This is the second post in a series of Holistic Health Hacks for Writers (or any desk jockey). If you want to catch up, read the first post on how to combat living in an indoor cave here.
WRITING = BUTT IN CHAIR
BUTT IN CHAIR = BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH
In the first post, I mentioned the Holy Trinity to romance writers everywhere: coffee, chocolate, and wine. Unfortunately, none of those are healthy for you in large quantities. So, without further ado, let’s talk about how your good friend Joe is trapping you in a health-eroding cycle.
Problem: Caffeine Dependence
Maybe you’re thinking right now, “Oh HELL NO – I’m not giving up coffee!!! This chick is whack!” Hold your caffeine-fueled horses – I’ve got nothing against coffee. It’s packed full of antioxidants and has been shown to be protective of your health…in moderation. Do I need to tell you why too much is bad? It dehydrates you and taxes your adrenal glands (two little-known lumps on top of our kidneys that basically control our energy, blood sugar levels, and circadian rhythms).
The fact is, caffeine is a drug. It’s a neurological stimulant. It works by blocking a “sleepy” receptor in your brain so that all your “awake” chemicals stay at unnaturally high levels. Just like with any other neuro-system drug, your brain senses this hiccup and finds a work-around to get things back in balance. The result is a higher tolerance, effects that have a shorter duration, and if you quit… RED ALERT! Anyone who wakes up (or wakes up next to) a morning zombie/grump can attest that withdrawls are not fun. The good news is you CAN kick the caffeine crutch and even wake up alert and happy without a chemical assist.
Holistic Health Hacks
#1 – Eat A Healthy Breakfast
At night while we sleep, our body makes repairs and goes through a “reset.” The first things we do in the morning can set the tone for our whole day. Reaching for coffee before food is setting yourself up to fail. Your adrenals need some fuel first before you put them through their paces, and once you get the digestive system into gear, the rest of the body and brain will follow suit. Starting your day with a balanced breakfast will make it much easier to go to step #2.
#2 – Caffeine Rehab
You don’t have to give up coffee! But if you are drinking more than two cups a day, you’re going overboard. Make two cups your goal. I also recommend not having coffee past noon so that you don’t spike cortisol or disrupt sleep, but if you can only do one of those, go for the 2 cup limit. And by cups, I literally mean cups. Not two Ventis a day. Two SERVINGS. Maybe you’re on espresso right now, or even energy drinks (ugh). You didn’t jump right into those, did you? You climbed up the caffeine ladder:
Energy Drinks >
> Moar Espresso >
> Espresso >
> Moar Coffee >
> Coffee/Soda >
> White/Green Tea > Black Tea >
> Herbal/Non-Caffeinated Stimulants
Most people start reaching for more and more caffeine because of the tolerance issue. If you want to kick or lessen the habit, you have to go down the same ladder in reverse, or else you will suffer the horror of headaches, dry mouth, nausea, mood-swings, a.k.a. withdrawl. Below is an example rehab plan.
Say you have 3 cups of coffee (or 1 venti espresso) in the morning, a soda with lunch, and an energy drink in the afternoon. Your plan might look something like this:
Week 1: 1 venti + soda at lunch + soda in afternoon
Week 2: 1 venti + soda at lunch + green tea in afternoon
Week 3: 1 venti + soda at lunch
Week 4: 1 venti + green tea at lunch (or other mild stimulant)
Week 5: 1 grande + green tea (or switch from espresso to coffee, etc. – you get the idea)
A lot of times, what we really want is just something warm to drink, in which case, warm water with lemon or caffeine-free herbal tea can be just as satisfying. I love orange spice, passionfruit, and chamomile. Take a trip to a Teavana or another tea shop near you and see what your pallet prefers.
If you ARE going to enjoy coffee, black is the healthiest way. I’ll talk about sweeteners in my next Health Hacks post. If you must add something, go for FULL FAT ORGANIC/PASTURE milk or half-and-half. Yes, I said full fat. If you haven’t heard yet, it’s been pretty well-established that fat is not your enemy. Full fat dairy from pasture-raised cows (1) is high in omega-3s, and (2) does not spike your blood sugar like skim/low-fat dairy does. While trying to dial back on caffeine, the last thing you need is a sugar crash. If you’re more into coffee for all the sugary yumminess and flavorings, then follow my blog for future posts on healthy snacking alternatives. 🙂
#3 – Other Natural Energy Boosters
What about alternatives to coffee? EXERCISE and sunshine are always at the top of my list. When you hit that afternoon slump, taking a brisk walk to get your blood pumping could be enough of a jolt. Some herbal alternatives are Ginseng for straight energy or Ginko Biloba for mental focus. However, if you are dragging ass all the time, I strongly urge you to ask yourself the following questions (** indicates future Health Hacks topic):
- Are you getting enough sleep?** (no amount of supplements can make up for a sleep deficit)
- Are you eating a healthy diet? (blood sugar irregularities and several nutrient deficiencies can deplete energy – Iron, Vitamin D, & B Vitamins to name a few)
- Do you have good digestion? (if your body is literally starved, you will feel it)
- Are you under severe or constant emotional stress?**
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, attack the problem at the root. I know it’s easier to reach for the quick-fix, but you’ll just be digging yourself into a deeper hole. If you answered yes to ALL of them, you should talk to your doctor, because something bigger might be going on. Believe it or not, it is not normal to feel tired and run-down all the time, but we forget that when we get used to it and make excuses. Our lifestyles put us in that state, and it takes lifestyle changes to get out of them. It may feel like you don’t have the time to make these changes, but remember – the longer you put it off, the less time you have. Period.
Stay tuned for my next Health Hacks post: Snack Attack!
I’m happy to expand on any of these points, provide further references, and address questions in the comments section. Please don’t be shy!
DISCLAIMER: These are tricks I use or have used myself, and I’m sharing them with the intention of getting you thinking about how you can tweak your own habits and choices to improve your overall health and well-being. I am not a doctor. I’m not diagnosing or prescribing anything, or criticizing anyone. Please take what works for you and leave the rest.