Why I Gave Up Caffeine (and How I Did It)

A cup of coffee, like one might avoid after they gave up caffeine

That’s right. I, a coffee fanatic (caffeinated coffee, specifically), gave up caffeine a little over two weeks ago, and I’m so glad I did.

I’m not sure anyone actually cares about why I gave up caffeine (I kind of feel like this is one of those “everyone’s asking about my skincare routine” posts), but I wanted to share the why and how anyway in case someone out there has been thinking about cutting back and could use some advice. If this sounds like you, I’ve got some tips that can help!

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Why I Gave Up Caffeine

First, I want to be clear that I do not think caffeine is bad. There are definitely benefits that come with consuming caffeine, including performance-enhancing benefits for our workouts. At the same time, though, I think caffeine is probably one of the most (if not the most) overused substances in the world.

Before I decided to take a break from caffeine, I found that I was dealing with severe anxiety. Anxiety is something I’ve always struggled with, but it really hit me a couple of months ago, probably due to a combination (one with which too many of us are familiar) of work stress and family drama. Anyway, I was waking up in the middle of the night with intense heart palpitations and I just felt like garbage, so I knew something needed to change.

I decided that caffeine coming from 2-4 cups of coffee (and the occasional cup of green tea) per day wasn’t doing me any favors. Even if cutting it out didn’t lead to any dramatic improvements, it at least wasn’t going to hurt me, right?

How to Give Up Caffeine Without Being Miserable

I knew from past experiences trying to quit caffeine that the cold turkey approach is not ideal for me. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with headaches and fatigue for days while my body adjusted, so I decided that a gradual approach made more sense for me.

I started by cutting my caffeine intake in half. Instead of drinking two cups of caffeinated coffee per day, I started drinking one cup plus one cup of decaf. I did this for a few weeks until I felt like I’d adjusted. Then, I cut it in half again and went from 1/2 caffeine, 1/2 decaf to 1/4 caffeine, 3/4 decaf. I did this for about a week, then I switched to only drinking decaf.

I’ll be honest, the first ocuple days of each transition period were tough. I felt a little more tired, and I got a bit of a headache around mid-morning when my body realized I wasn’t going to be giving it any more caffeine. After those first couple of days, though, I adjusted, and it didn’t feel like a big deal.

I’ve now been totally caffeine-free for two weeks (I know, two whole weeks) and I plan to stay caffeine-free for the rest of February. After that, I might try adding in some caffeine from green tea (which has less caffeine than coffee) a couple of times per week to see how my body does. I’ll just play it by ear and see how I feel, though.

Besides gradually reducing my intake, I have some other tips that I’ve found to be helpful when it comes to giving up the good stuff:

Find Some Really Good Decaf

If you’re going to give up caffeinated coffee and want to make your decision stick, it helps if you can get your hands on some good decaf coffee. Let’s face it: decaf coffee doesn’t taste the same as regular coffee. Can we all just agree on this?

Luckily, I have found some decaf coffees that I do enjoy and don’t mind drinking in place of the real stuff. These are my three favorites, in order from best to least best (I don’t want to say “worst” because none of them are bad, ya know?):

I prefer drinking decaf coffees that have the caffeine removed via the Swiss water process. This process doesn’t use any chemical solvents, it gets rid of 99.9 percent of the caffeine, and it’s more environmentally friendly. If those things are important to you, too, then Swiss water is the way to go.

Drink Herbal Tea

A lot of the time, when I was consuming excess caffeine throughout the day, it wasn’t necessarily because I was feeling fatigued. Instead, it was because I was cold and wanted something warm and comforting to drink.

I could make extra decaf coffee and have that to warm up, but I’ve found that I actually prefer having some herbal tea lately instead. I still get that warm, cozy feeling, but I’m not getting any caffeine, and I’m not burning through my bag of decaf faster than I’d like. It’s a win-win!

Get Outside

For times when I am feeling that afternoon slump (or, for me, it’s more of a late-morning slump since I start my workday so early), I’ve found that getting outside and getting some fresh air is a great alternative to chugging something caffeinated.

Spending a few minutes outside with my dog or doing a lap around the neighborhood helps to get my blood flowing and gives me a break from the screen, which is often exactly what I need to get motivated to tackle the rest of my work and maintain my energy for the rest of the day.

Change Your Mindset

This last point is probably the most important one for me. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to give up caffeine in the past, and I think the reason it didn’t work is because I didn’t have the right mindset. I was so focused on the fact that I couldn’t have caffeine that I didn’t think about all the benefits I was getting from taking a break from it.

This time around, my mindset has been totally different. I basically got sick of my own bullshit and am committed to making a positive change in my life. Instead of feeling sorry for myself that I can’t have caffeine, I’m celebrating the fact that I’m able to do just as much work and be just as productive without relying on something other than my body’s own natural rhythms.

I’m sure I’ll go back to consuming caffeine on a semi-regular basis again sometime in the future. When that does happen, though, I think I’ll have a better relationship with it after having gone off of it for a while. I’ll (I hope) remember that I can do anything I want without artificial energy, and I’ll (again, I hope) be less likely to overuse it and become dependent on it.

Say Goodbye to Caffeine Today!

There you go, some (unsolicited) insight into how and why I gave up caffeine. If you didn’t know, now you know.

Even if you’re not interested in reducing your caffeine intake anytime soon, I hope this information can help you when you’re ready. Feel free to share it with anyone else in your life who’s thinking about trying the decaf life, too!

Have you ever cut out caffeine? How did it go? What tricks did you use to help you avoid it?

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