Categories
Anxiety Energy Irritability Tension

Walk Your Own Path

It’s Your Life

Do it your way

Recently I’ve taken part in some lively discussions at work and home that have left me feeling exhausted and frustrated. Although each side of the argument had valid points, they were getting visibly annoyed that the other participants weren’t agreeing with them 100%.

Emotions started to run high and I found myself slowly but surely giving in to my feelings whilst expressing my views (in perhaps not the best manner). When I caught myself I pulled back but it wasn’t long before someone would push one of my hot buttons in an attempt to get me fall back to emotion.

Nevertheless, they were good exercises for me to find my boundaries and to realise how flexible I really am when having to deal with opposing views. After reviewing what was said, I found that my conduct was not only influenced by the topics and the general mood of the discussions, but also by how stressed and tired I had been prior to engaging in these debates.

At the time of this writing there are many people being polarised by their differing views with regard to the pandemic and what should or shouldn’t be done to solve the issue so that we can return “back to normal.” I believe many of these debates aren’t solely about the pandemic and I feel that it is now more important than ever to understand the role that tiredness plays in our ability to decode and respond to events outside of ourselves.

Walk Your Own Path
Photo by @mjuav via Twenty20

Long and Stressful

Many blame the pandemic for the increase in amount of stress that people are feeling, but from my observations it seemed to me that many people were extremely stressed from way before.

After and during the financial crisis of 2008-2009 I noticed myself and others working longer hours and taking on more work than we normally would. This lead to a lot of workplace conflicts and frustration between individuals and departments (some of which expressed themselves, lets just say, not in the best of manners). It was so bad that memos were being sent out almost daily to inform us that there were formal channels that we could use to voice any grievances.

Also, leading up to the pandemic there were countless reports being published about social media causing stress.

As if we didn’t have enough cause for stress in our busy, complicated lives, along comes social media. What started out, theoretically, as a novel way to “connect” people on a wide scale has now been implicated in social anxiety disorder, which is the third leading psychological disorder in the United States, as well as in other forms of stress.

FACS, F.M.. (2018). The Stress Factor of Social Media. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, AdvanceArticle(6), 1-691.

Regardless of the source of stress, it appears that prolonged exposure to stress can affect the way that we perceive and respond to the world and the events taking place in it.

Unaware of Tiredness

Television news and national newspapers during the pandemic have bombarded us with continuous pandemic related news items that highlight not just the threat to our health but also our financial and social well being. Students in particular (at least in the UK) have been under a lot stress as their exams have been rescheduled or cancelled and Universities have let it be known that typical student socialising will not be tolerated.

Chronic psychosocial adversity increases the risk of mental illness including schizophrenia and depression. These adverse factors include developmental psychological trauma and adult life events (situations or occurrences that bring about a negative change in personal circumstances and involve threat).

Bloomfield, M., McCutcheon, R., Kempton, M., Freeman, T., & Howes, O. (2019). The effects of psychosocial stress on dopaminergic function and the acute stress response.eLife,8.

The unintended results of constantly warning about the threat to our way of life has lead to people becoming more frustrated at the current pace of life, which may be why so many people feel the need to argue their point over the most trivial of issues.

Although I can’t prove it, I believe a large portion of society have been worn down by the constant threat of the virus and are now overly stressed and tired, leading them to lash out more than they otherwise would.

Despite this higher access to knowledge, the impact media exposure has on healthy individuals remains poorly studied. Given that most information conveyed in the media is negative and that upon perception of threat, the brain activates the stress system, which leads to cortisol secretion, we decided to determine how healthy individuals react to media information. Accordingly, we investigated whether reading real negative news (1) is physiologically stressful, (2) modulates one’s propensity to be stress reactive to a subsequent stressor and (3) modulates remembrance for these news…

Results showed that although reading negative news did not lead to change in cortisol levels, it led to a significant increase in cortisol to a subsequent stressor in women only. Also, women in the negative news condition experienced better memory for these news excerpts compared to men. These results suggest a potential mechanism by which media exposure could increase stress reactivity and memory for negative news in women.

Marin, M., Morin-Major, J., Schramek, T., Beaupré, A., Perna, A., Juster, R., & Lupien, S. (2012). There Is No News Like Bad News: Women Are More Remembering and Stress Reactive after Reading Real Negative News than Men.PLoS ONE,7(10)

Your Path

Even though it’s good to know what is going on in the world and your local environment, ruminating over situations that are bigger than any one person can solve is bad.

Instead, maybe limit the amount of time you spend watching or reading the news and when you do consume it, briefly asses how it relates to your personal current situation.

Getting upset about someone else’s point of view regarding a news item just adds more stress to your life than you need. There’s nothing wrong with being aware of other peoples’ views, and even discussing your differences in view with those people can help you better understand their position.

Just remember that each person has their own view, and it’s unlikely that you will change their views by aggressively stating your point. Before getting into a discussion remind yourself that just as you are entitled to your view, so are other people.

Review

Being comfortable in yourself and your views goes a long way to helping reduce anxiety and stress. Worrying about other peoples’ views actively increases your own stress levels. Why? Because you can’t control what someone else thinks. You can influence them, but even that can be tricky.

Be happy with your own choices and walk your own path. It’s one of the best things about being human.

Afterword

“Throughout my life, I have found that I have had to leave many people behind, and break many bonds that we formed together. I know, however, that this happens for a reason and the entrance and ultimate exit of someone in my life is because their influence has been made and they must continue influencing others as I must do as well.”

Ford, D., Cavanaugh, J., & White, H. (2006). Life Choices: The Search for Meaning. Journal of College and Character, 7(1),
Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Caffeine Alternative Energy Focus Insomnia Productivity Sleep

How To Out Smart Your Tiredness

Your Apple Watch, V-CAF & You

Stay awake and alert…

I had some urgent work to get done and time was against me. Caught between a rock and a hard place I decided to power on and resorted to coffee to help me beat the tiredness.

This was before my abstinence from caffeine and I’d always used some form of caffeine to get me through the tough times. Unfortunately on this occasion my coffee didn’t seem to help. “No problem, I’ll just drink more”, I thought. But by now more meant having my sixth espresso (with a teaspoon of sugar).

Sure enough it seemed to work for a little while but soon after I felt even more tired, so I decided to stop for the night and continue in the morning. Bad idea! I went to bed and couldn’t get to fall asleep even though I felt exhausted. At first I thought it was due to the work that I still had to finish, but at some point near sunrise I realised that it must of been all the coffee I had!

I knew it was not going to be a pleasant day ahead.

Out Smart Your Tiredness
Photo by @mkolchanov via Twenty20

The Old Path

Getting out of bed and feeling tired, I did what most people do and reached for the coffee to start off the day. And as I’ve said many times before, coffee (or more specifically, caffeine) works, just not the way that most people think.

Caffeine works by interlocking with your adenosine receptors which has the effect of blocking their ability to respond to the adenosine levels in your brain. Your body produces adenosine throughout the day and high levels of adenosine activate your adenosine receptors to indicate to your brain that your tiredness levels are increasing.

Caffeine manipulates your adenosine receptors to make you feel more alert than you actually are, which many people confuse with gaining more energy when in fact they have the same amount of energy and tiredness as they did before consuming caffeine. Caffeine is so good at blocking adenosine that its effects can last up to twelve hours.

Knowing what I know now I feel duped that I thought caffeine would help me get through the day! My plan was to drink a cup of coffee whenever I felt tired so that I could concentrate in short bursts and get things done. It had worked in the past, so I didn’t think that it wouldn’t work now, especially after a night of not being able to sleep well due to the amount of coffee that I’d drunk throughout the last couple of days.

Unfortunately I didn’t count on my caffeine tolerance levels increasing and just when I needed the caffeine fix the most, it didn’t make me feel alert or able to concentrate any better than before!

Dead End

What You Should Know about Caffeine states: “Caffeine does not accumulate in the bloodstream or body and is normally excreted within several hours following consumption.” In fact, only about 1 percent of caffeine is excreted. The remaining 99 percent must be detoxified by the liver, and the removal of the resulting metabolites is a slow and difficult process. In Chapter 3, you will learn that it can take up to twelve hours to detoxify a single cup of coffee. In fact, the matter of accumulation has never been resolved. Evidence suggests that it may take up to seven days to decaffeinate the blood of habitual coffee drinkers. Plus, it can take three weeks or more for the body’s levels of stress hormones to return to normal. If that’s not accumulation, what is?

Cherniske, Stephen Snehan . Caffeine Blues (pp. 20-21). Grand Central Publishing.

To compensate for my apparent lack of alertness I had a few more cups of coffee and a cola. After a short while, although I didn’t feel great and clear headed, I felt better than I had before, but not for long. After about forty minutes I felt tired again and wanted more caffeine.

What I didn’t know then was that my body’s caffeine tolerance had increased significantly so I would need to consume much more caffeine just to get to the point where I felt normal. To make matters worse, when you become dependent on caffeine to keep you awake and functioning, the act of not consuming caffeine for a brief period can induce withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Although annoying, caffeine withdrawal symptoms for some people can pass quite quickly (a couple of days), but for others it can take weeks.

In my case I started to feel extremely tired and found it difficult to concentrate. I knew that I wouldn’t get any work done so I decided to take the rest of the day off and recover at home. Luckily it was the weekend so I decided to keep away from caffeine, and during the day get outside and go for walks, and get to bed by 10pm during the evenings.

I felt lazy for most of the weekend and decided to do the very minimal that I could around the house and I didn’t go out too much (mostly to the shops to get food and supplies). I dozed off a lot and didn’t eat much, but by Sunday I found that my head felt clearer and I wasn’t feeling so irritable.

I decided that the following week I would keep away from caffeine and get to bed on time. Caffeine did help, but only briefly.

Work Smarter

These days I rarely drink coffee and although I do enjoy a caffeinated cold beverage once in a while, I don’t depend on caffeine to help me to focus or concentrate.

Instead I make it a daily priority to get to bed at roughly the same time every night (including during holidays), getting good quality sleep as well as getting enough sleep, exercising daily and eating more healthy.

Taking these steps alone has helped me more than overcome my caffeine dependance and I believe increased my level of productivity as well. Doing this has also helped me concentrate so that the quality of my work improved too.

In addition I manage my tiredness levels better than I did in the past and as I like gadgets, use my iPhone and Apple Watch to help me. In particular I regularly use our app V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert throughout the day to inform me of when my alertness is dropping so that I can do something to wake myself up.

In other articles I’ve mentioned how I useV-CAF to notify me when it’s time to take a break, and where I can (usually in the afternoon after lunch), I either have a 20 minute nap or go for a walk or stretch and do some light exercises (for example my martial arts forms) to help reengage my mind with my body. I’ve found that after taking a quality relaxing break, when I get back to my desk, things just flow and work gets done quicker.

Review

Since the industrial age caffeine has been the go to drug of choice to help us with our alertness and overcoming tiredness. Although caffeine appears to work, in the long run our minds and bodies pay the price in disrupted sleep, caffeine dependancy and risking intoxication due to harmful chemicals found in coffee.

To date, over 700 volatile substances in coffee have been identified, including more than 200 acids and an incredible array of alcohols, aromatic compounds, carbonyl compounds, esters, hydrocarbons, heterocyclic compounds, and terpenoids. Nonvolatile substances in coffee include caffeine and other purines, glycosides, lipids, melanoidins, caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid. And that’s just the stuff that’s supposed to be there. Coffee often contains a raft of pesticide residues and other contaminants such as nitrosamines, solvents, and mycotoxins. These carry well-defined health risks, and some are carcinogenic.

Cherniske, Stephen Snehan . Caffeine Blues (p. 16). Grand Central Publishing.

Thankfully there are alternatives that are far less harmful and work with our bodies such as diet, exercise and sleep. There are also smart devices such as the Apple iPhone and Apple Watch that coupled with apps such as “V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert” can be used to help you manage your tiredness levels and get more out of the day.

Afterword

The deception has been well coordinated by an industry whose goal is quite simple: to get as much caffeine into your body as possible. If the caffeine industry can accomplish that, they have you as a customer for life. They know caffeine saps your natural sense of vitality, leaving you dependent on their products to get through the day. They know that you actually crave their products and, more importantly, that you suffer when you don’t consume them. It’s a marketing dream, and it’s legal. No wonder more and more companies are jumping on the caffeine bandwagon, churning out products from specialized coffees and teas to “herbal” caffeinated energy pills, caffeine-laced fruit beverages, “supercharged” soft drinks, caffeinated beer, and even caffeinated bottled water.

Cherniske, Stephen Snehan . Caffeine Blues (p. 4). Grand Central Publishing.