Coffee Challenge - How to Deal with Caffeine and OCPD

When I  first told my doctor about feeling anxious, he asked a ton of questions. But one of the first was – Do you drink coffee?

Well yes, of course I do! Doesn’t everyone? He asked me how much. Then proceeded to tell me that even with mild anxiety I should lay off the caffeine. For a long time I thought the coffee jitters were just physical, keeping me wired. Turns out the effects of caffeine are a bit deeper than that.  He said to avoid coffee if possible – but I live in the real world. I couldn’t just give it up! So I turned to the internet, where lots of scientific studies are made public. Here is one quote:

Dr James Lee, a psychiatrist at Duke University, North Carolina in the USA, said of caffeine and anxiety, "Moderate caffeine consumption makes a person react like he/she is having a very stressful day. If you combine the effects of real stress with the artificial boost in stress hormones that comes from caffeine then you have compounded the effects considerably." During his study the volunteers produced 32% more adrenaline, their blood pressure was raised and their heart rates were faster. 

Well ok, so no double espresso. But what if I want to try to have my coffee, and just use moderation? I found some great tips – and through my own personal experience – here are some things to keep in mind:

Don’t drink coffee without eating any protein. The caffeine goes straight into your bloodstream, and spikes quickly. Combined with low blood sugar, this can really affect your mood.

Dilute it if you can. I started drinking ice coffee with lots of ice rather than a double espresso. It took some getting used to the less sharp flavor, but I’m consuming my caffeine a lot more slowly.

Think about timing. I never drink coffee or tea after 5:30 pm – because I know I won’t sleep! Find you own cut off.

Monitor the stress. Finally, if you know you are going into a stressful situation, take it easy on the coffee. You big meeting is not the time to down 2 cups of joe!

As always, be mindful and find the moderate balance that works for you! 


Brain Priming - Positive Affirmation and OCPD

I love the blog Lifehacker!

They have a great post on how to “hack” your brain.   It’s all about understanding your neurology and then using it to be the way you want. Having knowledge of the brain gives you control over it!

They write:
You are not who you are, but rather the product of many influences. The saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" exists for a reason: the longer you've been the person you think you are, the harder it becomes to change. The thing is, you can dramatically change who you are.
Very comforting to anyone who get frustrated with themselves!

They are some very specific tips, but one important on is on "Priming". This is basically a mantra, or a positive group of affirmations, that create good feelings in your brain though their associations. These good associations them prime your brain to feel calm and happy. For example, you can prime yourself to be relaxed by focusing on a list of words like "calm", " sweet",  "pastel", "slow swings" and other words that comfort you. You can make a sentence, write them down, or meditate on them. You can choose or create a word list for any emotion, and then all it takes is finding the right way to get yourself to really focus on them and the feelings they inspire.

Try it! Let me know how your "brain priming" goes in the comments .


A Smile a Day... - Expressions and OCPD

How often do you smile? I know it sounds cheesy, but bear with me!

Even when I am alone, I find my stress and emotions have a habit of cementing themselves onto my face. When I read something upsetting, I glare at my screen. When I hear a horn honk loudly, I can’t seem to help myself from frowning.

No one likes to be frowning or scowling, so why do I keep up these reactions? They cause wrinkles, make onlookers think I’m unfriendly and sometimes, I think it even gives me a headache!

I do them because they are unconscious, simply reactions. Yes, they are movements entirely inside of my control. I can frown or smile right now, on cue. But most of the time, I’m not tuned in. I don’t know what my face is doing.

Imagine if instead of a frown when you are upset, you make an effort to smile. Too much to ask, especially in the face of stress? You might be supprised at how a change in facial expression can actually change your thoughts.

And, if you are around someone else, a smile certainly can’t hurt the situation! ( Well, unless they think you are sarcastic!)

So maybe you tune in, and control your face a bit more, and see if it controls your thoughts? I happened to think a forced smile is better than a unconscious frown. At least the wrinkle lines will get a little lessened!

Here is a nice post about how to "use" your smile in situations. Check it out for some inspiration!