5 Benefits of Breaking Up with Coffee

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Anyone who’s known me for a long time knows that I’m a coffee hound. I love the smell of it. I love the taste of it. And (until about six weeks ago) I loved the results of it.

Like many creative people, I thought I couldn’t really do my best work until I’d had my buzz. Morning, afternoon and night you could find me with a cup in hand. Sometimes I’d even down a fully-caffeinated cup before hitting the sack. If you’re thinking that’s absurd . . . you’re right!

At some point this past year, I had to face the truth: I wasn’t having coffee anymore at all. Coffee was having me.

Naturally, given all the research about how coffee boosts creativity, I was hesitant to give it up. But with the other changes already on the horizon—leaving my day job, becoming a solopreneur, designing the life I’d always dreamed of—I decided to give coffee its thirty-day notice.

In reality, I kicked it out on the curb with no warning.

One day, just like that, I quit. Cold turkey. No real plan in mind. What followed was about two-weeks of flu-like symptoms, general malaise and nausea. But at the end of it, I’d found out something that made the annoyance worthwhile: I learned I could live without coffee. Even better, I liked my life more without it. 

Here’s why:

1. Time for more tea

I’ve been cold turkey for a month now, but it’s not like I’ve had no caffeine. Tea and I have gotten reacquainted, giving me a chance to appreciate the delicate flavors of blacks, greens and herbals. I have a cup of organic green (usually bancha) each day. Sometimes I enjoy a black Assam brewed the Indian way with milk. Other times it’s a more floral peach & ginger or a lovely, calming lavender at bedtime. Either way, I’m consuming far less caffeine—and enjoying the health benefits of tea.

2. More even amounts of energy

With coffee, I would go through these spikes in energy throughout the day (after I’d had a cup) that quickly came crashing down. Now that coffee and I have had our sayonara, I find I’m not sleepy anywhere near as frequently. I can do yoga in the morning, bike to meetings in the afternoon and go for a walk with my husband without ever feeling like I’m “dragging” or “just need to go back to bed.” Ironically, I was drinking coffee for energy. I wonder how much it was actually draining?

3. Calmer emotional state

For awhile, I was on a medication (for a general ailment) that had a side effect of “calming mood.” I recall how incredibly serene I felt while on that medication and wishing I could learn how to feel that way when my ailment cleared up and I went off of the meds. As it turns out . . . eliminating coffee from my diet has had almost the same effect. I don’t get the jitters from tea, and I have less trouble staying calm in high-pressure situations. I’ll take that over panic, thank you.

4. The ability to say “no”

One of the most empowering experiences in the world is being able to say “no” to something you never used to be able to say “no” to. Yesterday I walked into a coffee shop for a meeting. While the smell was delightful, I was also able to order my Moroccan mint green tea without feeling a shred of remorse. And I like that feeling. I don’t know about you, but I want to be fully in control of which substances I say “yes” and “no” to. Any time I’ve lost that power, I know that I’m in trouble.

5. Overall improved health

While the health benefits of moderate amounts of coffee have been substantiated in research, I’m one of those creatives who has trouble keeping it moderate. Every day I get up now, I know I’m making a choice that will benefit my body in the long run. The older I get, the more I realize how precious and important those choices really are, not just for general health, but for the quality of the creative work I produce and the quality of the service I deliver to my clients.

Coffee, it was fun while it lasted. I’ll probably miss you at some point. But I won’t miss the control you had over me.

This relationship is done.

3 thoughts on “5 Benefits of Breaking Up with Coffee

  1. I admire you so much for this! I’ve been trying to do this for years and not succeeding. I’ll try to step down to black tea, then to green tea, and then have a bad night’s sleep and go back on coffee. This time I went straight from coffee to green tea and am on day 2. Needless to say I’m sleepy and groggy and moody. Any tips for getting through the withdrawal phase? I’m hoping with your encouragement I may make it this time!

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    • Bethany — Great point! I felt like I had flu for two weeks and then gradually got better. I’d recommend “scheduling” detox for a two-week period that you know will be slower. In my case, I waited until I had gone solo from my day job. I treated it like having flu: took plenty of naps, drank home flue remedies, ate oranges, etc until the symptoms went away.

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    • Oh, and occasionally I still REALLY want a cup. Last week in Dallas I wanted it so bad because I was so tired. But I kept reminding myself of how I’d feel if I drank it (irritable, jittery, etc) and focusing on that negative outcome helped me get past the craving — at least in that instance.

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