Cozying Up With Caffeine: Can Mindfulness Help?Know this: between every sentence in this blog post, I am taking a sip from my cup of delicious half-decaf Americano from my local home-grown coffee roaster (read: NOT Starbucks, despite the photo. Their coffee tastes like cigarette butts to me.)

You might be wondering why I didn’t go full decaf with my beverage today. After all, I’m a panicker. Caffeine kick-starts one of my main panic triggers: it increases my heart rate.

Boom boom boom.

So, why am I doing this? Why am I willingly drinking coffee again?

Some might argue that avoiding caffeine altogether is the best way to reduce general anxiety and prevent panic. And that very well may be true — avoiding caffeine completely is necessary for many of us who suffer from anxiety disorders. I withdrew from caffeine completely when my panic attacks first began in college, and it helped to reduce my anxiety level.

But, then again, consider this: avoiding potential threats only amplifies them into larger, scarier threats.

And I don’t want caffeine to become a gigantic threat. After all, it’s in my migraine medication. It’s in certain brands of gum. You can even buy caffeinated soap. Seriously.

When I was working full-time at a marketing company in the Philadelphia area, I always found myself getting migraines during the day. It could have been the strong overhead lighting, the eight hours of staring at a bright computer screen, or simply the stress of the job. Either way, if my migraine progressed to the point where I needed to take my caffeinated prescription migraine medicine, I could usually panic after the jittery buzz set in. I hated that feeling and I hated that a medicine could fix one big problem and so easily cause another.

Caffeine is an unavoidable drug, and I don’t want to fear it. I don’t want the buzzy sensation I feel when I take the migraine meds to create a fertile breeding ground for panic. I don’t want my anxiety to skyrocket just because I bummed a piece of caffeine-filled chewing gum from a friend.

I want to create a truce with caffeine. I want to recognize that my body’s reactions to this drug are completely normal. I want to train myself to be comfortable with caffeine.

The key here is mindfulness.

Stay tuned for the five steps I’ll be taking over the next two weeks to become mindful of my caffeine consumption. I hope you’ll consider joining me in this personal experiment!

Creative Commons License photo credit: DaveOnFlickr