I’ve been caffeine-free for 28 days today. Crazy, I know.
How it started
Many people who know me are aware of the fact that I don’t drink coffee. I looove coffee, don’t get me wrong, but it makes me jittery and anxious. I realized this years ago, stopped drinking coffee, and immediately felt more at ease.
Now, I’ve been a fan of green tea for a long time. I was having one tea in the morning and one tea in the afternoon, and I loved the energy they gave me. It made me excited about the activity at hand, but also I easily became nervous if a mildly stressful event occurred. I noticed that green tea made me more excited, but it also made me more anxious.
For a long time, the trade off was worth it. I was working on my PhD thesis, analyzing data or writing papers, both tasks which require perseverance and concentration. My green tea helped me in that regard. (Note on black tea: I looooooove black tea, but since its effect is stronger, it quickly became too much for me, so I had to limit it.)
Things weren’t so great anymore
For years, I’d had about one headache per week, but I could easily get rid of it if I took a painkiller. (I really needed that painkiller because the headache was so strong that I couldn’t function anymore, and it wouldn’t go away even after a full night’s sleep.) I just thought, “Well, I guess I’m prone to headaches,” and left it at that.
Over time, my headaches became more frequent and more intense. During the last couple of months, I was having two or three headaches per week, and sometimes a painkiller (or even two) was not enough to ease the pain. I was becoming concerned. I’d heard that headaches may get worse with age, but I had hoped that wouldn’t be the case for me.
Also, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I usually felt a light headache set in after I drank my tea. Sometimes it dissipated an hour or two later, but sometimes it lingered and intensified. I tried to ignore this fact as long as possible… until the side effects of the painkillers got too unpleasant (stomach pain and bloating) and the painkillers weren’t easing the headache anymore (which was super scary).
I’m not sure how this works exactly because caffeine is a pain reducer, so I’m not sure why I was getting headaches from drinking tea. One possibility is that the tea made me more tense, so I tensed my shoulders and neck, and that gave me tension headaches.
Beginning the caffeine-free experiment
The time had come. I really wanted to be pain-free, so it was worth it for me to try getting rid of my oh-so-favorite tea.
On one Saturday morning, on August 27, I simply did not drink tea. I drank water with electrolytes, and that was it. I missed my tea terribly. Same thing in the afternoon.
I have to say, I was a bit tired (my body was missing the effects of the caffeine), and I started getting a light headache before lunch. Then, I had lunch and took a little nap (10-15 minutes), and the headache was gone. I also developed a light headache towards bedtime, but sleeping alleviated it. (This was definitely not the case in the past! I’ve woken up multiple times because a headache was so bad I couldn’t sleep.) Clearly, I was experiencing withdrawal effects.
This continued for the next 5 days or so. I was more tired than usual, and I developed light headaches, but nothing like what I was used to. I didn’t need to take a single painkiller.
I was withdrawing from green tea, can you believe it! My teas were rather strong, to be honest, so perhaps it’s not that surprising. I made the transition period easier by sleeping enough (also taking a power nap in the afternoon) and drinking water with electrolytes. And just letting the time pass by.
After those first five days, I felt I was quite adapted to being caffeine-free. My energy returned to its previous levels, and I felt perfectly fine without tea, something I considered impossible before.
Perhaps best of all, my headaches were gone. Gone!!! It’s been 28 days now, and I haven’t taken a single pain killer because I haven’t had to. I haven’t had a single headache! It’s truly unbelievable.
Also, an unexpected side effect is that I’m less anxious and more content. I realized that this low-level anxiety was making me more uneasy and critical. Once this critical voice subsided, I became more content. It’s a strange feeling, being content, I’m still getting used to it. In a way, it’s boring because it’s lower-energy. But at its core, it makes it easier to be at ease and just be.
What do I drink now?
To be honest, I am a bit annoyed that I can’t drink coffee or tea. I really, really like the taste of coffee and tea, so why can’t I drink them without getting headaches or becoming anxious, when most of the human population doesn’t seem to have any problems? It’s not fair!
And yet, it’s true that it’s not fair, but it’s useless to get stuck at that (as Dr Brooke says). Instead, I can focus on what works for me and enjoy my life.
I’ve discovered a new elixir of life: my cacao drink. I put a teaspoon of raw cacao powder in a cup of warm water, and I add several drops of a stevia-based sweetener. It’s absolutely delicious! (Let’s hope this one doesn’t end up having unpleasant side effects…)
How about caffeine-free coffee and tea? I’ve tried them both, but unfortunately both seem to give me light headaches, and the coffee makes me weirdly light-headed. I may try again in the future, but for now I won’t be drinking those.
Also, I’ve heard wonderful things about adaptogen mushroom elixirs (such as these), and I’d love to try them as well sometime. For now, I’m sticking to my cacao drink.
Finally, I drink lots of electrolyte water! Most of the time, I mix it myself by adding sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and magnesium malate in my water bottle. But once a day (usually in the afternoon), I drink an LMNT because they are so delicious and they make me feel amazing! (Watermelon is my favorite.)
Note: The links are purely for information purposes. I don’t make any money if you purchase anything via the links because they are not affiliate links 🙂
Image: Me showing off my favorite coffee/tea/cacao mug with a sheep!
Have you ever gone caffeine-free? If so, what was your experience?