Benefits of cutting caffeine

My Journey From Feeling Free with Caffeine to Being Caffeine Free

My story from addiction to living life without caffeine.

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Picture this: it's late at night, you have a huge test tomorrow, you need to study for as long as physically possible, what do you do? Do you study until you cannot keep your eyes open or do you reach for some coffee or tea, or perhaps an energy drink? If you're like me, you pound a cup of joe and keep grinding throughout the night, even if the sleep deprivation will hurt you.

In my last semester of college, I was probably addicted to caffeine. I would start off the day with a coffee, have another after my first class if it was a long night, and have another after class before I did my homework. It was especially bad if I had a test the next day, where I would drink as much as 300 mg of caffeine in order to stay up late enough to get a good study session in. According to Mayo Clinic, 400 mg of caffeine a day is the upper limit of safe caffeine consumption for most adults. I realized I was living an unhealthy lifestyle with that amount of caffeine intake, and tried to change during the school year, but I was always so tired and irritable without caffeine. After drinking copious amounts of monster energy zero during finals, I went back home to sunny Plano, TX and decided to make a change.

The first thing that I noticed about not drinking caffeine was that I slept a ton. And I mean a TON. I could barely go through the day without a nap, even if I got as much as 11 hours of sleep. My body was not used to staying up for an entire day without the chemical help of caffeine. Along with having to sleep all the time, I was always irritable and tired no matter how much sleep I got. It felt like I could never sleep enough to feel well rested. Because I didn't have caffeine to help me wake up, I always felt like I just woke up.

As a biology major, I had read a lot about chemical dependency but always thought that the written descriptions were exaggerations, and couldn't possibly be true. I have never been more wrong. The hardest part wasn't being tired all the time or being grouchy, instead of that it was having the willpower not to drink soda, coffee, tea, or anything with caffeine. Even after a month without it at this point, I still feel the draw of a cup of coffee. And to clarify, decaf is fine, but I miss the buzz after a piping hot coffee or espresso. Reading what addiction as an addiction is like on paper is one thing, but experiencing it is an entirely different story. I can hardly imagine how much harder it is to quit drugs more addictive than caffeine, but from my personal experience, I can guess that it's one of the hardest things to do in life.

Now that I'm a month into living without caffeine, I have learned so much about caffeine and addiction, and most importantly I remember what it's like not having caffeine all day, every day. When I wake up now after a good night's rest, I feel well rested, and after a bit, I feel like I did after a cup of coffee: awake, attentive, and alert. If I get that full night of sleep, I am also less tired throughout the day and don't need to take a nap to catch up on sleep. And the thing I worried about most was much easier than I thought. The thing that got me hooked on caffeine was staying up late at night doing school work. Because I'm currently in summer school, I have been unfortunate enough to stay up late into the night because of procrastination, and I was afraid that without caffeine I wouldn't be able to stay awake. But instead of that, it was much easier to stay up by sheer willpower.

After this experiment, I learned that it is possible to live life without caffeine, a thing which I thought was impossible while I was pounding back coffees left and right. I don't know yet whether or not this change will be permanent, but I can say for certain that I will (hopefully) never have my caffeine intake be that high again.

Cover Image Credit:

Nathan Dumlao

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So, You Want To Be A Nurse?

You're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

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To the college freshman who just decided on nursing,

I know why you want to be a nurse.

Nurses are important. Nursing seems fun and exciting, and you don't think you'll ever be bored. The media glorifies navy blue scrubs and stethoscopes draped around your neck, and you can't go anywhere without hearing about the guaranteed job placement. You passed AP biology and can name every single bone in the human body. Blood, urine, feces, salvia -- you can handle all of it with a straight face. So, you think that's what being a nurse is all about, right? Wrong.

You can search but you won't find the true meaning of becoming a nurse until you are in the depths of nursing school and the only thing getting you through is knowing that in a few months, you'll be able to sign the letters "BSN" after your name...

You can know every nursing intervention, but you won't find the true meaning of nursing until you sit beside an elderly patient and know that nothing in this world can save her, and all there's left for you to do is hold her hand and keep her comfortable until she dies.

You'll hear that one of our biggest jobs is being an advocate for our patients, but you won't understand until one day, in the middle of your routine physical assessment, you find the hidden, multi-colored bruises on the 3-year-old that won't even look you in the eyes. Your heart will drop to your feet and you'll swear that you will not sleep until you know that he is safe.

You'll learn that we love people when they're vulnerable, but you won't learn that until you have to give a bed bath to the middle-aged man who just had a stroke and can't bathe himself. You'll try to hide how awkward you feel because you're young enough to be his child, but as you try to make him feel as comfortable as possible, you'll learn more about dignity at that moment than some people learn in an entire lifetime.

Every class will teach you about empathy, but you won't truly feel empathy until you have to care for your first prisoner in the hospital. The guards surrounding his room will scare the life out of you, and you'll spend your day knowing that he could've raped, murdered, or hurt people. But, you'll walk into that room, put your fears aside, and remind yourself that he is a human being still, and it's your job to care, regardless of what he did.

Each nurse you meet will beam with pride when they tell you that we've won "Most Trusted Profession" for seventeen years in a row, but you won't feel that trustworthy. In fact, you're going to feel like you know nothing sometimes. But when you have to hold the sobbing, single mother who just received a positive breast cancer diagnosis, you'll feel it. Amid her sobs of wondering what she will do with her kids and how she's ever going to pay for treatment, she will look at you like you have all of the answers that she needs, and you'll learn why we've won that award so many times.

You'll read on Facebook about the nurses who forget to eat and pee during their 12-hour shifts and swear that you won't forget about those things. But one day you'll leave the hospital after an entire shift of trying to get your dying patient to eat anything and you'll realize that you haven't had food since 6:30 A.M. and you, too, will be one of those nurses who put everything else above themselves.

Too often we think of nursing as the medicine and the procedures and the IV pumps. We think of the shots and the bedpans and the baths. We think all the lab values and the blood levels that we have to memorize. We think it's all about the organs and the diseases. We think of the hospitals and the weekends and the holidays that we have to miss.

But, you're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion, and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

So, you think you want to be a nurse?

Go for it. Study. Cry. Learn everything. Stay up late. Miss out on things. Give it absolutely everything that you have.

Because I promise you that the decision to dedicate your life to saving others is worth every sleepless night, failed test, or bad day that you're going to encounter during these next four years. Just keep holding on.

Sincerely,

The nursing student with just one year left.

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I Would Advise You To Keep My Name Out Of Your Mouth If You Have Never Met Me

College is hard enough without having to endure drama from people you've never met.

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The first year of college is one of the most trying times for anyone. It's the first time that you're fully independent of your parents, where you have to wake yourself up for your classes because your roommate probably doesn't have your exact schedule, you eat when the spirit moves you, and you prioritize your time in any way you want. College is a time of growth, where you leave behind your 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. high school experience and have to start over.

Yet, I've realized that some people can't leave high school behind, and bring with them the petty drama and unnecessary rumors that littered the halls of high school and spread like wildfire. There is a consistent stream of gossip and preconceived notions that ruin a potential future relationship between two people, all because someone decided that a rumor they heard about someone else was worth sharing.

I understand why people hold on to the drama that is caused when other people decide to gossip. But, for the people who learn about their reputation from their friends, because someone decided to share it with them and, being a good friend, they told them what someone had said, it's hard. College is the first time where you get to go out on your own and live life as a semi-functioning adult, and no one wants to be dragged back to their high school experience.

For the people who bring high school to college with them and the people who believe rumors about someone even if they haven't met that person, you need to get over yourself. It is not fair to the people about whom you're talking. Imagine if it happened to you. College is a challenging time, the coursework is more difficult and there is no one there to tell you what to do with your time. It is hard enough to balance academic coursework with a social life and extracurricular activities, not including being able to maintain strong mental health. Although it can be heartbreaking to hear rumors that have been said, it can show you who your true friends are. There are a lot of people you meet when starting college who seem like they could be your best friends, but as soon as you turn your back, they're whispering about you. There is no doubt in my mind that my close friends would be the first to speak up on my behalf if they heard something negative about me. And that means more to me than a reputation.

It's easier said than done not to let rumors and other people's perception affect you. The difference being let it hurt you and accepting that there's nothing you can do are two very separate things. But what other people think of you is something that is entirely outside of your control, and all that you can really do is decide not to let it be known that it bothers you. You have every right to be upset if you hear something negative about yourself, especially if it isn't true or something you did has been blown out of proportion. There is no definitive list of traits that a person can have to be strong, and there is not a list of actions that you can take in order to move on from being hurt by rumors. But the most important thing that you can do for yourself is to move on. To make sure that you are happy and comfortable in your own skin. It may seem like a burden to fully accept yourself and like every single thing about yourself. No one is perfect.

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