Toward a More Mindful Relationship With Caffeine: Five StepsHi. My name is Summer and I have panic disorder. Yup.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know this by now. Panic disorder with agoraphobia. (Although, admittedly, the second half of my official diagnosis is slowly fading away. Knock on wood for me, people. Please?!)

So, why in the world would a panic attack sufferer want to use caffeine — a stimulant — to aid in her overall recovery?

Here’s why: I don’t want to perceive caffeine as some sort of frightening threat. (If you missed my first caffeinated post from late last week, read it here.)

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 again.

The key here is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a “calm awareness of one’s bodily functions, sensations (feelings), objects of consciousness (thoughts and perceptions)”, says Wikipedia. And that’s what I want to set out to do: become calmly aware of my faster-than-usual heartbeat, my perception of that faster heartbeat, and my feelings about that faster heartbeat.

Here’s how I plan to do this. Want to join me?

1. Sit. Sit down with a cup of coffee (or another caffeinated beverage of your choice) in a place that feels safe to you. Remove all distractions from the area — no computer, no television, no books. Just sit and drink. Sit, and drink your coffee.

2. Notice the coffee. Notice the coffee with all of your senses. Become fully aware of each slow sip. Feel the taste on your tongue. Notice the scent. Is the coffee hot, warm, or cold? Feel the temperature. Notice and savor the taste. Look at the color. Listen to the sound you make as you take a sip.

3. Notice your body. Without judging, simply feel your body. Notice how, if you’re drinking hot coffee, that cozy warm feeling as the coffee enters your stomach. Notice any changes that occur. With each sip, what happens to your mood? With each sip, what happens to your heart rate? Just notice these things. Don’t analyze them. Just feel what is happening; nothing is good or bad. Things just are.

4. This is normal. Remind yourself that these bodily sensations are normal. If you notice your heart rate elevating slightly, remind yourself that there is a scientific reason for the increase. Nothing is unusual about this. It is normal, and you are controlling it with each sip. Sit and feel your heartbeat (or other sensations) without judgment and repeat a helpful mantra: my body and heart are healthy and this is a perfectly normal reaction.

5. Check in. When finished, check in with yourself every hour. How do you feel now? Do you feel the effects of the caffeine slowing down? We all metabolize caffeine differently, so paying attention to these feelings will help you to better understand your body.

So long as your doctor says it’s medically kosher for you to drink a caffeinated beverage occasionally, try these five steps and see if they transform your relationship with caffeine.

I’ll be trying this out for the next two weeks. I don’t ever want caffeine to get the best of me again, and I think that training myself to accept it (in a controlled environment and at a reasonable low dosage) will help me to tolerate it more effectively.

Well, will you join me? If you try the above 5 steps at least once, please let me know how it affects you. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Creative Commons License photo credit: jgoge