September 18, 2012

Whack-A-Doodle-Race-Car-Mind on Caffeine.

Caffeine: devilish or angelic?

Whether it’s that pot of morning coffee brewing downstairs when you need a crowbar to pry open your eyes, or that cup of delicious black tea that promises to lift the fog—most of us, including myself, live to feel elevated, not bogged down, sluggish, tired or drained. There are occasional mornings I wake up feeling wrecked and, although I have been staying off the crack (caffeine that is), I jones for that occasional Americano. I admit it—now and then I reach for that fix to get my engine firing when it feels like some “unknown force” cut the wires to my nervous system and has dragged me down.

Years ago I was hooked to caffeine with an IV drip. Yep,  straight to the vein please. I even researched to see if it would be possible to get one of those IV stints permanently implanted in my arm, set to go off five minutes before the sound of my alarm clock. I couldn’t even think about getting unplugged.

But one day, after my single shot Americano had become a double (or even triple shot on some mornings), I realized my once-savior from the dark fog wasn’t working for me anymore. Instead of being awake and ready to go at six a.m. I was over-wired, bugged-out, anxious and stressedalmost like a crack addict.

Not to mention, it became impossible to fall asleep. Instead I lay awake obsessing about all the ridiculous, irrelevant details that could not find their way out of my brain wishing my brain would torment someone else. You are not your thoughts—try telling that to my whack-a-doodle-race-car-mind after my caffeine trip took the wrong avenue and decided to flip time zones on me.

Perhaps a life rich in endless over-activity or a diet rich in junk food lends itself to staying on the crack. But, when you begin to lead a healthier lifestyle where you are actually able to feel your inner, more subtle body, and are conscious about the foods you ingest in the machine that runs your soul. Then, exercise and the potent pause are a normal part of your routine—the crack fix doesn’t quite work the same way.

Do you often feel you wind up feeling worse after ingesting the caffeine? Don’t you wish you’d just refrained or found a more natural way to push through the sludge or ride the waves of your sporadic energy levels? In our fast-paced, click-and-go society, it’s obvious why we reach for the easy out. Caffeine is the simple and quick approach to filling the gaps when our energy plops. The only caveat is the effects are short-lived. Unless you are superhuman, you are going to crash at some point. You have robbed the bank for energy you did not have and you will have to pay it back.

I’m not here to bang you over the head with the rights and wrongs of caffeine.

Do any of us really know? Studies conflict constantly about the pros and cons. And when eighty-five percent of Americans are still addicted to the little black bean, it makes you wonder what it would take to get us off this drug and into things that have more lasting effects. The most important piece to take from all of this is to judge how caffeine affects you.

For those of us who don’t want to stay hooked, there are paths to getting off the sauce that can yield longer lasting results. Five Element Chinese Acupuncture believes you only possess a finite amount of energy in your kidneys and that every time you drink coffee (primarily due to its cold bitterness), you are tapping the source. At some point, taking those deposits will leave you broke. Being broke ain’t good. So here’s the solution in order to have energy you need to do things that promote energy.

One of the best ways to conserve energy is to relax and not overextend yourself. Spending time doing things that don’t feel like a constant job might balance your energy. Who would have thought?

Then, there’s exercise. Yes, I know that for some people it’s a chore, but exercises that make you feel good spike your energy levels and have been proven to keep you more regulated. If you can build a relationship with something you love to do physically you’ll find it easier to do it and actually look forward to doing it.

Diet is also another huge factor in sustaining energy levels. Do a diet check. Are you eating foods that are rich in energy? If so, you may find that caffeine, however tempting, may not need to be the only avenue you take to feeling alive.

So, are you ready to join the “in” crowd and parade your freshly squeezed juice around town instead of your double shot, dairy free, fat free, almond milk, vanilla, hold the foam latte?

It’s just easier to say you want a green juice anyway.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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