As I was in the drive-thru of a popular chain store for energy-inducing beverages the other day (I’m not going to name names), I saw a phrase above their menu choices that said “Say Yes to Go Go Go!”. I thought to myself, isn’t that exactly what I am trying to avoid? The irony of the situation hit me, and I realized that I have bought into that mindset, that you need to always be on the go, always be productive and doing something. Even as I am trying to consciously slow my pace down, it is still difficult at times to just allow myself to rest, to take a break or to go to bed early without getting everything on my day’s list done.
Gallup completed a survey in 2012 with results that don’t seem so bad, with 64% of adults in the United States drinking an average of 2 cups of coffee per day. However, with the introduction of energy shots and drinks, more and more people, especially those in the 20-30’s age range according to MedicalNewToday.com, are using the energy drinks to fuel themselves. Now comes the big question-Why? Why do we feel like we need a stimulant at all to get through our day? As I thought about this from a persona viewpoint, I came up with the following reasons for my own use-
-I don’t want to just ‘get things done’. I want to go at top speed while I am getting things done, so I can accomplish even more in the same amount of time because I have the energy to move quickly.
-I’d like to think I am counteracting some of the effects of other medication I am taking that does cause some additional tiredness over what I would normally have.
-It seems normal. Look around, drinks or pills with caffeine and stimulant combinations of vitamins and supplements are everywhere. They are even right next to the checkout of most stores, lest you forget your daily dose of energy! Commercials for coffee chains tell us you ‘need it’ to be productive in your life. It seems like it’s what we SHOULD be drinking.
The benefits and risks of caffeine consumption have been argued over and over, but when it comes down to it, why should we drink it at all, at least from the energy perspective. If you just like the taste and would drink it regardless of the energy inducing benefits, I can understand, but, if you’re like me and only use it to get going for the day, then maybe you should ask if that is really in line with a simpler, more intentional way of living life. As I have thought about this, I have realized that there is a great benefit to moving more slowly and intentionally throughout my days. If I don’t rely on outside sources of energy, but on only what I produce within myself, I have found the following-
-I am calmer. Both coffee and energy drinks cause my heart rate to speed up and feel like I am coming down from a cardio workout. With my heart beating faster and my body having jitters, I feel jumpy and can’t sit still, even when I want to. Without the caffeine, I am much calmer, have less physical anxiety and am able to move more slowly and mindfully through my day.
-I prioritize. Without caffeine, I am forced to prioritize what I can do in a day and accomplish less, but the quality of my work is better. I am not moving so quickly between so many tasks that I don’t accomplish anything well. This is by far one of the most convincing reasons for myself to limit or stop my caffeine intake.
-I feel better. Caffeine gives me headaches, or should I say the lack of caffeine when I skip a day gives me headaches. I have noticed that once I have been drinking it on a regular basis, if I miss a ‘dose’, I don’t feel so well and my head tends to hurt some. It takes a few days of completely going without before the headaches disappear.
-I am more in line with my personal goals and views about how life should be lived. I write and think about minimalism, simplicity and intentional living, but living in a fast, caffeine induced environment, I feel is fundamentally against what I am trying to accomplish. For me, one of the main reasons I feel so strongly about minimalism, is that it allows me to strip away everything in life that doesn’t truly bring joy and happiness to myself and those within my personal circle. In order for me think about what those things are, I need to slow down and intentionally focus on what I have in life, including my natural energy level, and live within my means.
How to Cut Down or Replace the Caffeine-
If you are like me, and are trying to cut down, or completely cut caffeine or other energy drinks from your life, the best way I have found to do so is to replace it with other things that will help naturally boost your energy levels-
-Get enough sleep. Each person’s body is a little different when it comes to how much rest you need, but by all means, getting enough sleep is one of the easiest and most natural ways you can increase your energy levels. So find out where your perfect amount is, (mine is 7.5 hours of sleep per night) and be sure to get it every single night.
-Cut out sugar and high fat foods from your diet. Foods with high sugar and fat content cause us to feel slow, heavy and ‘crash’ partly through our day. Ever feel sleepy in mid-afternoon? By eliminating them and eating more vegetables and whole foods, you will feel lighter and more energetic throughout the day.
-Exercise. I can’t say enough about how even just 15 minutes of exercise a day helps increase your energy levels significantly. I put in a minimum of 30 minutes per day of light exercise, and experience a very noticeable increase in what I am able to accomplish.
I’m not perfect at any of the above, and I still consume caffeine, but I am working towards what I feel is a more acceptable level of consumption that is still in line with my values of slower, intentional living. I am trying to change my views and embrace the mantra, ‘Say Yes to Slow-Slow-Slow’.