Coffee is an absolute staple of the average person’s day. Enjoyed with or without milk, some need the dark, rich aroma and strong flavour just to wake up and get going in the morning. While there is nothing wrong with coffee, the caffeine buzz has been linked to increased anxiety and panic attacks in some people.
What does coffee do to the body? Caffeine is a highly addictive and anxiety-inducing drug. Yes, it makes people more alert and awake however it can also have the effect of making them jittery and nervous. Symptoms can include nervousness, irritability, insomnia, jittery feelings and irregular or fast heartbeat. After the initial jolt of coffee wears off, these symptoms can last up to 4 to 6 hours.
So how much is too much? According to the Mayo Clinic, a caffeine intake of 200 to 300 mg per day is generally not enough to produce anxiety in most people. Any more than this however, and you may be upping your chances of experiencing a serious case of the jitters. A ‘heavy’ daily caffeine dose is considered to be anywhere from 600mg and up. The ability of coffee to bring on anxiety can vary according to a particular type of coffee’s caffeine content. Regular brewed coffee contains around 221 mg per mug, however certain blends can contain about 270 mg, while a tiny espresso can pack as much as 80 mg per single ounce. Have a couple of coffees per day and you may be pushing your caffeine limits.
I love my morning espresso, yet I am also a highly anxious person. Over the recent months, I have come to realise the direct link between my coffee intake and my anxiety levels. For me, a daily espresso is, sadly, enough to cause my stress levels to rise (unexplainably) and my normal sleep patterns to be disturbed. For me, the link is undeniable. Days when I don’t have coffee, I am fine. Days I do, not so good.
For those anxious beings among us, having to quit coffee entirely may not be the answer. There are alternatives – decaf for one is a popular option (although unfortunately for those coffee aficionados out there, the taste of decaf just doesn’t compete with the real deal). Herbal tea is another popular substitute. Although the gorgeous fresh roasted flavour of coffee is entirely absent in tea, herbal teas make a great swap if your coffee intake is largely behavioural. It also is probably not the long term solution. Of course, and as always, addressing the underlying cause of anxiety is key to treating it. Piecemeal solutions like giving up coffee forever aren't long term strategies.
When considering cutting back on your intake, think about whether you drink coffee out of “necessity”, or needing a wake up, or whether you simply drink it out of habit. For those nervous types, swap your afternoon latte for a peppermint tea for a week, and see if you notice a difference. For those more gung-ho, try going cold turkey and cutting it out completely. Treat it as an experiment and tell yourself it isn’t permanent. If it helps ease your anxiety, you know you’re on a winner.