One morning about three weeks ago I woke up, and as circumstances would have it, had to skip my morning coffee. Later in the day, as I was making my way to work, I realized that I didn’t feel much different than the day before, or any other day. I decided to continue the accidental experiment by dropping all forms of caffeine: coffee, tea, soft drinks, and the various forms of maté energy drinks that I’ve taken a liking to in recent years.

Until then, I’d been drinking the equivalent of four or five cups worth of coffee a day. Apparently, I was drinking so much of it that its benefits like improved alertness and reduction of fatigue just weren’t working very well anymore.

But while I was so conditioned that caffeine wasn’t doing much good, its negative effects were still out in full force. I’d occasionally experience midday crashes, or have trouble concentrating. Worse yet, I’m an anxious person as it is, and caffeine seemed to further exacerbate that facet; in the worst cases even adding a physical component to the problem in the form of jitters.

Quitting caffeine had no obvious downsides, and some immediately noticeable improvements in quality of life (albeit minor). I still like hanging out in cafes, and quickly found out which of my favorites did a good job with decaf. I was lucky enough to not experience any withdrawal symptoms.

I try not to subscribe to absolutist positions, and don’t intend to take one with caffeine either. I brewed some tea last night and had my first caffeine in almost a month. It was one most focused evenings I’ve had in a long time: I got through about a hundred pages of the book I’m reading, read through some of my magazine backlog, and managed a late night meditation session, all of which are normally activities that send me straight to sleep within minutes if I try any of them after eight o’clock 1.

Caffeine is a powerful tool, but apparently for me only when used in moderation. Your mileage may vary.

1 In fact, it worked a little too well, and I found myself up later than I wanted to be.

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