin at work, and yes often have Kenco’s finest in my suitcase when I travel. But going from a eight cup a day habit to two or three decaf coffees a day has not only made my doctor happier, but I feel a lot better in myself as well.
I must admit though, there are times that I wish I had a strong three-shot latte in my hands during a particularly hectic day or feel wired to the moon thanks to a cold can of full fat Coca-Cola. So I started to think about how I manage my life as a former caffeine-fiend and what advice I could offer anyone else looking to cut down their intake.
- Don’t go cold turkey
I feel like this is a good place to start, as in hindsight I wish I had done this. Fresh from the surgery following my GP’s advice to quit caffeine, I went to the local Tesco and stocked up on decaf coffee and peppermint tea, thinking I would just ride out what I thought would be a minor withdrawal. Turns out, having drunk very strong black coffee from my teenage years through to my late twenties, just giving it up made me feel incredibly unwell. I would suggest cutting down to perhaps two coffees before noon, then weaning yourself off with decaf coffee or some nice herbal teas in the afternoon and into the evening. Pace it out over a couple of months and hopefully that morning cup can be replaced with a caffeine-free version.
- Find your new favourites
I had no idea how much Diet Coke I must have been drinking before I quit caffeine, but I missed it so much. From hangover days to (weirdly) when out on a run, I craved the taste, the bubbles and the buzz it gave me. I switched to Coca-Cola’s caffeine free version and while I will say it takes some getting used to, I really haven’t missed the real thing. After trying a few soft drinks, I’m now a Fanta girl and was excitedly trying all the different flavours in New York earlier this year, as well as every can of San Pellegrino under the sun. These days I mostly drink sparkling water (I know, it’s a divisive drink) which gives me the bubbles I crave and just plain old diluting juice. The only time I want to drink Diet Coke these days is if I’ve forgotten to put my caffeine-free version in the fridge and Chris’ cans are looking at me temptingly…
- Get some fresh air
I know exercise is touted as a cure-all for most ills, but depressingly enough I find if I’m having a sluggish day, a breath of fresh air is exactly what I need. If the words on my computer feel like they’re practically dripping off the screen, I go for a quick walk outside for some air or do a loop around the building to get me moving a little. It takes just five minutes but it can make the world of difference when you’re feeling tired and craving a coffee hit. This time of year isn’t exactly the best for post-work runs or walks as it is getting darker, but 30 minutes in the gym or even some yoga at home helps get those endorphins going and make me feel a bit more awake.
- Get a good night’s sleep
Yes it’s boring and yes I too want to watch another episode of The Haunting of Hill House, but sacrificing sleep for more Netflix won’t benefit you in the long run. I’ve tried to satiate my tiredness sans coffee and a good seven hours with post-work naps, but usually I end up sleeping way into the evening, messing up my sleep pattern and my plans for the night. Getting some exercise in during the day will help, as well as gentle yoga or even meditation before bed to relax. The whole point of going without caffeine is that you can function properly during the day without it and if you’ve been relying on lattes to keep you alert after staying up far too late, you’ll need to change your habits. Luxe sheets, fancy pjs and lavender sleep sprays are pretty boujiee, but hey, why not make going to sleep feel like a spa treatment?
- Drink plenty water
I’m one of these annoying people who got a fitbit for their birthday and suddenly became obsessed with their step count, stairs climbed and water intake each day. In fact as I type this, I’m trying to meet my water target for the day with a large bottle of squash. It may be totally sad, but it encourages me to keep myself hydrated which in turn helps me concentrate and rely less on decaf coffee and cans of Fanta. I keep a water bottle at work and try to drink two refills worth a day and it does make a difference to how alert you feel. Invest in a couple and keep one at work and one in a bag – plenty places now offer water for free and public spaces are getting better with accessible taps.
- Treat yourself
Just because you’ve broken up with caffeine doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ritual of coffee or tea ever again. I love the scent of freshly ground coffee when I step into a cafe and don’t feel I should have to give up my fancy drinks because it’s not the real deal. I still love my pumpkin spice lattes, with no whip thank you. So what if it’s decaf, it’s not a ‘waste’, or ‘pointless to drink it’. Going for coffee is social experience and should be enjoyable for everyone. Most places I ask serve fresh decaf coffee or will go in search of some for me – you’re certainly not alone. And if your mornings just don’t feel the same without a coffee, invest in a delicious blend, tin or capsule and enjoy it. More than anything it’s the ritualistic element I miss, and even if my decaf doesn’t kick start my day the way coffee used to, in my head it’s exactly what I need.