I realize that for many teachers, speaking ill of coffee is downright heresy. Our profession is exhausting and coffee becomes our lifeblood, especially around October. Whether you are naturally chipper in the morning or not, you need to have your game face on when students come bouncing in around 7 a.m. Even teenage students seem to have an unending reservoir of energy that can be tough to keep up with. But, after years of downing several cups a day, I’ve realized that my coffee habit had some negative effects on my mood and health.
As a teacher, of course I do my research; study after study, scientists seem to extol both the healthful benefits of drinking coffee, as well as the harmful side effects. Drinking coffee has been linked to linked to reducing risk of Alzheimer’s, melanoma, and even back pain. For years I justified my constant daily consumption by telling myself that coffee was only good for me. Since I didn’t load it down cream and sugar, it thought I was in the clear.
So my usually coffee-drinking went like this. I’d wake up and immediately boil water. I’d shower and then brew coffee in my french press. I’d sip a few cups while getting ready, then fill a large mug to take in my car on the way to work. As soon as I got to work, I’d head to the teacher’s lounge and fill up again. During planning– of course I’d grab more coffee. Writing out this routine makes it seem a little over the top now, but teachers have a cultural of almost fetishizing coffee and our reliance on it. The memes are everywhere. And to be sure, I’m not saying that drinking coffee is bad for everyone.
I started to think something might be wrong when I noticed I got headaches if I didn’t immediately have a cup of coffee in the morning. Having that symptom of coffee withdrawal was a bit scary, actually. I don’t want to develop a dependence on anything. I decided to take at least a month off of coffee last December. After getting over the initial shock of changing my routine, I am glad I weaned myself off of a half dozen cups a day. It was difficult at first, but I substituted other sources of energy, like an apple in the morning or a lesser caffeinated beverage like tea. Green tea was a nice afternoon pick-me-up; although I didn’t quit caffeine all together, the lesser amount felt very different to me.
After quitting coffee, I noticed that I was less anxious. I have anxiety in general, but caffeine definitely exacerbated the problem. Overloading myself with coffee made me jittery, and even kept me up at night. I realized I fall asleep much easier on days that I don’t have coffee. I also realized that I was using coffee to mask the real problem of exhaustion. Instead of guzzling caffeine, I now make sure I’m hydrated (dehydration being another downside of coffee) and get enough sleep and exercise. Having a cup here and there is relatively harmless, but it’s easy to go overboard without noticing it. So, teachers, do you think your coffee habit may have gotten out of control? Have any of you quit drinking coffee?