Categories
Alert Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Energy Fatigue Focus Productivity Staying Awake

A New Paradigm For Staying Productive

V-CAF The New Productivity Hack

Stay Productive

It would be an understatement to say that in the past I found it challenging to stay consistently productive and hitting all my objectives. Not that I’ve magically got to this fantastical place and that now I’m some sort of productivity god that can’t be stopped.

No, presently where I find myself is a considerably better place than I was but there is always room for improvement. It was a long hard slog to get here and it can sometimes feel daunting thinking about just how much more I need to do to be at my optimal, let alone knowing if it is even possible to get to such a place.

Which brings us nicely to the theme of this post, productivity and what I’ve used to help improve my productivity. Along the way there’s been a lot of trial and error, but the good thing is that by experimenting and having deep thoughts about how I could improve it, led to the creation of our Apple Watch app, V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert.

Stay Productive
Photo by @jesslharbin via Twenty20

Full Steam Ahead

For most of my life it feels like I’ve been chasing deadlines or targets. In school it was to get good grades, in work it was to progress my career or earn more cash. I rarely took the time to think about why I’d chosen this approach, I just got on with it.

And I wasn’t the only one. Most people around me in the different environments that I’ve found myself in also had a similar approach. Whenever I felt in a reflective mood, usually after just making a deadline, I would speak with colleagues who all had their own way of dealing with productivity issues, which funnily enough were just variations on a few common themes.

Make lists, prioritise tasks, drink coffee, give yourself enough time, are some of the usual suspects that keep coming up. And although they all work to a degree, to me, none of them dealt with the actual underlying issue and all wouldn’t work as well as expected at a certain point.

Hitting the Wall

Prioritising tasks help and this is something that I just do. I’d organise my work in order of importance and away I’d go. I definitely recommend organising your tasks, but not to spend too much time doing it. And then there’s the fact that even though I’ve organised my work, there’s always (without fail), something else that comes up that forces me to have to reorganise and spend more time not actually doing the work, but doing the work around the work.

Drinking coffee has and still does work, but not in a sustainable way. When I was feeling tired and demotivated to get things done, then having a coffee would help perk me up. Things would get done, but only for a short period of time before I needed another shot of caffeine to get me through to the next dip. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a coffee once in a while, but to use it as a crutch to increase productivity just doesn’t work. The most obvious reason is that the more coffee (or caffeine) that you drink the more your body increases it’s tolerance to the drug leading you to need more of it to get the same productivity results.

Then there’s the addiction aspect. Many people feel that they can give up caffeine at the drop of a hat and don’t believe that they are addicted. I was one of those people until I actually tried to go without it for a while. That was quite an experience, I can tell you. Trying to give up caffeine can effect your productivity too as the withdrawal effects can make you feel terrible but you’d put it down to tiredness or not feeling well. Either way, I didn’t want my productivity to be dependent on the amount of a substance that I’d consume.

Changing Perspectives

So, what to do? What actually works? I tried numerous workflows and found that the Pomodoro Technique worked well when using Kanban (lean process management) and helped with giving me clear timeframes and slots to complete work. Giving myself more time to get things done and prioritising work did help, but something else was missing.

Then, during a break, I was walking in a park and enjoying the green when I realised that I was looking outside of myself for a solution to an internal problem. Earlier that day my boss had spoken about me looking tired and falling asleep at my desk. The problem was that I was working long hours and cutting into my down time before going to sleep and then waking up early to try and get as many hours as possible to throw at the problem.

What I needed was to step back and get more rest in order to get things done properly. As soon as I got back to my desk I started looking for information on sleep, productivity and daytime tiredness. It became something of an obsession for me as I started finding that when I started implementing the information that things got better. Productivity picked up and I felt much less stressed and more content with my work.

I began getting better quality sleep, exercising more, eating better and taking more breaks whilst at work. Whilst monitoring my mood and the amount of work that got done I started to realise that this was the missing component that was needed to sustainably maintain my level of productivity.

But being the stubborn kind of guy that I am, I found myself sometimes working through my breaks and not stepping away. When I did this, my stress levels went up and my productivity went down! Speaking with a colleague about this we came up with the idea to make an app that unlike any work flow process, actually worked with your body to help optimise work slots around your alertness levels.

That led us to create V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert, an Apple Watch app, which is now available on iOS and macOS, that notifies you when your alertness levels are decreasing so that you can stop and revitalise yourself before your decreasing alertness affects your work. Over the last few years I’ve been using it daily and it feels like it was the last secret missing key for me to unlock my productivity potential.

Review

If you’re feeling that your productivity levels aren’t what they should be or feeling tired and lethargic, take the time to change your sleeping, eating and exercising habits.

I know that it can seem difficult, but anything of value has a difficulty factor attached to it. It’s easy to look for a quick fix to a solution but by actually paying the price of going through and overcoming a difficulty you will be paid back no end.

Afterword

“The associated annual economic costs due to lost productivity for the entire work population at the participating companies were estimated to be $54 million (~$1967/employee). Our findings highlight the potential for the improved detection and treatment of sleep disturbances to significantly improve workplace safety and productivity and reduce the associated economic costs.

Mark R. Rosekind, PhD, Kevin B. Gregory, BS, Melissa M. Mallis, PhD, Summer L. Brandt, MA, Brian Seal, PhD, and Debra Lerner, PhD, The Cost of Poor Sleep: Workplace Productivity Loss and Associated Costs, 2010; p.97

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Fatigue Lethargy Side Effects Sleepiness Staying Awake Tiredness

How To Stay Awake, Stay Alert

Overcome Tiredness – Use V-CAF

Stay Awake, Stay Alert, Stay Focused

Feeling tired? Finding it difficult to stay alert? Don’t worry you’re in good company, because we all feel like this at some point in the day (at least I do).

Caffeine stopped being as effective in perking me up as my tolerance levels had become very high and I wanted to stop using it due to some of the strange side effects it had on me.

After trying a variety of alternative remedies my colleague and I decided to make an app that would act like caffeine, without the side effects and be virtual.

Our motivation is to help people stay awake and alert when they need to without having to resort to caffeine. In this post we focus on how to use V-CAF Stay Awake, Stay Alert to help you achieve those goals.

Stay Awake Stay Alert
Photo by @LeopoldoMacaya via Twenty20

Tiredness

/ˈtʌɪədnəs/
/noun/
noun: tiredness
1 the state of wishing for sleep or rest; weariness.”tiredness overcame her and she fell into a deep slumber”

Definitions from Oxford Languages

Tiredness affects us all in varying degrees and frequencies, which makes sense since we are all different. But there are times when we don’t want to feel tired and at those times it can , at best be described as a nuisance, at worst a dangerous sign of an underlying health issue.

Eventually we seek ways to get around it, just temporarily, and not enough to affect our health in negative ways. The most common way by far of achieving this goal is by consuming caffeine.

This wonder drug has and is helping to fuel the thoughts and productivity of many around the world and in its most popular form (coffee) as an industry is estimated to be worth more than $100 billion a year.

 

Why Use Caffeine

Caffeine works, so why not use it? In fact many scientific studies highlight the health benefits of caffeine can delay the onset of such devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

But then there are many reports that show prolonged exposure to caffeine can actually induce effects linked to Alzheimer’s. So which is it? The Alzheimer’s Society in the UK with regards to the protective or harmful effects of caffeine state that there is “No definitive answer” Caffeine and dementia | Alzheimer’s Society .

Although I’ve found that caffeine has worked for me in the past, I almost always needed to consume more to get similar levels of awareness or alertness than I did just a short time before.

This lead me to over consume caffeine to the point that my hands started shaking. And if not to that extreme, then to seriously affect the quality of my sleep, leading me to feel more tired as time went on.

Then there’s the withdrawal symptoms which, depending on how long you’ve been consuming caffeine, can range from a slight headache and drowsiness to very unpleasant stomach cramps and migraines.

Techniques That Work

So, what about V-CAF? Can it work just as good as caffeine and how does it work?

There’s only one thing better at keeping you awake rather than caffeine that isn’t illegal and is 100% natural, and that is sleep. Enough good quality sleep. As a result V-CAF doesn’t work against your natural rhythms but with them.

Instead of trying to fight your body, V-CAF works with your body by monitoring your body’s natural rhythms and notifying you when the probability of your alertness levels dropping have increased.

Knowing this you can then use V-CAF to alert you whilst you are engaged in an activity as a natural break cue. Use this time to take a rest then get back to work. Of late, I’ve started napping after I get a notification from V-CAF. Napping helps clear my mind and I feel a lot more focused and productive
for it.

It’s vital that you get rid of any lingering doubts about whether napping is a good use of your time. Instead, remind yourself that naps can make you more alert, improve your reaction time, help you to become more creative, reduce accidents, and put you into a better mood. In fact, you should start to feel guilty if you are not taking a nap during the day.

Wiseman, Richard. Night School: Wake up to the power of sleep (p. 177). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Just make sure your naps are no longer than 20 minutes to achieve the best results.

If you miss coffee or caffeine then start of by not consuming any after midday. Use V-CAF to notify you when you alertness levels drop and then go for a quick brisk walk outside (which for maximum effect works well after having a nap), and drink plenty of water (on cold days I drink hot water and herbal teas for the warmth).

Summary

V-CAF works by you being actively engaged in using it. That is, when you are notified of the reduction in your alertness levels, do something to help regain your focus.

I outlined taking naps and going for walks, but as I constantly say on this blog, nothing beats a good nights sleep. Make the time and effort to increase the quality of your sleep and keep yourself informed about what’s best for your health.

Afterword

Work less than you think you should. It took me a while to realise there was a point each day when my creativity ran out and I was just producing words – usually lousy ones – for their own sake. And nap: it helps to refresh the brain, at least mine.

Amy Waldman source: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/nap-quotes
Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Caffeine Alternative Side Effects

Three Helpful Tips On Giving Up Caffeine

Know What Works For You

It’s Your Life…

Want to give up caffeine? I have on a number of times for various reasons. Each attempt to kick the caffeine habit taught me something new about myself and my relationship with caffeine.

I have tried a variety of approaches and detail in this post three of those that I found most useful.

These are not “secret techniques” that I’ve acquired from the powers that be, but rather useful pointers on your own journey of caffeine independence.

Try Giving Coffee A Break
Photo by @adam.barabas via Twenty20

Know Why

For me to do anything of value or substance I need to know why. Back when I was studying for my exams to get into uni and had a bad reaction to consuming too much caffeine, my reason for stopping was that I didn’t want to damage my health.

Later on during a stressful period at work I found that caffeine was no longer helping me to reach my targets and was actually hindering me from working more efficiently.

By understanding the reason why you want to take a particular course of action you increase the chances of success. Know why you want to give up caffeine and write it down. It will come in handy when you get the cravings to read why you’re putting yourself through this uncomfortable experience.

 

Teetotal

Avoiding caffeine totally has worked for me, but I’ve found that it can make things unnecessarily difficult.

That said, when I’ve been in the mood to just get things done, this approach has worked extremely well. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that when I’ve been in that kind of no nonsense mood I also plan better so caffeine abstinence was easier.

When taking this approach I aim for the start to be on weekends (i.e. last caffeinated drink on Thursday afternoon) so that I can get through the worst of the withdrawal symptoms from Friday evening through to Sunday. In case you don’t know what withdrawal symptoms to look out for here’s a list:

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Lack of focus
  • Low motivation

Drinking lots of plain hot water has helped me reduce or eliminate the headaches, tiredness and nausea. Doing some light exercise such as going for a walk has helped in refocusing my mind and motivation.

The one downside to this approach is that I’ve found myself eventually returning back to caffeine in some form or another, which can make you feel disappointed and make it harder to give up the next time you decide to.

Reduction

Of late, this approach has been my goto first choice. It doesn’t take too much thought and is very manageable.

Simply note how much caffeine you consume in a day and reduce the amount the following day (by a predefined number). Rinse and repeat.

This works well with substituting techniques because it makes it easier to break established routines without having to think about it too much and without having to rely on willpower alone.

So these days instead of waking up and then making myself a coffee, I drink a glass of water instead (sometimes hot, sometimes cold, depending on the weather). When taking a coffee break, I go for a walk.

It soon adds up to a significant reduction of caffeine consumption and eventually you will not even notice that you are doing it!

Review

Which ever way you decide to give up or reduce the amount of caffeine that you consume, be happy with that choice and work through it.

Caffeine has been getting a bad rap lately (and I don’t think it’s not warranted), but it also has some health benefits for particular groups of people. Have an open mind and be flexible when working out what’s best for you.

Afterword

If you are having difficulty focussing whilst giving up caffeine, or in general, our app V-CAF can help. It’s an Apple Watch app that notifies you when your alertness levels drop so that you can take the appropriate steps to boost your alertness.

It’s available now on the App Store, download it today.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Energy Fatigue Focus Productivity Sleepiness Staying Awake Studying Tiredness

How to Optimise Your Breaks

Feel Better, Get Better Results

Work to your strengths…

Lately I’ve been researching techniques that would help boost my productivity levels but found that I was doing most of the things that the experts recommended.

Now I’m not saying that my productivity levels are low or that they are extremely high, but I wanted to see if there were any efficiencies that I was overlooking that would give me an above average boost compared to the cost of implementing the said efficiency.

And it turns out there was and I was using it already whilst doing this research! So as usual, I’ll outline what it is and how I managed to get that extra boost whilst incorporating it in my existing processes.

Optimize Your Breaks
Photo by @daphneemarie via Twenty20

Hit and Miss

Putting a lot more effort into what you are doing, focussing more, working long hours, these are the usual approaches that many take when trying to improve their performance and increase their output.

Caffeine pills, coffee and energy drinks for others are the “common sense” performance enhancers that have ben used for centuries and people swear by them.

Then there are the many productivity methodologies that essentially get you to plan the work that you are going to do and then systematically work through the list.

But with all these approaches after the initial jump in performance things can start to peter out and productivity can be even worse than before.

Diminishing Returns

All of the above mentioned approaches work, but all have the problem of diminishing results after a period of time, some earlier than others. So let’s identify the problems with each approach, which will then point us in the right direction towards a possible solution.

  • More Effort
    Putting in more effort in the short term can work well, like sprinting towards the finish line in the last few meters of a race. The problem with this approach is that its usually unsustainable. Continuously pushing yourself to your limits inevitably leads to you hitting a wall and becoming burnt out.
  • Stimulants
    For a quick no frills boost then caffeine is the legal stimulant champion. But like all drugs, your tolerance levels increase leading you to need higher levels of caffeine just to get to similar results of alertness as you did when you started using caffeine (and for some people I know, just to feel normal, which is due to the withdrawal symptoms, but that’s for another blog post).
  • Productivity Systems
    Work very well, but people tend to get caught up in the process rather than the actual work that needs to be done. But because you can show a list of tasks and objectives that are met for the day/week/month or cycle you can unconsciously delude yourself into thinking that you are very productive when in fact your productivity is actually based on gaming the system.

Optimisation

So now we have identified the problem, what’s the solution? It’s quite simply to take breaks at the right time. And when you take breaks at the right time whilst using the aforementioned approaches, you’ll find that suddenly things are not such a drag anymore.

Here are the same approaches modified with a few examples of using them whilst taking well timed breaks.

  • More Effort
    By taking well timed breaks throughout the day you give yourself a chance to rest and recoup a little before going back at it.
  • Stimulants
    If you find it too difficult to break the caffeine habit or want an alternative, start by not drinking any caffeine after lunch and as you feel tired throughout the day take a few more 10 min breaks. If you can get a quick nap in (no more than 20 mins), and aim to get to bed by 10pm latest (at least until your current workload isn’t so heavy).
  • Productivity Systems
    The Pomodoro technique mandates that a break should be taken every 20 to 25 minutes throughout your planned day. The problem I’ve found is that more often than not, once I start working I get into the flow and then my focus get’s broken. So I find myself ignoring the timer and continuing to work. But with a flexible timing method things get easier.

And here’s the thing, recently whilst doing some research on this very topic, I found that I when I took breaks (with 10 – 20 minute naps, where possible) when I needed them, as compared to not taking breaks or having set times for breaks, I was able to complete my work faster, with less mistakes and not feeling so drained.

Recap

But, there’s one thing I left out. I cheated. Most people don’t realise when they are tired and because of this many of us work until we become over tired, and that’s the time when people reach for a coffee, feeling miserable and fatigued.

But I however had the advantage of knowing about and using our app V-CAF to alert me when my alertness levels started dropping. I have a vested interest to say this, but it’s true, it worked!

The more I use the app the more I appreciate how my colleague and I felt when we decided to start this blog and build the app, first of all to help us with a need that we had, and then to help other people avoid some of the issues that we’d experienced around caffeine, tiredness and a lack of productivity.

Afterword

“The challenge is to continue the spread of information regarding the wealth of benefits of napping to combat the numerous physical, mental, and financial consequences of fatigue”

Alger, S., Brager, A., Capaldi, V., & , (2019). Challenging the stigma of workplace napping. /SLEEP,/ /42(8),/
Categories
Alert Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Caffeine Alternative Fatigue Focus Insomnia Lethargy Productivity Sleepiness Staying Awake Tiredness

When Caffeine Just Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

When Too Much Becomes Too Little

It’s time to change…

During one of our insanely busy work cycles, Darren looked limp and worn down. In our daily meetings he just stared into the distance, occasionally checking his watch.

As time went on I noticed more often than not that some management types would pull him to one side and have what looked to be an intense discussion about something that they felt the need to point out to him.

Then one day Darren came over to me and asked if we could have a quick chat over a coffee. We found a quiet corner, him with a mug of joe in his hand and me with water in mine, and Darren came out bluntly and asked “How do I do it?”

When Coffee Doesnt Do It
Photo by @potochnyi via Twenty20

The Promise

Confused I responded and said something like “Do what?”. The reply I got back shocked me. “You always seem to be with it. It’s rare that I see you getting angry or upset.”.

Now I got where this was going. In the past I’d been fairly stressed out and not working at my best. I looked sleepy and some would come by my desk and tell me to wake up!

Under pressure to perform, I started drinking diet sodas with caffeine to help keep me awake. But before long, I found myself needing more sodas to just feel normal and staying alert became harder.

 

Getting Let Down

It wasn’t long before my increased caffeine consumption started to affect my sleep. Most evenings between 6 and 7 I would go from feeling lethargic to suddenly being hyper alert.

At the time I put it down to finding work boring and that because the evening wasn’t all about work my mood picked up. But as it became normal for me to be wide awake at 3am laying in bed, I knew that something was wrong.

Also, when it was time to wake up I felt like I hadn’t slept. This feeling would continue until about 10ish after I had my first diet soda of the day. But after lunch until I got back home was a struggle.

It became so bad that my manager asked if I had a sleep condition and told me to fix up as other workers were noticing that I would nod off in front of my screen.

As Darren listened to what I was saying he nodded, laughed and said that he remembered those days and in fact a manager had told him to talk to me to find out what I did to turns things around.

What Darren and I appeared to be suffering from was a bad mix of unhealthy sleep practices and a raised tolerance to caffeine. Because caffeine blocks our brain’s adenosine receptors, our body found it difficult to work out if we were tired.

Adenosine is a chemical released by our body throughout the day. As the amount of adenosine builds our tiredness increases which let’s us know that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.

Caffeine blocks our brain from being able to correctly measure how tired we are and so tricks us into thinking that we are more awake than we really are. To make matters worse, caffeine can stay in our system from between 7 – 15 hours depending on our weight and age.

Because I was drinking so much caffeinated sodas throughout the day I was actively blocking my body from being able to regulate itself which in turn led to me being too awake by bedtime, but tired throughout the day.

A Better Way

I told Darren that I tried a few different approaches, but the best results came from getting more quality sleep and reducing, then removing caffeine from my diet.

  • Avoiding Caffeine
    I stopped drinking caffeine straight away, but it may be best to take it slowly and gradually reduce the amount of caffeine that you consume. This boils down to how bad your withdrawal symptoms are and what is going on in your life at the time.
  • Eating Healthily
    Eat more iron. magnesium, and protein rich foods like beans, nuts, spinach and eggs as a deficiency in any of these can make you feel drained.
  • Staying Hydrated
    Dehydration makes it difficult for you to focus and concentrate, so by being hydrated you can increase your brain’s ability to focus and concentrate whilst reducing drowsiness.
  • Knowing How Tired You Are
    A lot of people are so busy or focused on what they are doing that they don’t realise how tired they are until they make mistakes or are feeling frustrated. By being mindful of how you feel you can train yourself to recognise the tell tale signs of fatigue. Using an app like V-CAF, an Apple Watch app, you can be notified when you are tired so that you can stop and take a natural break before continuing with whatever activity you were engaged in.

Alertness Tips

Darren thanked me for my openness and went on to try some of my tips as well as what he thought would work for him.

And that’s the beauty of being human, we are all similar but unique enough to make it interesting. Darren started to change things around based on his needs and experiences.

My tips are what worked for me, but perhaps you can use them as a base to start from if you ever feel that caffeine isn’t working for you anymore.

  • Avoid Caffeine
  • Eat Healthily
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Know when you are tired

Afterword

Don’t suffer in silence, if you’re in a difficult place, reach out and ask for help. There’s no shame involved. Everybody has times when things aren’t as good as they can be.

Whether we like it or not, we are part of a community, it’s just the way it is. Help your community and they will help you.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Caffeine Alternative

Tea – Is It The Best Drink of the Day?

Caffeine To The Tea

Nothing beats a good cuppa…

I like drinking tea. For quite some time I’ve been drinking mostly herbal teas and occasionally I drink a few black leaved teas and green teas, but this has been a problem.

Although a lot of people point out the benefits of tea, especially its anti carcinogenic properties, tea has a very high caffeine content, which is usually dismissed as being outweighed by all the other benefits. Even to the point that some studies show that there are no harmful effects of drinking caffeine in tea when drunk in reasonable amounts.

But what are reasonable amounts and how much caffeine can I consume before it becomes harmful to me.

Tea - Is It The Best Drink of the Day
Photo by Maresa (@meezsmith)

Tea, Natures Gift

It appears that I’m not the only one who likes to drink tea. According to World Tea News , tea is the most consumed prepared beverage after packaged water!

Tea Consumption Second Only to Packaged Water | World Tea News
Tea Consumption Second Only to Packaged Water | World Tea News

Part of tea’s popularity has been due to the marketing of its health benefits. Most of these stem from catechises and polyphenols which are tea’s main source of antioxidants, and give tea its taste and anti carcinogenic properties.

But what is not widely known is that tea can raise blood pressure, cause palpitations, anxiety and insomnia for some people.

The Gift and The Curse

The source of these symptoms are due to tea containing high levels of caffeine. Although caffeine can be found in many food and drinks, it is mostly consumed in the forms of coffee and tea.

Caffeine is easily absorbed by the body and can reach your brain within 5 minutes of consumption, which has helped increase its popularity as a mild stimulant that is effective in temporarily overcoming drowsiness and fatigue. In addition it has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease and improved overall immune response.

But this comes at a cost. Caffeine can have many adverse effects such as:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Osteoporosis

The Alternatives

If you are sensitive to caffeine but enjoy drinking tea, all hope is not lost. There are decaffeinated teas which have a reduced amount of caffeine in them, but from my perspective, unfortunately lack the taste and a lot of the health benefits associated with tea.

There are a few good decaf green teas that I’ve tried but for the most part I don’t bother, (If you know of any good decaf teas, please list them in the comments).

By chance I had a discussion with a family member about a particular herbal tea that I thought had caffeine in it, which they said it didn’t. After going back and forth at each other for a while, they got fed up, went online, and showed me the list of ingredients. Low and behold, no caffeine!

Since then I’ve made it a mission of mine to find good quality herbal teas that taste fantastic and have little or no caffeine in them at all, (Healthista has a list of ten caffeine free teas to get you started, 10 caffeine-free teas for morning energy – TESTED).

As for black and green tea drinkers there is still hope. Apparently there’s a lot of research currently into producing caffeine free tea plants. Traditional farming methods currently take approximately twenty five years to produce a plant which may not be suitable for consumption. As a result alternative methods such as metabolic engineering are being explored and the results look promising.

A Quick Review

So, there’s no real need to give up drinking teas if you don’t want to. I still drink caffeinated teas occasionally, but since finding so many herbal tea alternatives I usually don’t bother.

  • Teas contain antioxidants and other health benefits, but the benefits can be cancelled out by the caffeine content (a build up over time).
  • Decaf teas still contain caffeine and strip away a lot of the healthy antioxidants.
  • There are plenty of good quality herbal alternatives that keep the healthy benefits of tea without compromise.
  • There soon could be metabolically engineered caffeine free teas.

Next Steps

I’m constantly trying out new alternatives and experimenting with what works for me. By keeping an open mind I’ve grown to like drinking tea even more.

I’d suggest that if you like tea and want to reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake, try out a few herbal alternatives, and even the decafs and find what works for you.

Categories
Caffeine Addiction Caffeine Alternative Staying Awake

Is Your Caffeine Dependency Your Key to Success?

Every Cloud Has One…

Silver Linings Everywhere

A lot of people don’t realise that they have a caffeine dependency. Usually they don’t notice how caffeine influences how they feel throughout the day and how it even affects the quality of their sleep.

Realisation, when it comes, can be sudden and brutal! The blow to their self esteem can be massive and make them feel like their world has ended.

And to be blunt, it has, but not in the way that they may think.

Is Your Caffeine Dependency Your Key to Success?
Photo by Kira auf der Heide @kadh on Unsplash, Baja California, Ensenada, Mexico, woman in black and white striped top holding white ceramic mug, Cologne, Germany

Dependency

Addictions don’t happen over night, they grow on you. The substance or behaviour starts off by making you feel good. Gradually you start to crave more and more, eventually leading to bingeing bouts.

These binging bouts help form habits in the addict that eventually lead to addiction. The addict soon finds that it becomes difficult to function normally when they don’t get their fix.

Unfortunately, they find that their fix is not enough to overcome the withdrawal symptoms. Soon their sense of well being is dependent on how long they can survive until their next fix.

Lost Focus

The cruel thing about addictions is that many don’t realise that they even have an addiction, and if it’s pointed out to them they becomes defensive.

In my own case with caffeine, I thought that I was in control and could stop at any time that I wanted. People warned me and I felt that I knew best until my hands started shaking after drinking too much coffee.

For many caffeine addicts it’s all too easy to dismiss the tell tale signs of addiction and withdrawal as just down to not feeling well, or being tired.

As a test to see if you have a caffeine addiction, try giving up caffeine in all forms for three days, starting from now. If you feel you suffer from any of the listed symptoms, you may have a caffeine addiction:

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Anxiousness
  • Depression
  • Inability to focus

Using the Darkness

If you feel that you might be addicted to caffeine, it’s not all doom and gloom. The fact that you are aware of it is a good sign. The next step is to figure out what to do about it , if anything.

Having an addiction of any kind may be a sign that things in your life aren’t as you would like them to be. The addiction is your subconscious ’s way of letting you know that you need to pay attention to something that you are neglecting about yourself.

There is no quick fix to an addiction and relapses are common. If you take the time to observe and learn about yourself, not only will you eventually find out what is driving you to the addiction, but you’ll also find a wealth of positive aspects about your own nature that you may have taken for granted.

Also, by continually observing and learning about yourself you’ll be in a better position to figure out the times and scenarios when your cravings are at their highest, and as such take precautions to minimise or avoid them.

Dependency Revisited

In addition to observing yourself and finding out what your caffeine addiction’s triggers are, you can also help your cause by:

  • Getting more sleep
    A good nights sleep is crucial for overcoming a caffeine addiction. Your willpower is stronger and intention is more focused after good quality sleep, which makes it easier to get over your cravings.
  • Exercising more
    When you feel lethargic, get your body moving. The act of walking helps wake you up, which is what many people say they drink coffee and tea for.
  • Using alternatives to caffeine to help keep you awake
    A rising trend is to drink herbal teas and fruit juices as a tasty alternative to drinking caffeine. The idea is to drink the alternatives when you feel the craving for a coffee or tea coming on.
    Our take on the problem is to use V-CAF, our Apple Watch app. It works by letting you know when you are tired so that you can take a break from whatever you are doing and wake yourself up.

What’s Next

Reading this article was the easy part. Now the true test of inner strength begins.

Use the points and tips in this article to help you beat your caffeine addiction, but also use your addiction as a catalyst for change for the better.

Good Luck and Stay Strong

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Focus Irritability Productivity Side Effects Staying Awake Tiredness

Stay Awake pills, are they worth the risk?

Stay Awake pills, are they worth the risk?

Nothing ventured…

In the past when I had a lot of work to get finished, a tight deadline, or studying for exams I would use caffeine to help me focus and stay awake.

I started to be concerned when I found that I needed more caffeine just to stay awake and focused, until eventually I got the jitters!

After doing some research I decided to stop taking caffeine and in particular caffeine pills.

In this article I’ll be sharing some of the things that I found out about caffeine and why I think taking caffeine pills to stay awake and study or work wasn’t worth the risk.

Working Through Tiredness
Photo by Carl Raw @carltraw on Unsplash, Southport, United Kingdom, Take a photo of your arcade, play around with the lighting in Lightroom. It’s fun.

Ease of Access

It’s never been easier to get a quick energy boost when you need it. Plenty of snacks contain caffeine and and are within easy reach via vending machines in schools, offices and train stations.

Due to caffeine’s pervasiveness in foods and drinks, many don’t realise how much caffeine they consume in a day.

Caffeine pills promise an instant energy boost packed into an easily consumed pill. A couple of pills will keep you alert and focussed. A single pill can contain as much caffeine as two cups of coffee (200 mg).

Great, so what? The FDA recommends four or five cups of coffee per day for healthy adults (depending on body weight, medications and individual sensitivity), which works out to be approximately 400 mg of caffeine. Consume just one pill and you are already at half your limit for the day.

And those that do use caffeine pills quite frequently consume more than one or two pills, especially if they have a heavy work or study load.

Diminishing Returns

When you’re in it, it’s difficult to realise that your caffeine consumption is raising your tolerance to the stuff.

I started taking more caffeine pills than the recommended dosage and felt more drained and irritable. I remember blaming it on the fact that I had so much to do and not enough time to get it done.

A good friend of mine told me that it might be best if I slowed down, and would drop hints about the effects that caffeine was having on me.

Looking back I can see it clear as day. I was consuming too much caffeine which was making me feel crap.

Classic symptoms of consuming too much caffeine include:

  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Palpitations
  • Tremors
  • And sleep disturbances

And then there’s the withdrawal symptoms. A lot of people don’t believe that caffeine is addictive whilst being addicted themselves (I was one of those).

When I first tried to stop I felt the same as when I was increasing the amount of caffeine pills I was taking. This was because I was suffering from withdrawal and didn’t realise it!

Those of you that need a coffee or tea fix in the morning might not realise that the reason you have the craving for caffeine is because you are suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Because you weren’t drinking caffeine or popping pills in your sleep, when you wake up your mind needs the caffeine just to make you feel normal.

Here’s a list of common withdrawal symptoms, tell me if any of them sound familiar to your daily experience:

  • Nervous irritability
  • Tremors
  • Palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The Alternatives

After I had decided to quit caffeine, my instinct was to look for a safe replacement or alternative that would give me the same awake feeling without the nasty side effects.

Through trial and error I found that the best alternative was to change my lifestyle. By making different choices I found myself gradually feeling a lot better than I ever did when using caffeine pills. I still drink and eat caffeine once in a while, but not to stay awake!

So in no particular order, here are some of the lifestyle changes that I’ve made:

  • Avoid Caffeine
    Gradually reduce your dependence on caffeine until you find yourself not craving it anymore (especially when you’re feeling tired or stressed). Be prepared for the withdrawal symptoms, but tough it out and know that in the long term you’ll pull through.
  • Eat Healthily
    Eat more iron and magnesium rich foods as a deficiency in either one can make you feel drained. For iron eat spinach and beans; for magnesium, nuts such as cashews and almonds. Eggs are good for protein and are a good source of B vitamins that help turn your food into energy. Eat fruits that are high in vitamin C, like oranges, strawberries, pineapples and kiwis, as they help body fat to be used as energy.
  • Stay Hydrated
    By drinking enough water every day, you help your brain to function more efficiently. Dehydration makes it difficult for us to focus and concentrate, so by being hydrated we increase our brains ability to focus and concentrate as well as reduce drowsiness.
  • Know When You Are Tired
    A lot of people are so busy or focused on what they are doing that they don’t realise how tired they are until they make mistakes or are feeling frustrated. By being mindful of how you feel you can train yourself to recognise the tell tale signs of fatigue. Using an Apple Watch app like V-CAF, you can be notified when you are tired so that you can stop and take a natural break before continuing with whatever activity you were engaged in.

Review

I made the decision a while ago to not use caffeine pills, and caffeine in general to stay awake just so I can get things done.

The risks to my medium to long term health just weren’t worth the risk for me. What about you?

If you decide you need a change, then why not try out some of the tips that we gave above:

  • Avoid Caffeine
  • Eat Healthily
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Know when you are tired

Last Thoughts

Nobody knows you better than you do. Consuming caffeine has benefits as well as drawbacks. The key seems to be balance.

Everyones centre point is unique to themselves. By taking the time to find out about yourself, you eventually will have the instinct to know what works for you.

Thanks for reading.

Categories
Addiction Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Caffeine Alternative Productivity

Is Caffeine Addictive?

Am I Addicted To Caffeine?

You Know…

Before studying for my final exams, I used to drink coffee, cola drinks and tea every day. It never occurred to me that I might have been addicted to the caffeine in them.

When people told me about the addictive nature of caffeine, I thought that they were exaggerating. I even did a couple of challenges where I didn’t have any caffeine for a day to prove that I wasn’t addicted and that they were wrong.

Well, I like learning the hard way and as the years have gone by, I’ve looked into what research I could find to find out one way or the other.

So, let’s see if we can work out if caffeine is addictive?

Life Begins After Coffee
Photo by Jorge Franco @francofotografogdl on Unsplash, Egresado ya hace unos años de la Lic. Diseño para la Comunicación gráfica, contaba ya con un conocimiento previo de fotografía y edición, mi trabajo me ha demandado cada vez mas la fotografía así que decidí tomar un curso, un curso que impartió un viejo amigo y colega, con sus conocimientos compartidos a sus alumnos, nos pusimos a practicar teniendo buenos resultados. esta fotografía es la primera después de tomar el curso donde note una evolución, por esa razón la comparto al resto del planeta. Saludos cordiales Jorge (GEORGITO) Franco

I Don’t Have A Caffeine Addiction

Because caffeine is consumed by so many people on a regular basis it is easy to overlook or forget that it is a stimulant.

During one of my caffeine abstinences I was called out for eating chocolate and found myself arguing that it doesn’t count, (oops)!

Another time I found myself justifying drinking tea (earl grey) very often by telling myself it was okay because I don’t drink too much coffee. 

A few years back I started doing three day fasts to cleanse. On one particular occasion I decided not to have any coffee to perk me up. As I hadn’t drunk so much coffee during other fasting sessions, I thought that this would be a piece of cake. 

How wrong I was. Not only was it one of the most difficult fasts that I had gone through, I found myself feeling very irritable, suffering from headaches and hot and cold flushes.

If you’ve experienced any of the above, then you can probably guess that it was likely that I was suffering from classic withdrawal symptoms. From subconsciously consuming caffeine, to justifying my behavior, I realized that I may just have a slight dependency on caffeine.

Caffeine Cognitive Bias

“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.” 

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Over the years, what I’ve noticed is that I defend positions that I hold as valuable to my identification of what I believe is myself.

To explain this a little better let’s take my caffeine challenges. Could I give up caffeine for a short period of time? If I could, then why did I go back to consuming it again?

In environments such as the workplace and schooling, people like being seen as busy and productive. It implies that you are motivated to do the best that you can regardless of whether or not you feel tired. 

When feeling tired and in need of a pick me up, a lot of people drink coffee or take an energy drink. It’s just the thing to do because it works and is convenient.

But does caffeine really work? What if it’s the caffeine that is making us feel tired, causing our headaches, and making us feel down when we abstain for even a few hours?

The difficulty with any addiction is being able to recognize that you are addicted, and once you do, to give up the addiction. It was easier for me to delude myself that I wasn’t addicted to caffeine rather than to face the addiction and overcome it.

Figuring Things Out

Understanding about the effects of caffeine helped me to be able to control my cravings. The wisdom I gained from seeking out information coupled with my own experiences helped me to help myself.

Any addiction can seem to be too difficult to give up, but by changing your perspective and mindset you can start to overcome it gradually, (unfortunately there are no quick fixes when it comes to addiction).

“Fortunately for serious minds, a bias recognized is a bias sterilized.”

Benjamin Haydon

Many people believe as I once did that caffeine is not addictive, but countless studies prove that it has all the attributes of an addictive substance:

  • Dependence
  • Tolerance
  • And Withdrawal

Withdrawal is difficult because many of the symptoms are mistakenly thought of as reasons to consume caffeine:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced cognitive performance
  • General unease or dissatisfaction
  • Sore muscles
  • Depression

The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal can start as soon as 12 hours after your last intake and can last between 2 days and 2 weeks.

To reduce the effects of withdrawal, gradually remove caffeine from your diet. 

  • Dilute caffeinated drinks so that reduce the amount of caffeine you consume at each serving.
  • Where possible use caffeine alternatives such as water and fruit juices and decaffeinated versions of your favorite products.
  • Get better quality sleep so that your body and mind get the rest they need so as to reduce the cravings for caffeine.

Review

Having the correct mindset goes a long way towards helping you overcome your caffeine addiction.

  • Don’t be in denial about your addiction. Own it and take action to overcome it.
  • Find out as much as you can about caffeine and its effects on your mind and body.
  • Seek professional help if you are not sure about anything.
  • There are no quick fixes, come to terms with that fact and gradually change your dietary habits and lifestyle.

Take the First Step

Caffeine is addictive. To some more than others. By reading this article you already have taken one of many steps towards understanding caffeine addiction.

But don’t stop at just reading, make a commitment towards taking positive physical action.

Each step you take is another closer to your goal. Good Luck.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Alternative Focus

How To Stay Focused Without Caffeine

Staying Focused Without Caffeine

Stay focused…

Many of us have times when it is really difficult to focus, whether it is at work, whilst studying or even when having fun.

In an effort to wake up, some instinctively reach for caffeine, because it works. But short-term fixes can end up having long-term effects on our health and wellbeing.

The recent epidemics in both tiredness and insomnia point to the need to find healthy alternatives that can help us focus without having detrimental effects on our sleep.

In this article we’ll look at how to focus without using stimulants.

Focus on me
Photo by Gabrielle Henderson @gabriellehender on Unsplash Shoot with @yungkweendee

Dependency on Stimulants to Focus

The thing is, drinking coffee or an energy drink is so easy and they work that we rarely think about it.

And therein lies the problem. For many, tiredness equals “I haven’t had enough coffee”, or “I need to have an energy drink”.

Each time we do this we are reinforcing an unnatural habit that if not checked will keep us in a perpetual loop of tiredness followed by increasing amounts of caffeine.

Lack of Self Control

By inadvertently linking tiredness and caffeine in our daily habits, we make it harder to break the habit whilst at the same time potentially exposing ourselves to harmful side effects.

For example, the effects of caffeine that most of us want, (alertness and focus), are in fact the results of caffeine withdrawal. Your body craves the caffeine that is no longer in your system, and like any addictive stimulant, makes you feel lousy.

But get that caffeine fix in and your body soon starts to feel better and your mind clearer. Unfortunately it’s not that caffeine made you more alert, but due to you feeling so bad before you had your fix, your body just returns to normal levels of alertness and focus.

To make matters worse, as your body acclimates to your current level of caffeine consumption, you will soon need higher levels of caffeine to get the same feelings of alertness and focus.

Consuming more than 400mg of caffeine daily can eventually increase the likelihood of you being exposed to:

  • Mental disorders such as altered consciousness, anxiety and depression.
  • Increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
  • Dehydration and decreased potassium.

Exercises for Your Will

To stay focused without using caffeine is something that is well within your reach. Just by exercising a little willpower each day you can eventually build momentum and your focusing powers.

Here are some tips that will help you:

  • Stop consuming caffeine. 
    It can be very difficult, but you must try. Start abstaining from caffeine when you have time off work or at the weekends so that you are not around people that are drinking coffee or sodas. 
  • Do short bursts of focused work. 
    If you have a task to complete, break it down into 5 to 10 minute manageable chunks. Once the time limit is up, take a 5-minute break, and then repeat the process. As your focus becomes stronger over time, gradually increase your focus periods to 25 to 30 minute sessions.
  • Don’t work when you are tired.
    Tiredness is the enemy of a focused mind. Where possible work when you are well rested. That means getting more quality sleep during the night. But what if you are unable to sleep? What can you do? I would recommend a tiredness alarm for the Apple Watch called V-CAF. V-CAF subtly notifies you when you are most likely to be tired. Once you are alerted you can take the appropriate action to wake yourself up.
  • Stay hydrated.
    If you’re feeling tired, drink lots of water. Water helps more blood and oxygen get to your brain; which will help you focus better.

Review

You don’t need caffeine to be able to focus effectively. In fact caffeine can work against you. Try these tips to help you focus better without caffeine:

  • Don’t consume caffeine
  • Do short bursts of focused work (when starting 5 – 10 mins.)
  • Don’t work when you are tired. Use a tiredness alarm like V-CAF to alert you when you are most likely to be tired.
  • Do drink more water.

Be Strong, Stay Focused

Don’t weaken your resolve to stay focused naturally by drinking a coffee or energy drink. If you feel yourself craving them, try to hold out.

The longer you hold out the stronger you will be the next time the cravings come back.

There are no quick fixes, but by taking things slowly, day by day, you will improve your focus.