Categories
Alert Caffeine Energy Focus Productivity

Make Time To Chill

Be Here, Now

Slowly but surely, you will get there

Years ago a friend bought me a fantastic book called, “The Tao of Pooh & The Te of Piglet” to help point out to me that I was loosing “the way” and that I shouldn’t stop trying to get back more in line with it!

The chapter of that book that I was most drawn to and that had the most impact on me (which is probably why I remembered it regarding this post), is titled “Busy Backson”. The general gist of the chapter is that these days we tend to fill our time with stuff that keeps us busy, but that doesn’t amount to much, at the expense of us missing out on experiencing our own lives.

The book has helped me over the years and I think now is as good a time as any to share my thoughts on my favourite chapter and relate, how it’s principles can help you be more energised and excited about each day.

Time To Chill
Photo by @theki.dcreative via Twenty20

Sorry, I’m Too Busy

To me it seems that busyness has become associated with productiveness. When at work, home or studying very few people that I’ve come into contact with would admit to not doing much. I know that there have been times when I didn’t feel like doing much, but rather than say so, have found something to do that makes me look busy.

Even in polite conversation at a social gathering of some sort, when talking with someone (whether that someone be new to you or not), the conversation soon gets to the point where someone usually asks “So what do you do?” or “Have you tried [enter whatever activity or place to travel here]?”.

It is as if we have to justify every waking (and in some cases, unawake) moments. Like we would be instantly punished for saying “Actually, I’m just enjoying being still and listening to the sounds around me”. It’s not that people don’t say such things, it’s just uncommon (especially whilst being at work or school or even social gatherings).

What Am I Missing?

And that’s the problem. It’s become so normal to be constantly busy doing something that it’s almost a bad thing to be bored, daydream, or just stop and do nothing.

It’s true that meditation has become more popular lately, but it also suffers from the “Busy Backson” affliction of showing that you are doing something rather than just doing it because you want to. It’s a bit like the virtue signalling that seems to be popular these days to show that you’re a good and upright type of character, only for the sake of being seen by others so that they can say “Look, there goes a very virtuous person”!

The problem with keeping up appearances is that you eventually slip-up and that it brings unnecessary stress to yourself. Constantly appearing to be busy takes away from your life because you don’t get a chance to appreciate the wonder that is your life.

You can also start to resent life in general, to the point where life becomes one big drag that eventually can be too much to bare.

Claim Your Life Back

“I say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.
“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“Yes, but—“
“Why ruin it?” he said.
“But you could be doing something Important,” I said.
“I am,” said Pooh.
“Oh? Doing what?”
“Listening,” he said.
“Listening to what?”
“To the birds. And that squirrel over there.”
“What are they saying?” I asked.
“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“But you knew that already,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else
thinks so, too,” he replied.
“Well, you could be spending your time getting Educated by
listening to the Radio, instead,” I said.
“That thing?”
“Certainly. How else will you know what’s going on in the
world?” I said.
“By going outside,” said Pooh.
“Er…well…” (Click) “Now just listen to this, Pooh.”
“…thirty thousand people were killed today when five
jumbo airliners collided over downtown Los Angeles…,” the
Radio announced.
“What does that tell you about the world?” asked Pooh.
“Hmmm. You’re right.” (Click)
“What are the birds saying now?” I asked.
“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.

Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

I often write about the importance of taking a break every day, especially when working or studying or any endeavour that requires a lot prolonged focussed concentration. I was influenced by the quote above and actively found ways to practically apply it in my daily processes.

Thinking about it, it probably indirectly led to me getting to the point to create our Apple Watch app, V-CAF Stay Awake Stay Alert. Stepping away from what I’m working on has always been difficult for me, so any process that helps to remind me to take a break is welcome.

After being alerted to take a break, stepping outside works, but so does just stepping away and doing nothing. It’s much like when I go for a walk to clear my mind. Eventually I’m distracted by the sounds around, or how lovely the sky looks, or any number of things going on around me, that just happen to be happening without my interference and independent of me.

It’s at moments like these that I feel at one with the world whilst at the same time appreciating me for being me, regardless of what is going on in my life at that moment.

Review

Benjamin Hoff concludes the “Busy Backson” chapter by highlighting the benefit of appreciating the process above just striving for the goal.

For example, many people want to give up caffeine and get upset when they relapse. They can feel like a failure because they didn’t make their goal. Or if they give up for a certain amount of time, they may feel that they achieved their goal, and then go right back to consuming caffeine.

Instead of focussing on the goal, why not focus on the process. Experiment and find ways to make your process as enjoyable and achievable as possible. If you mess up, no big deal, it’s all part of the process. Learn from it and move on.

It’s a tool that I use in all areas in my life and has made such a big difference.

So, try being like Pooh and appreciate yourself and life and the world in which you find yourself.

Afterword

“Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches today to save nine tomorrow.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden (and quoted in The Tao of Pooh)
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 Energy Focus Productivity Sleepiness Staying Awake Tiredness

Virtual Caffeine For Your Apple Watch

V-CAF The Game Changer

Take a chance, change your life

There are moments in everyone’s life that are so profound that they can change your life for the better (or worse). When looking back at these points in time it may be easier to see that it was rarely just the moment, but the things that lead up to and after the moment that shape how we perceive these life changing events.

Take for example the first time I heard that Apple were going to make a smart watch. I had an iPhone and a MacBook Pro and didn’t see any reason why I should get one. “Just another gadget” I thought.

But then a trip to New York changed my mind about smart watches…

Before We Set Off

As usual work loads were heavy and time was against me. It was also a very hot summer and people’s tempers were short. I planned to stay home this vacation as it was too exhausting to think about and arranging a trip anywhere.

But then I saw a 4K video of a guy walking around Manhattan which got me thinking. It was just the start of summer so I thought that everything must surely be fully booked.

Then at work I was informed that mandatory holidays had to be taken, it’s now or never I thought, and the next thing I knew the family and I were on a plane to New York.

But What’s It For

New York is an impressive city. A bit too big for my liking but it was a nice change compared to where we were coming from. The sights, sounds and people were all amazing.

The trip also overlapped with my birthday, so my children were trying to figure out what to get me. After some discussion they decided to get me an Apple Watch and told me about it to see what my reaction would be.

At first I argued what the point of it would be as I have an iPhone and a watch already. Isn’t it just going to be more of the same but not as good as either, I asked.

Thankfully, my children don’t listen to me and got me my first Apple Watch. At first I didn’t know what to do with it apart from wear it as a watch. I read some reviews and articles about what apps to get and what could be done with it but didn’t see much there that I was interested in. By the second day of wearing the thing, I found myself modifying all sorts of settings that would help with exercise and concentration.

At the end of the first week I was hooked.

Virtual Caffeine

So it’s about three weeks after our trip and I’m exercising more, getting better sleep and organised almost all aspects of my life via my Apple Watch.

I’m sitting at my desk feeling tired and I colleague tells me that my boss needs to see me. When I see the big man, he tells me that I need a coffee and not to fall asleep at my desk.

It’s at this point that Virtual Caffeine or V-CAF is born. I tell another colleague about it and then we decide to build it and see if we can help people like us who may get tired whilst they are busy from time to time, people that need to stay alert and those of us that don’t want to use caffeine to perk us up throughout the day.

Since then I haven’t looked back.

To Sum Up

An unlikely combination of events can indeed change your life for the better, but you have to be open to them. Thankfully I had my children to push me in a direction that I didn’t know would lead me to help people all over the world.

If you don’t have a smart watch, I would highly recommend that you get one. And if you have an Apple Watch get V-CAF. It may help you just as much as it’s helped others and me.

Afterword

“Sometimes the slightest things change the directions of our lives, the merest breath of a circumstance, a random moment that connects like a meteorite striking the earth. Lives have swivelled and changed direction on the strength of a chance remark.”

Bryce Courtenay

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Side Effects Staying Awake

Too Much Caffeine?

V-CAF Is The Alternative

Stay Awake Stay Alert Stay Focused

Over the years I found that my tolerance to caffeine had increased. Coffee, tee, caffeine pills and energy drinks weren’t having the same effect they once did.

I found myself having to increase my consumption of caffeine in all of its various forms just to feel normal, and normal meant no headaches and no cravings for a coffee, chocolate or energy drinks.

Eventually I had enough and decided to quit caffeine and get back to feeling like myself. Going through that process felt like pushing a boulder up a steep mountain, but along the way I found some shortcuts and helpful techniques that lessened the discomfort.

Too Much Caffeine
Photo by @Zenchic via Twenty20,

Before Setting Off

Up until I decided to quit caffeine, life seemed hectic, and therefore, always a need for a little pep up. Studying, tests, exams, looking for work, job interviews, on the job learning, deadlines, it never seemed to end.

At each new phase I promised myself that I would either cut down or stop drinking so much caffeine, but there was always something new that would eventually lead to bingeing on whatever caffeine I could find to “get me through this”.

Even after I got the jitters from taking caffeine pills and drinking caffeinated sodas to help me stay awake whilst studying for my university entrance exams, you’d have thought that I would just stay away, but I didn’t.

 

Why

This was the question I asked myself each time I decided to quit and the same question I asked myself when I started to binge. A good friend advised me to give up on the caffeinated drinks and caffeine pills, but didn’t offer any advice on how to do that.

I didn’t think that I had a problem so I didn’t talk to my doctor about it and decided that all I had to do was quit. But here’s the thing. At the time I didn’t realise that my caffeine withdrawal symptoms were actually driving me back to caffeine.

The symptoms include :

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced Performance
  • Vomiting
  • and Nausea

In the October 15th 1992 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, an article by John R, Hughes, M.D. stated:

“One central feature in most definitions of dependence is that the drug serves as a reinforcer [subjects give the drug to themselves]…
Self administration of caffeine has been demonstrated in several studies in humans. A clinical counterpart to drug reinforcement is the notion of losing control, i.e., being unable to stop using the drug or using the drug despite the knowledge that it is harmful. Unfortunately, we do not know whether caffeine users have difficulty ceasing to use caffeine or whether they continue to consume it despite physicians’ recommendations to stop.”

Hughes, J. (1992). Clinical Importance of Caffeine Withdrawal. /The New England Journal of Medicine,/ /327(16),/ 1160-1161.

Change of Path

So on my journey to lose my caffeine dependency, with many starts and stops, I finally found something that worked. That something wasn’t just one thing but the summation of all the little things that I had done or exposed to that helped me change my perspective and continue to reap the benefits even now.

  • Stop Trying To Give Up Caffeine
    We all know some version of the following. If I tell you to close your eyes and not think of a delicious cup of coffee, the chances are that you are going to picture a cup of coffee. When I decided not to drink caffeine anymore I found myself noticing people all around me drinking my favourite sodas with caffeine and I found that I thought more about caffeine and what I was missing!
    When I finally said I’ll take each passing moment as it is and acknowledged that there was a chance that I would cave in to temptation, I eventually found that I didn’t even notice that I hadn’t had any caffeine substances until someone offered it to me. Now I can occasionally have caffeine in one of its many guises or I can decline, either way it doesn’t faze me.
  • Get Better Sleep
    I still have periods where I don’t get as much sleep as I need, but they are fewer now since I committed myself to get more sleep. But it’s not just quantity, it’s also quality which I strive for now. An easy win in this area is to exercise more and avoid caffeine after lunch.
  • Reducing Stress by Taking More Breaks
    I now without fail take more breaks during the day. I’ve replaced coffee breaks with either short naps, walks outside or water breaks. Before I used to work through until I finished whatever task I had to complete. But now I not only take breaks, I take smart breaks. Whenever working I start our app V-CAF on my Apple Watch and leave it running. When I’m tired or my alertness starts to waiver I get an alert, and it’s at this point that I take a break for 5-10 mins before coming back and starting the next round. The unexpected side effect of this has been to reduce my caffeine intake because I now know when my alertness levels are low, so I can do something about it rather than just automatically reaching for a coffee.

Summary

It ain’t easy to give up a caffeine dependency, but you can make it easier on yourself by:

  • Not focussing on giving up caffeine
  • Increasing the quantity and quality of your sleep
  • Take more smart breaks where possible whilst working, studying or playing

Afterword

Remember to take things at your own pace and gradually if you want to succeed in losing your caffeine addiction. Good Luck 🙂

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
Addiction Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Productivity Relapse

Doubt and Caffeine Addiction

Be Bold & Have Faith In Yourself

Believe in yourself…

Soon after finally accepting I had a caffeine addiction and knowing that I had to do something to change the situation, I began to realise just how much hard work it would take me to not only give up drinking caffeine, but even to reduce the amount that I consumed.

Up until then, I thought that caffeine had been a beneficial aid that helped me to get things done and help me to achieve many of my academic and professional goals, so it was hard to accept that I would have to give up the “little cup of miracles” without it impacting my productivity in some shape or fashion.

Doubt and Caffeine Addiction
Photo by Kay Isabedra @kee_says

Dependency

Change is hard at the best of times. Multiply that by 100 when you have a dependency on a substance or behaviour.

Over the years, without fail, when resolving to give up caffeine I’m full of enthusiasm and resolve, but being honest, there’s always a niggling doubt that I won’t be able to do it!

As time goes by, that doubt begins to grow and eventually I give in to temptation, finding ways to justify it to myself 🙁

Robbing You of Confidence

Unfortunately the more you give in the stronger that doubt grows until it potentially stops you from even trying.

Doubt has the power to reduce the levels of your self confidence to a point where you have low self esteem and appear weak and unsure to yourself and others.

Looking back at the times around my attempts to give up caffeine, I also remember that these were some of the most stressful times in my life both professionally and personally.

My lack of trust in myself was causing me and others to second guess my decisions. In fact, I remember a discussion I had with one of my managers at the time who said “If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will”!

Faith

Later on, remembering that discussion, I made the decision to try quitting again, but this time I would try something different. I would learn from my past failed attempts and figure out what I could do differently.

Instead of making it an all or nothing affair, I resolved to take smaller steps over shorter timespans. For example, instead of never having caffeine again, I would go for no caffeine days once or twice a week, and then increase from there until I could do seven days.

Also, if I found myself unintentionally consuming caffeine in any form, as soon as I noticed, I would stop there and then, and continue my abstinence for the day. No getting upset with myself, or judging myself in a negative way, but actually rewarding myself for noticing that I was slipping and continuing anyway.

Steps like these not only helped me to eventually overcome the cravings, but had an unexpected side effect, my faith in myself and abilities began to increase for the first time in years.

Key Points

To me doubt is closely related to fear. In his book, Dune, Frank Herbert addresses overcoming fear through the Litany Against Fear, as recited by the main character Paul Atreides:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

If there is any field of endeavour that will improve you that’s difficult to overcome, and you have doubt in your abilities:

  • Jump In
    The act of starting to try to overcome can lead you to immediately make progress. The longer you dither about whether you should or shouldn’t do something, the greater risk that any doubt you have will grow and affect the outcome of the endeavour negatively.
  • Take Small Steps
    Give yourself small achievable targets at first. It is easier to adjust your approach to an issue when they are manageable. Plus, by having quick wins earlier, you help build confidence and momentum to tackle the inevitable obstacles later on.
  • Don’t Judge
    If you find yourself falling don’t be tough on yourself but rather be thankful for being able to recognise that you did fall and that it’s okay. This will help you to not give up and even give you the motivation to continue trying.

Final Thoughts

Nowadays I can drink a coffee, tea or cola and not feel guilty at all. I no longer have caffeine pangs and I can go for weeks without realising that I haven’t had a coffee. I have confidence that I am in control of my wants.

Don’t let doubt rob you of the confidence to be yourself.

Categories
Caffeine Caffeine Addiction Focus Productivity Relapse Staying Awake Study Studying Tiredness

How Caffeine Changed My Life For The Better

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Just don’t get too wet…

As far back as my student days when trying to pass exams to get into university, caffeine and I have had a love hate relationship.

Caffeine has helped me get through difficult exams, work pressure and setting up home. Each time I’ve used it I’ve said to myself, “Just this last time”.

However, whenever the next “difficult patch” came up, I found myself binging on caffeine in a desperate attempt to stay focused.

How Caffeine Changed My Life For The Better
Photo by Richard Harris, Streets of London

Caffeine the God Send

From when I was around 7 years old I can remember loving drinking cola. I would get overly excited both before and after drinking it and remember the adults getting annoyed at my friends and I as we just couldn’t stop running up and down.

I also remember the adults drinking coffee and someone saying that it was like cola for adults to help them stay awake and get things done. I used to think that there must be something magical about it, however as I got older and had more assignments and exams to pass, I grew to found out what that magic was.

Something Ain’t Right in Paradise

As the work that I had to complete gradually became more challenging, I found myself staying up later just to be able to have enough time to finish my assignments and complete my studies.

Finding it difficult to stay focused on all the work that needed to be done I turned to coffee, colas and eventually caffeine pills. These worked, but what seemed to me like only a few days, I found myself consuming an increasing amount of caffeine in different forms just to be able to feel normal.

Even though some of my close buddies tried to warn me, I eventually got to a point where my hands started shaking uncontrollably. Luckily it wasn’t like a bad case of Parkinson’s disease, but it was enough to scare me into giving up caffeine.

The Turning Point

Years later I was on a job that was very demanding of my time and energy. Over the course of two years consistently working long days and nights as well as having to travel every few weeks between two countries, my body decided enough was enough.

I began feeling sluggish and unmotivated. I even started drinking a zero cola very regularly without thinking about what I was actually doing. But eventually I’d kicked the can as far as I could and found that I was starting to fall asleep at work.

My work colleagues tried to give me hints but eventually our boss took me aside and told me to get myself together. Angry and frustrated at myself I looked for quick fixes to help me save my job. However, what I found was far more valuable and actually helped me to overcome the tiredness to the point where I can now recognise what is going on and take the necessary steps to recover quickly.

Looking Back

Caffeine was the catalyst for my transformation. It helped me to recognise that it wasn’t the caffeine, but rather my approach to work and life that needed to change.

By seeking ways to help me out of a difficult situation, I actually helped myself by finding out what the cause of my tiredness was and reduce its negative effects on my life.

Moving Forward

From that point on I’ve resolved to try to help others who may be going through a similar rough patch in their lives. This blog and our app, V-CAF, are the culmination of our experiences and research into overcoming tiredness without the need for caffeine.

Please help us by sharing and commenting on our blog posts, letting people know about our app and hopefully finding that our efforts are of use to you too.

Categories
Caffeine Safety Side Effects

Caffeine, Studies and Your Skin

Experts & Your Choices

Your Life, Your Choices…

Where I live daylight hours are starting to get longer, but most days seem to be overcast, dull and cold, (not the most optimal conditions to be trying to give up caffeine).

During a break I read an article on the pros and cons of drinking coffee, and the question came up if coffee was bad for your skin and concluded that it depends on how you consume it.

Now, given that it’s cloudy, cold and dark around here, and knowing that at least a couple of people have decided to give up coffee and caffeine, I wondered how many people would use an article like this to justify continuing to over consume caffeine in it’s various forms.

Later I read a few studies around this topic and decided to write a brief post on the importance of choosing what’s best for you.

Caffeine, Studies and Your Skin - Choices
Photo by Burst @burst on Unsplash, Lost in the Maze

Which One?

Life seems to be all about choices; the ones we’ve made in the past, our present, and the future. Some are good, some not so much. Either way whatever we choose have consequences, and it’s thoughts about these consequences that can grind us down or help us to make impulse decisions.

Which is why so many of us find it easy to default to what the experts say on what is right or wrong, good or bad. The thing is, that many of the experts can’t agree on anything. One group of experts says one thing is good, only to be contradicted by another group. Which expert is right? (Yet another choice).

Bias and Objectivity

In this scientific age of reason, it is easy to assume that once we have all the facts (or as much of them as we can handle) in front of us, that by using reason and logic we can make a reasonably objective and informed judgement on what is right and what is wrong.

“Well, the science tends to suggest that this is correct”, which is true in a very specific environment, but may not be so in another. Researchers and academics no matter how noble their intentions and rigorous their methodologies are not immune to their biases, which is why they have peer review boards and associations to cross check their findings. Even I admit that I may have a few biases 😉

Knowing this helps us to understand why there can be contradictions in studies that apparently test the same thing.

A Few Pointers

Let’s go back to the article that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. By the time we get to the end of it we have a list of facts that explain away the contradictions regarding caffeine and its effects on your skin:

  • Caffeine may help prevent skin cancer, but drink no more than one to two cups per day of black coffee with no sugar (eating chocolate and drinking sodas don’t help either).
  • Drink high quality coffee and not decaf.
  • You don’t have to drink coffee to get the skin cancer fighting benefits. Apply coffee/caffeine directly to your skin.

So drinking a moderate amount of black coffee a day can help prevent skin cancer (and other cancers). Drinking six plus cups of sweetened or milky coffee can have adverse effects on your health.

If you are trying to give up caffeine, but want the benefits (for your skin at least), rub coffee or caffeine into your skin, you don’t have to eat or drink it!

A Brief Recap

So, truth is in the eye of the beholder. Experts are subject to their own biases just as much as the rest of us.

Understanding this should lead us to cross check and find counter arguments against a particular point of view so that we can try to get a better insight of the topic.

What’s Best for You

Goals are good, they help to motivate us to do better, but I think that there’s a better way to improve that is sustainable and will take us beyond our goals.

Implement systems or processes into our life that will make us improve every day if we so desire. As an example, instead of saying “No more coffee or caffeine for me ever again” how about trying to see how many days you can go without caffeine and give yourself rewards at set milestones to help encourage you to keep going?

Categories
Caffeine Insomnia Sleep Tiredness

Coffee, Does It Cause Insomnia?

Insomnia & Coffee, Not A Good Mix

Coffee fuels my insomnia!

Insomnia and sleep disorders in general are on the rise. Whilst many news outlets tend to focus on blaming the obesity epidemic, social media and stress, few if any fail to mention that stimulants may have a role in increasing this trend.

Insomnia is a complicated disease, so I won’t be giving a “do x to solve y” type of article!

The aim is to highlight the facts about Insomnia and practical steps you can take to avoid or reduce its effects on your health.

Insomnia Mixed With Coffee
Photo by Jon Tyson @jontyson on Unsplash

Insomnia

If you seek the advice of a qualified health professional they would typically proceed to ask questions about how long you have been suffering, ask about your lifestyle and daily habits as well as questions related to stress and anything that might have an emotional impact on you recently.

This is done to attempt to diagnose the type of insomnia that you may have. Although there are many sources that can cause insomnia, medical professionals classify insomnia in two categories.

Transient insomnias, also known as short term or acute insomnias, last between a few days and a few weeks. A lot of people suffer short term insomnia whilst experiencing stress such as a personal crisis or the death of a loved one.

Chronic insomnias last for longer periods and are often linked to other medical conditions such as:

  • Cardiovascular, pulmonary, gastrointestinal and other disorders
  • Psychiatric conditions, such as depression and anxiety

Sufferers of insomnia usually experience a combination or all of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Waking up in the morning lacking the energy and motivation to get through the day

Coffee Consumption

Of all of the caffeinated drinks, coffee is the most consumed worldwide. A growing body of research suggests that coffee and caffeine consumption can disrupt both human and animal circadian rhythms in negative ways.

Coffee harms sleep by:

  • Increasing the time it takes to fall asleep
  • Reducing total sleep time and quality
  • Lowering the production of melatonin by blocking adenosine receptors, which may worsen sleep quality in later life.

Jeongbin, Park, Ji HanWon, Ju LeeRi, ByunSeonjeong, Seung SuhWan, KimTae, In YoonYoung, and Ki KimWoong. “Lifetime coffee consumption, pineal gland volume, and sleep quality in late life.” SLEEP 41.10 (2018).

Practical Steps

First and foremost, if you suspect that you have insomnia it is important that you consult your medical advisor.

Thankfully, there are measures that you can take to help reduce the effects of (and even help you avoid) insomnia.

  • Go to bed and wake up at specific regular times.
    By doing this your body will soon be accustomed to a regular sleep pattern which will help you fall asleep more efficiently.

  • Regularly exercise, but not too close to bedtime.
    The benefits of exercise are too numerous to list here, but one of the major benefits is that it helps you have better quality sleep and this benefit can be felt almost immediately.

  • No caffeine (coffee, tea or sodas) after midday.
    The effects of caffeine can still affect your body several hours after consuming it. By limiting the times that you consume caffeine to before midday, you increase the chance that its effect on your nervous system and body will have worn off.

  • Don’t drink alcohol during the evening.
    Alcohol, like caffeine and tobacco, can interrupt your circadian rhythm. Unlike caffeine, alcohol increases the production of adenosine which helps you to fall asleep quickly. The problem is that as the alcohol effects wear off, production of adenosine also slows down which can trigger your body to wake up.

  • Avoid doing unpleasant tasks in the evening.
    Unpleasant tasks are stressful, and stress effects the quality of your sleep. Where possible save those tasks for the morning.

  • No daytime naps.
    Sleeping during the day takes away from your sleep at night. If this is happening regularly, then you risk upsetting your sleep pattern (see the first point). The difficulty comes in the form of being tired because you didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night before. Feeling tired throughout the day is no fun, especially if you are avoiding coffee and naps. That’s where V-CAF can help. This Apple Watch app monitors your tiredness and subtly alerts you when you are most likely to fall asleep or are too tired to concentrate.

  • Go to bed with the purpose to sleep, and not to do activities.
    By training yourself to think of your bed as the place to sleep, you are more likely to sleep when you go to bed. Stick with it, it takes time but in the long run will help you sleep better.

Review

Nobody knows you like you. If you are currently experiencing a lot of stress due to work, family or life in general, and you’ve been finding it difficult to sleep or get a good night’s sleep, then know that it’s one of those phases in life that will pass as quickly as it came.

However, if you’ve been suffering for more than a few weeks, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible to make sure that a serious medical ailment is source of your lack of quality sleep.

In any case, I’ve found it impowering in the past to take positive steps to help address an issue, as I feel that I’m doing something to help myself. Try any of these practical steps to help combat insomnia:

  • Go to bed and wake up at specific regular times.
  • Regularly exercise, but not too close to bedtime.
  • No caffeine (coffee, tea or sodas) after midday.
  • Don’t drink alcohol during the evening.
  • Avoid doing unpleasant tasks in the evening.
  • No daytime naps. Use V-CAF to help keep you awake during the day.
  • Go to bed with the purpose to sleep, and not to do activities.

Conclusion

Insomnia and coffee don’t mix. If you are having trouble sleeping, avoid caffeine at all costs.

By choosing to take the steps to help you beat insomnia, you make the battle a little easier.

All you have to do is decide to take action and start immediately.

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.