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Let’s talk caffeine: how does caffeine affect my health

Let's Talk Caffeine: how does caffeine affect my health?

Written by ALISON RALPH                              Updated June 12 2021

Are you someone who often says they need that cup of coffee in the morning or a person who eats chocolate late at night? Many people have been working from home this past year and continue to do so for the future. I have found that this has impacted on the number of coffees or teas people are drinking. It is so easy at home to have one each time your partner does or whenever you feel the need to get up from your desk. It has become a traditional part of many British people’s lives but it could be doing you more harm than good. Caffeine has impacts on our body in ways we couldn’t imagine and can often be linked to anxiety and insomnia. It might be useful for you to reduce your intake of caffeine or at the very least have more knowledge about it, especially if you feel that caffeine is affecting your health. 

In this article I will talk about:

  • What caffeine is and the foods it can be found in
  • How caffeine can affect your health
  • I have included a handy tool which will inform you if you are consuming too much caffeine
  • Why you should reduce your caffeine intake
  • My top tips for safely reducing caffeine

What is caffeine and where can it be found?

Slabs of chocolate and caoco beans

Quite simply put caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system. It can help you stay more alert and can stop tiredness. Caffeine is most commonly found in tea, coffee and cocao plants. It is the most widely used drug in the world with tea and coffee being the leading way to consume. 

Caffeine causes us to have a short burst of energy by changing the chemical reactions in our brains. Producing more dopamine which makes us more alert and supressing melatonin which helps us to regulate our sleep and wake cycle. This interference through consuming caffeine could be affecting your health. 

Caffeine can be found in some of your favourite foods and drinks such as chocolate, coke and energy drinks. 

The word caffeine with a red line through and the word reduce in red font.

How is caffeine affecting my health?

Caffeine is a contributor and sometimes the cause of many issues people face such as, insomnia and anxiety. Caffeine essentially is a drug and quite an addictive one which makes changes to your brain, stopping it from functioning correctly.

Anxiety

When working with people who struggle with anxiety I often ask them about their caffeine consumption. Caffeine can cause physical affects to the body such as, a racing heart and this is a symptom of anxiety experienced by many people. When people feel that symptom of anxiety it can be difficult to stop thinking about it which causes more anxiety and then a vicious circle begins. 

Insomnia

As mentioned above, caffeine gives us a kick and causes us to feel alert and suppresses the sleep hormone meaning that it can be more difficult for us to fall asleep or can cause us to wake during the night. If you already struggle with insomnia it may be a good idea to cut your caffeine consumption. You might just get a better night’s sleep!

 

Man in a deep sleep with comfortable pillow and duvet

Find out here how caffeine is affecting YOUR health.

If you would like to find out if your caffeine intake is affecting your health then use this handy diagnosis tool:

https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-addiction-diagnosis

Why should I reduce my caffeine intake?

Large amounts of caffeine can change the way the brain functions and can cause many different health problems such as, difficulty losing weight, irritability, headaches, insomnia and increased heart rate.

If you reduce your caffeine consumption you may find that your energy levels are more consistent throughout the day because you are not giving yourself those short bursts of energy. You might also find that your anxiety levels reduce because the symptoms are not being created through the use of caffeine. Above all, you will feel good about yourself because you have made some changes to your overall health.

It is important to know that you should not just cut out caffeine straight away. It must be done safely to reduce side affects. The body builds up a tolerance towards caffeine and so to feel any affects from it we have to increase our intake. The problem with this is that the body thinks it needs this intake of caffeine in order to function properly and so reducing it, if not done safely, can create side affects such as headaches.

Note book with the words Top Tips written on and purple lavender in the background

Here are my top tips for reducing your caffeine intake safely.

It is important to reduce the intake of caffeine slowly to allow the body to adjust. This will lessen any side affects.

If you have taken the test and have found that you need to consume less caffeine, here are my 5 top tips for reducing caffeine intake safely. 

  1. Ingredients – caffeine is found in more foods than we realise. Study the ingredients in your foods and know which ones have caffeine in them so you can choose whether to consume them or not, or if you need to eat or drink them less. 
  2. Decrease gradually – you must reduce the intake slowly because if you do not you might experience side effects. So, start with taking out two cups of coffee if you are somebody who consumes 6 a day. Take the ones out which you don’t rely on so much.
  3. Try something new – Try changing your tea/coffee or what ever else you are consuming, with something that doesn’t have caffeine as an ingredient.
  4. Go small! -if you are somebody who has a large cup each time you have a coffee or tea, change that to a small cup each time.
  5. Self-discipline – ask yourself “Do I really need that cup of coffee/tea?” and if the answer is no, skip it. Maybe stand up and have a little walk instead or a drink of fresh water.

I hope you have found this article useful in helping you to understand more about caffeine and how it affects you health.

If you have used the handy tool and feel that your caffeine intake should be reduced remember to use my top tips for safely reducing your caffeine to help improve your health. 

Alison x

Categories
Self care ideas

Protecting your mental health during lockdown

Protecting you health during lockdown

ALISON RALPH

Muddling our way through these difficult times is a challenge for everybody whether they have mental health issues or not.

I cannot count on my fingers the number of people I have spoken to lately who have heightened levels of stress and anxiety due to the restrictions of lock down, even as they begin to ease.

There are some ways that we can help ourselves to manage the feelings that have been created from these unusual times.

Restrict social media and the news.
It can be guaranteed at present that whenever you turn the news on or look on your social media page it will be full of debate, possibly a large amount of negativity and when we feel that there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, our hopes are shattered.

Limiting the amount of time you spend on social media and watching the news will allow you to filter the bits that you need to know, meaning that it doesn’t sabotage your goal of staying positive.

Keep to a routine
Before all this began you were more than likely getting up at the same time each day, eating breakfast, getting the children and yourself ready for the day, taking children to school or making sure you arrived at the gym/ work on time and so on. Routine motivates us and keeps us focussed.
Your new routine could include exercise and spending times outdoors or reading a book.

Be kind to yourself
Remember, we are living through a world pandemic. You are likely to feel anxious or stressed, this is our bodies natural reaction to help us survive. So run yourself a bath, tell yourself that its okay to have a low day, buy yourself gifts and nurture yourself during this time. You’ll thank yourself in the future!

Exercise
Whether it is a walk outdoors, a long cycle or a fitness video indoors, take some time out to exercise. Exercise releases the feel-good hormones in our body, meaning that we will be more motivated and more able to stay positive!

Set yourself achievable goals
Spend any spare time during lockdown redecorating your house, learning a new skill, maybe even changing careers but make sure the goal is achievable! Set yourself a week by week timetable and include the goal in this timetable to ensure that you can complete it over a couple of weeks. When you have achieved a goal, it will make you feel great and positivity a little easier!

Categories
Self care ideas

Top Tips for managing Anxiety

Top tips for managing anxiety

written by ALISON RALPH        updated: 21.06.21

 

Anxiety can be a scary and lonely experience. It can cause you to feel trapped and in a state of panic. It has been something which has been on the rise since the beginning of the COVID 19 outbreak due to the sudden changes and restrictions as well as risk to life. Anxiety might seem a new feeling to you or you may have been experiencing it for sometime.  You may feel physical reactions to the anxiety such as, dizziness, increased heart rate, lightheaded and general feelings of low mood. When in this state, it seems impossible to bring your self back round to your usual way of thinking and feeling. So how can you make these reactions easier to bear and manage your anxiety?

This blog post will:

  1. Teach you a little more about why we experience anxiety
  2. The different types of anxiety
  3. My top tips for managing anxiety
Feeling free: lady standing on a road with leg in the air and showing how she is free.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural reaction inside of us, triggered by the subconscious mind to keep us alive. This means that unfortunately, we cannot completely get rid of it. A healthy level of anxiety is good for us and does keep us alive in survival situations or can help us to perform better in other circumstances.

Think back to the times when we were first on this planet, walking around minding our own business when we come across a large predator.

In order to have a chance of survival our bodies needed a defence mechanism. This is where the flight and fight response comes in (our subconscious mind). It pumps adrenaline through the body which makes the heart beat faster and pushes blood to the legs and arms to allow us to flight or run away. It shuts blood off from other parts of the body such as the digestive system and it causes use to be able to do things we may not normally be capable of doing.

This all sounds great for the men of that time but unfortunately, as we have developed as a species, this part of us has not. We therefore experience this reaction to times which our subconscious mind feels are a danger.

These fears may have been learnt by us from childhood and could be due to a number of factors including, environmental, up-bringing and learnt behaviour. 

The subconscious keeps a bank of patterns and behaviours from our previous experiences and uses these when faced with new experiences and situations. 

The sun setting with birds flying through the sky

My top tips for managing anxiety

Top tip number 1: Knowledge
It is thought that the more we know about anxiety and its function within us, the more we can control it within our bodies. We should also get to know our own anxiety. So keeping an anxiety diary is good to find any patterns or triggers. They are sometimes there even when we feel they are not. If you do choose to read about anxiety to find out more, I suggested using the NHS website or another reputable website. In short, do not just google information!

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/

Top tip number 2: Breathing
If you can learn a relaxing breathing technique it will allow the body to relax. I teach my clients deep belly breathing. As you breathe in through your nose you fill the belly with air and then as you continue the breath you fill the lungs with air. As you release the breath out of your mouth you empty the air form the lungs first and then deflate the stomach.
This not only gives you something else to focus on but activates the parasympathetic nervous system – that’s the part of the body which helps us to relax. Follow this link to watch my demonstration of this breath.

Top tip number 3: Affirmations
Chose two affirmations to repeat in your mind, even at times when you are not anxious. These should be affirmations which promote calmness in the body and give you the confidence to be in control. One of my favourites is: I am calm, I am confident, I am in control.

Top tip number 4: Diet and lifestyle
Believe it or not, the things we eat can have an impact on our anxiety. Eating too much sugar and having too much caffeine in our diets can activate the feelings of anxiety so the restriction of these can have an impact. If you like a drink or are a smoker, this can also influence anxiety. Finally, lack of sleep can cause us to feel more anxious so making sure you get your required hours is a must!

Top tip number 5: Favourite place
This is my favourite way to forget all about the anxiety and one which I use with all my clients. If you sit back and close your eyes, use your breathing technique and at the same time build up an image in your imagination of your favourite tranquil place this can help relaxation and encourage you to think about something other than the anxiety. This could be a place you have been to before or simply one made by your imagination. Examples are a favourite holiday destination, the beach or your garden.

Top tip number 6: Worry Chair

I have recently learnt about the ‘worry chair’ and love this idea! Those who experience anxiety are normally excessive worriers and so spend a lot of time with worries in their mind. The idea of the worry chair is that we train our brain to worry at certain times ONLY. You should chose a chair in your home or workplace which you can only use for worrying. Each time you find that you start with worrying thoughts you should go and sit in the worry chair and allow the worries to come. Once the worrying stops you can carry on with your activities and when the worrying returns you go back to the worry chair. As you can imagine, the journey to the chair and back can become monotonous and so you begin to restrict the worrying thoughts and take control! You might be able to see how this can get rid of anxiety for some people. 

A beautiful beach with drift wood and grass in the forefront

If you would like to buy an anxiety survival pack which has many tried and tested resources and bits and bobs that help you to lessen feelings of anxiety, pop over to this link:

In this blog post I have shared some tried and tested ideas which help to ‘get rid’ of those feelings of anxiety. The important thing to remember is that you can be in control of your mind and your body’s reaction in times of anxiety. The more you practise these top tips the more you will find that you can be in control and so the new patterns of behaviour will set in. 

If you have any tips, no matter how big or small, please share them here. I always find that it’s great to learn from each other. 

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