Is Your Caffeine Habit is Telling You to Take a Break?

The holidays are upon us which means - for many of us - increasing demands for revenue seeking opportunities, longer hours and less time. It also likely means you’ve had your fair share of double-shot lattes or extra-large coffee fixes but, did you know that a coffee habit of over two cups of coffee a day can mean one of three things: dehydration, low iron levels or a caffeine addiction? They all make you feel lethargic and tired, but not enough that you feel like taking a break.

However counterintuitive it may seem, that’s exactly what you should do if you want to keep functioning at high levels.

In fact, when you take less time to reflect, regroup and relax, you actually slow down your mental processes, become disengaged and burnt out.

In 2014, The Energy Project and Harvard Business Review found that about 74% of all employees are going through “an energy crisis” - which is another way of saying they were really tired. And, with 83% of Americans drinking coffee every day, it’s safe to say there are visible side effects. So, what's the solution? Managing your energy, not your time. After all, we all have the same 24 hours in a day.

Here's how your body tells you to take a break...

  • You feel sleepy or low on energy.

  • You have a headache or your head feels 'heavy.'

  • You start stretching involuntarily or your body begins to feel restless with what you are doing.

  • Your legs feel numb and in pain after movement (usually when you’ve been sitting for some time).

...and what to do (instead of drinking coffee) to feel rejuvenated and ready to attack that to-do list:

First, don’t reach for the coffee pot or the nearest Starbucks (as a coffee addict myself, I understand how hard this is). Instead, focus on creating a new habit, like drinking an 8 ounce glass of water while standing up and away from your desk or office, taking a brisk 10-minute walk around the block, stretching, or reading something (on paper) that’s completely unrelated to what you’re working on.

The quick change of pace will jolt your brain awake and promote healthy habits that actually create long-term benefits! By getting your body moving after sitting for so long, your blood starts actively circulating again while drinking water hydrates you and keeps your brain (which is, after all, 73% water) sharp. If you can't leave your office for a walk, yoga stretches like a forward fold will help blood flow ‘backwards,’ giving you the same effects. And reading something NOT on your phone or computer will give your eyes a break from straining to look at the screen - which actually causes you to blink less, promoting dry eyes and that tired feeling behind your eye sockets.

“We can use decision-making to choose the habits we want to form, use willpower to get the habit started, then—and this is the best part—we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over," said Gretchen Rubin, a happiness expert and author of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits—to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.

Her advice for establishing a habit that lasts? Don't quit cold-turkey, but start small: Change one cup of coffee a day with a glass of water and add a stretch or a walk. Then, continue adding more each week until you decrease your caffeine intake to two cups or less a day.

Make the decision to change day by day. At first, it will be hard to drop your caffeine habit when the well-known tiredness sets in, but as you take more breaks and reap the benefits of an active body and mind, the coffee pot will be less and less appealing.