I look forward to my morning tea with a deep yearning. I can imagine the sound of the heated water, the unfurling steam as it hits my cup, the copper-brown of my beloved Darjeeling, and the first scent of the leaves on the water.
A lot of us either need the caffeine to get our brains running, or enjoy the ritual and flavor, or maybe both. Nothing else quite does what caffeine does, which is why humans have cultivated those plants that provide it.
If you're struggling with anxiety, though, it behooves you to think seriously about how much caffeine is in your diet. I'm not talking about whether caffeine is unhealthy for you - the science on this comes and goes, but moderate caffeine intake for healthy adults is safe.
This post has to do not with whether caffeine is permissible, but whether it is beneficial. If you already fight anxiety symptoms, the last thing that you want to do is to add a stimulant like caffeine (or nicotine, or cocaine, or herbal stimulants). Stimulants will exacerbate your anxiety symptoms, and are often the trigger for panic attacks.
I know that deciding to limit or exclude caffeine from your diet isn't easy! But I have also worked with more that one client who was able to stop panic attacks altoghether simply by eliminating concentrated caffeine from his/her diet (small amounts of chocolate don't seem to be problematic, but every body is different).
Remember that the half-life for caffeine in the body (the time at which half of the caffeine has been metabolized) is about 4-6 hours. This means it can be eight or more hours before it's all gone. If you are experiencing early insomnia, that 2pm latte may be to blame.
It's not just caffeine that's a problem either: stimulants like ginseng, yerba mate, and guarana can cause the same problems. Sometimes these plant-based stimulants are included in herbal supplements for energy, or in sports supplements touting strength and endurance. Nothing harshes your workout buzz like a panic attack!
In the end, you must decide whether caffeine is worth the anxiety symptoms for you. If your anxiety gets bad enough, you may be willing to try going without stimulants for a while. You can put up with it for a week, and make sure to track your anxiety symptoms to see how they change.
If you decide to try it: find extra energy and stimulation from staying hydrated (dehydration can make us feel drowsy), eating snacks with long-lasting protein energy, and elevating your pulse by keeping your body active. Do a few jumping jacks to wake up, or take the dog for a walk. When your attention starts to wane in the early afternoon, walk briskly around the block. Stretch your muscles to move blood through the body faster.
Coffee, energy drinks, and sodas are the biggest purveyors of caffeine, but you can certainly get it from other sources. Black tea, green tea, and white tea all have caffeine, and if you drink enough (two cups of black tea equals one of coffee), you're in for the same possible problems as someone with an energy drink.
Oh, and just to dispell the myth: if you drink a stimulant plus alcohol, you aren't going to melllow out the anxiety potential. Sorry.