How is coffee affecting your life? Do you drink so much that you feel horrible without it? For me, those extra cups were straining my system, draining me, causing me to deplete myself, run on empty, and irritate my nerves and emotions unnecessarily.

Somewhere during the past year or two, my enjoyable morning cup of coffee turned into just the start of that day’s addiction. Round one, to pump me up for the day ahead.

By just after lunchtime, I would find myself looking for round two, another hit of caffeine to keep me going.

My husband lovingly pointed out that if I didn’t get it by mid-afternoon, I was on-the-edge and irritable (and I will confess that I did not respond well to his observations at first). Certain days found me looking for even a third hit of coffee in the later afternoon.

It had become a habit, but one that wasn’t serving me.

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not opposed to coffee (oh heavens, no).

I personally love me a good, strong, dark cup of fair-trade brew. It’s one of my favorite indulgences, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, in moderation, depending on how it affects you.

I guess, that’s the key. Moderation. Which I’m learning is a relative term.

For some people, that second or third cup of coffee just isn’t a big deal. For me, those extra cups were straining my system, draining me, causing me to deplete myself, run on empty, and irritate my nerves and emotions unnecessarily.

It was hard to see from the inside. I felt I needed it. And it wasn’t a big deal.

What’s one more little cup?

Grumpiness and mean-mommy factor aside (which really aren’t asides at all—they were important deciding factors for me), I also knew deep down that it wasn’t doing me any good.

So when my husband asked me to cut down to one cup per day and see if it made a difference, I agreed to try.

The early weeks were hard. I mean, really stinking hard some days. A headache would start to pound, I felt like I had to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks, and all I wanted was to break my promise and give in.

I got past it, though. I found alternatives to help meet the craving in a healthier way. I pushed past my afternoon slump. I sighed a lot and wished for bedtime to come faster. I debated over which type of tea might hold more caffeine to give me a boost without breaking the letter of the law (the spirit? Not so much… I was interested in survival, not perfection).

It’s now been over a month and I’ve learned a few things about myself:

  1. Coffee was an addition for me.
  2. Coffee is also something I love, just because. So besides my one fully-leaded morning cup, decaf fair trade will also have a place in my cupboard for guilt-free indulgence.
  3. Ever since pushing myself to adrenal fatigue a number of years ago, I’ve had a bad habit of stimulating or draining my body, instead of trying to listen more closely and figure out what it really needs.

That last discovery really caught my attention.

I was in a knee-jerk cycle of pushing myself hard, them stimulating my body to get past the fatigue. If I didn’t get enough rest again the next day (the story of motherhood, right?), I’d be right back to pushing as hard as I could, and then rummaging for whatever might get me through the rest of the day.

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Do you see what I was doing?

Instead of noticing, “I feel really exhausted/mentally foggy/lackluster/have a headache” and assessing how to care for and nourish my body, I was using band-aid solutions (like more coffee) to ignore my body’s signals and make it shut up.

It’s like when you’re in the middle of washing dishes, and the drain gets knocked loose. All that hot, sudsy water slowly swirls away, and if you don’t actually stick the plug back in and turn the hot water on to refill what was lost, chances are your dishes won’t be getting very clean.

That’s what I was doing to my body. Draining it, without refilling. I think I knew it deep down, but didn’t want to admit it. I convinced myself it was necessary, temporary, normal, or part of being a busy work-at-home mom.

Nourish before you drain

Was I still making good choices overall? Sure!

We ate our real food diet, with lots of nutritious, building and cleansing food choices mixed in. I used various herbs and supplements as I thought my body needed them. I wasn’t pulling out a Snickers bar for a junky sugary high. I detested energy drinks.

It wasn’t THAT bad, and I suppose that’s why I justified it for so long. What’s two or three cups of coffee per day, when so many people drink twice that or more?

But here’s what I discovered. It could have been worse, but it also wasn’t helping.

I was, little by little, draining my body of what goodness and strength and nutrients it did have, perpetuating the cycle of fatigue and listlessness, instead of finding ways to build and nourish it back up to a place of wellness and genuine energy.

My new modus operandi is this…

When I hit that slump, get that headache, feel frazzled or foggy-brained, find myself irritable or over-reacting to the little things, I’m choosing to nourish my body before I drain it further.

My vibrant matcha blueberry smoothie

My vibrant matcha blueberry smoothie

What has this looked like for me, practically speaking?

• Reach for a glass of water first, before anything else. Proper hydration can solve a whole host of problems.

• Sip on coconut water. I find it even more hydrating and energizing than just plain water. It’s expensive, but worthwhile when possible (and cheaper from Costco or Amazon).

• Assess if I might be hungry or have low blood sugar. Do I need to snack on something rich in protein and good fats to help sustain me?

• Pick drinks with more to offer. One that I’ve been choosing frequently is green tea, or even better, matcha (green tea powder). Rooibos tea is another that I enjoy. All of these have high levels of antioxidants, and much less caffeine (or none, with rooibos) than coffee.

• Make pick-me-up smoothies in the mid-afternoon. My favorite is a vanilla blueberry matcha smoothie. Sometimes I add a bit of protein powder or maca powder or green powder (like spirulina) for an extra boost.

• If our day allows, I’ll even just sit down on the couch for 10 or 15 minutes, tea or water in hand, and read a good book while the kids play or the toddler naps. That short break, that intentional slowing down, often refreshes me in a way that pursuing further productivity with a cup of joe in hand never could.

Get moving. Even a small bit of exercise or stretching (as little as 5 minutes), a brisk walk, or a few minutes getting some fresh air, can make a enormous difference in my energy level.

What about you—do you nourish or do you drain?

What do you crave? What are your old standbys? Do they leave you feeling further or depleted?

And the most important question… what could you reach for instead? How could you nourish and care for and soothe and build up your body instead of draining it?

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Top image by mark roy