Let me start by saying that I love caffeine. I honestly can’t function as a human without my cup of coffee in the morning and my subsequent cups of tea throughout the day. You know how people get hangry without food? Well, that’s how I feel without caffeine. It is a necessity in my life.
So why on earth would I try giving it up? I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it. I was curious if I would experience any withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, or if it would affect my mood and performance at work. At first, I thought about giving it up for a month but decided to reign myself back a bit and set a more realistic goal of giving up caffeine for a week. After all, just the thought of being caffeine free made me feel tired and I hadn’t even started.
To make it more interesting, I searched the internet to find popular alternatives for waking yourself up in the morning without caffeine. I decided that each day of my week-long experiment I would test out one of these theories and see if any of them ended up working.
DAY 1: EXERCISE
It seems like the most popular way to wake yourself up without caffeine is by exercising. I chose a Blogilates Youtube video that I had been wanting to do for a while. I’ll link it here. Afterward, I felt energized and thought “maybe this will work”. Famous last words. Unfortunately, by 10 am I was already crashing from the lack of caffeine and I found it really hard to concentrate. Still, considering I did the workout when I woke up at 6 am, a whole 4 hours of feeling awake is pretty good.
DAY 2: COLD SHOWER
Oh wow was I NOT looking forward to this. I was absolutely dreading it. I looked up online to see how long a cold shower should last. I wanted to know how long the torture would be. The internet said 2-5 minutes so I settled on the 2 minute mark. 😄 Tuesday morning came and I jumped into the cold shower and immediately regretted it. It felt like the longest 2 minutes of my life. At the one minute mark I thought about quitting. Now, I’m not a quitter but for someone who usually takes hot showers (sometimes scaldingly hot) this was a painful way to wake myself up. I thought “one minute is good enough, right?” but I kept going. Although it was very unpleasant (some might say awful) it worked better than Day 1. I felt energized until about 3 pm! WOW! I’m not sure it is worth it but I was amazed that it actually kept me awake.
DAY 3: DRINK WATER
I started out the morning drinking 24 oz of cold water and kept drinking throughout the day. Now I generally drink a lot of water anyway so I was a bit skeptical that this would do anything. Unfortunately, this one was a bit of a fail. I was tired by 10. But at least I was well hydrated.
DAY 4: LISTEN TO MUSIC
I normally start each morning meditating, doing some gentle yoga, and then listening to a podcast as I get ready for work. It’s a nice relaxing way to start the day. Today I switched it up and played some Tyga and Cardi B as I got ready. Don’t get me wrong, I love hip hop but it can be a bit jarring first thing in the morning when my brain still wants to go back to sleep. Nevertheless, I put on some headphones and blasted my music. Surprisingly enough, this worked pretty well. I felt awake and alert for the entire morning and didn’t start feeling tired until about 2 pm. Almost as good as Day 2 but without the physical pain and dread of taking a cold shower!
DAY 5: STIMULATE THE BRAIN
I felt so proud of myself. I had made it nearly an entire work week without caffeine! Today’s experiment was to test whether stimulating the brain can wake you up as much as a cup of coffee. I decided to do some brain games. I used the app Elevate which I’ve used on and off for a while. I have the free version which gives you 3 different brain training activities to do every day (unless you are like me and forget about it for months). Today’s was reading comprehension and spelling based. I had to choose the correctly spelled word, I had to choose the correct word for the sentence, and I was given definitions and had to put together the right word. I’ll include some screenshots of what I had to do below. It worked pretty well considering it only takes about 5 minutes to do the activities. I didn’t start getting tired until around noon.
DAY 6: EAT FRUIT IN THE MORNING
Eating fruit first thing in the morning is supposed to help wake you up so I decided to start the day with a banana and two pears. I normally start the day eating oatmeal topped with fruit so I didn’t have a lot of faith that just eating fruit would do anything. I was right. It didn’t work for me. I ate the fruit at 7 and was tired by about 9.
DAY 7: STRETCH
I started out the day doing this yoga routine as well as some flexibility stretching. I practiced doing the side splits and middle splits and did stretches to help work towards doing a leg hold. I usually start out the day doing gentle yoga anyway so I was a bit skeptical that stretching would do anything. I did these stretches at about 9, was tired by 11, and ready for a nap by 1.
So how did they all compare? Taking a cold shower was most effective followed closely by blasting hip hop music. I did have some side effects to not drinking coffee. I started developing mild headaches a few days in and noticed that the days seemed much longer. I’m sure these side effects would disappear over time, though. My mood, however, didn’t change that much and no one at work seemed to notice that there was anything different about me.
Will I continue going caffeine free? No, not for a while anyway. I love my coffee and tea and the energy it gives me but at some point I may revisit this experiment. I want to test out listening to hip hop every morning for a month to see if it works long term. I will not be taking any more cold showers, though. I just can’t do it.
I would love to know if you have tried giving up caffeine and, if so, what strategies have worked (or not worked) for you.