Feeling stressed or anxious? Go easy on the caffeine
If you are feeling overly anxious or struggling with stress, some simple lifestyle changes will really help. Although both problems may also require changes in your thinking (the main strategy in cognitive therapy), just taking better care of yourself in the following ways could make a significant difference to how you feel day to day:
- Getting enough sleep, rest and downtime
- Reducing your screen time and cutting back on digital media
- Adopting a healthy, balanced diet and reducing your sugar intake
- Drinking in moderation, with at least two alcohol-free days a week
- Getting regular cardiovascular exercise like running, swimming or cycling
- Also engaging in more relaxing exercise such as yoga or tai chi
- Making the most of your support network to talk things through
Also, one simple change that will have a surprising impact on your mood is reducing or even completely cutting out your daily caffeine intake. We all know from personal experience that drinking too much strong coffee makes us feel jittery and wired. But black tea, soda and energy drinks, jelly beans, mints, chocolate and painkillers can also contain high doses of caffeine, which is worth remembering if you're trying to cut down.
Why is caffeine unhelpful? Because it stimulates the adrenal glands to release more adrenaline and cortisol (the 'stress hormone') into your bloodstream. If you are either stressed or anxious (or both) your adrenal system is already overstimulated, so the last thing you need is more of these hormones in your system. They are the reason you feel tired but wired, jittery, frazzled, unable to switch off or relax, also possibly irritable and impatient.
I know it's hard to cut out caffeine completely, but you could always have one coffee in the morning and then water/herbal tea for the rest of the day. As I say to my clients, isn't it worth making a small change – even if that takes a little effort – to feel a great deal better?
If you would like some help with your stress come along to my monthly Overcoming Stress workshop, starting on 12th September 2015; or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about one-to-one cognitive therapy for either chronic stress or anxiety.