Caffeine bomb

Friday, 31 January 2014

Do you ever think about how much caffeine you drink? I dare you to add up what you consume in a day and I guarantee you, you will struggle to comprehend exactly what you are guzzling in the form of teas, coffees and carbonated drinks. So let me tell you a little story; the story of the time that I accidentally tried to give up coffee. A story that remains so vivid not just because it only happened to me this week but also because the impression it left is one that has intrigued me ever since. After all, we all know that caffeine is the most widely consumed drug out there, but do we really feel that we are ever addicted to it?

My advice is to never underestimate exactly how caffeine affects you after years of consumption. Just imagine all the years of build up of tolerance: all the cups of tea your mum made you in your youth to go hand in hand with your morning breakfast. All the coffee dates you have had with girl (or boy) friends at the weekend, sinking one large latte after the other. All the 10am brews you've had at work to ready you for that huge workload. Daily, weekly, monthly; all that routine. The habits you cannot break. And beyond all the social reasons and the feeling that you cannot start the day without it, remember that we are still living in a land of double recession and £2.40 for a cappuccino is a small price to pay for something that just makes us feel a little bit better.

And that's before I even think about being different to most people; as in, I actually work in the coffee business! Most days I drink coffee for free as part of my living, how about that. It's my duty of good customer service to taste test the coffee I serve every morning to ensure that it's of good quality and standardised to my brand. As part of my job, I must drink that coffee or else I am doing a great disservice.

So why did I try to give up caffeine? Well I did mention before that it was accidentally. My poison of choice every morning is a regular americano with cold skimmed milk and a shot of sugar-free vanilla syrup (trust me, when you work for a coffee shop, you end up with drinks like that) - except on Tuesday morning, I just didn't fancy it. All because a friend of mine happened to mention to me the immortal words 'hot chocolate'... and from that moment on, it was all I could taste on the tip of my tongue. I got to work, I made my hot chocolate, I was satisfied. It was only when I got to 10am did I realise, 'Wow, I haven't had a coffee yet this morning and I feel fine!' I then decided that I would make it to the end of the day without an ounce of caffeine passing my lips.

It was all an illusion. By midday I had a headache, I felt sluggish, I couldn't remember basic orders and I just wanted to climb into bed. By the time I got home at 3:30pm my headache was borderline migraine, I had the sweats and shakes and felt horrifically nauseous. I started to read up on how caffeine detoxing affects your body and pretty much fell asleep on my phone. I thought a little nap might help it. Little? I ended up 'sleeping' for 15 hours. Apart from the fact that I woke up every 3 hours in a panic from a twisted nightmare but with no energy to actually get up and do anything.

So when it rolled around to 8am the next morning - after I'd shaken off the fact that I'd missed a cancelled bowling night out, then a round of drinks at the pub, plus lunch AND dinner - with an awful fogginess that I could only relate to both too much sleep and a lack of my body's favourite drug, I decided I couldn't do it anymore. I know, I may be weak but I completely underestimated what the world says about coming down from caffeine. The first day is the hardest, and the second and the third are not that much better. But it has come from many personal accounts that by the time you get to the forth or fifth day completely caffeine free, that you come back with more natural energy than ever. I believe it was the thought of that, that made me so persistent in getting to the end of the first day. I commended myself for enduring a day of excruciating head pain - and then I had a coffee.

All of that for nothing? I don't believe so - for it has taught me a lot about my body that I guess I was too blind to realise. Ten years of heavily drinking coffee and tea and living off of Diet Coke and yes, I have racked up somewhat of a caffeine addiction. In my mind I don't believe I need it to get through the day but my nervous system believes otherwise. And yes, admittedly it is scary to discover the hard way that you are addicted to something without ever realising. But I truly love coffee, for all the reasons that I have made clear above - those cups of tea from my Mum when I walk through her front door; the meet-ups with friends that are perfect for nowhere else but coffee shops; and the joy I get from my job coupled with the involvement I have in giving people their £2.40 cup feel-good.

I believe that I've already done the best thing that I possibly could, in realising exactly what I put into my body. It has encouraged me not to give up something that I love, but instead manage it and cut down. Since Wednesday I have only been drinking caffeine in the form of one coffee in the per day, preferably before 3pm. Apart from that I stick to decaf options, or herbal teas. I also haven't touched Coke since (and to be honest since ever reading this I've been needing even more of an excuse to give it up). I can honestly say that I feel better already. I'm beginning to find a better sleeping pattern and actually feeling tired in the evening, something that I never really have done previously. Also my skin looks a little bit better even after less than a week and I'm sure other bodily changes are to follow. Will this be forever? I'd like to think it is a permanent lifestyle change but let's be realistic, possibly not. Circumstances always change and as humans sometimes we are not strong enough to give into temptation - or that second flat white. However, I know one thing for certain: that I will always remember this lesson that I inadvertently taught myself, and that maybe I can pass forward the horrible lesson I learned to others. All from a little accident!

P.S. one americano, two single espressos, an iced coffee, a can of coke & two or three cups of tea. Th-th-that's all folks.


Friday, 3 January 2014

It appears that I didn't bother stitching together any resolutions at the start of 2013, so I have nothing to make a comparison to. To be completely honest I actually feel exactly the same as I did one year ago: neither fatter nor thinner, not richer or poorer, and neither happier or sadder. Just the same, but with a lot of in-between-happenings padding out the full stops. Even so, over the past year I think that the harshest criticism that I've had for myself is thinking that I'm sitting back and just letting the world turn right before my eyes. Like, it's turning and I'm just sitting and having no impact whatsoever. It's taken me a lot to realise that this ridiculous thought is so far from the truth. It's a weird kind of bliss to think that actually this probably has a lot to say about how I feel about life now. I have been inspired and not in a fleeting moment never to be seen again, but for life. It's up to me to make 2014 magical and I am in full belief that it's going to happen.

These are my resolutions for 2014.

#1 - Cook a new recipe every month. This actually stretches well beyond the realm of the statement. I want it to be part of a complete overhaul of the way I look at food. Cook something, bake something, spend time making something that I really want to eat rather than settling for another Pot Noodle or packet of crisps just because it's quick and easy - something that I'm sure other fellow shift workers are only too guilty of! I need to start being kinder to my body with what I put into it so that it is kinder to me... and so that when I do go on that one-time beer and ice cream binge, it actually feels glorious rather than a sin.

#2 - Get back into blogging. Something that I've let slack over the past year (well, more like two) is keeping up with blogging and truth be told, I can pinpoint it directly to my complete desire having vanished. But in turn I can pinpoint that fact to feeling like I have to rather than wanting to. Truth be told, I realised that the moment I stopped feeling like I had to, I began to want to once more. So it's all about blogging about what I want, when I want. For a little while there's no need to stress about a brand, a voice, a routine - the magic is, is that it will find it's own journey by itself.

#3 - Ditto, running. However something that won't find it's own journey by just sitting-back-and-letting-it-happen (sadly) is my fitness! Which is something else I've let slide over the past year. It's very easy to blame an extremely active job and crazy shift patterns but a line has to be drawn somehow. If I can find half an hour to munch on way too many crisps, then you betcha I can find half an hour to have a jog or do some Pilates. This is an area I really have to begin to push myself in.

#4 - Read 30 books. Very, very ambitious. I never ever break any of the book targets that I set myself. However with the purchase of my Kindle last year, my book reading soared by about 2000%. I kid you not. So I think finally, the target is beatable. Plus I've still got The Great Gatsby to finish. It's about what year I finish the book in, right? Right.

#5 - Declutter my life. The thing about travelling last year is that it made me realise how much stuff I didn't need. I'm not the sort of girl that cries about being make-up free or being without her straighteners, but you never understand what it's like to live out of a backpack until you actually do it. And I'm talking about stuff like having 4 pairs of pants on rotation kind of packing. This isn't only applicable to the stuff inside my wardrobe, but to pretty much everything I own. Books I won't read again, CD's I don't play, artifacts that I believe are important but I actually never think about. I want to reduce everything I own by at least 50% and do you know what, I don't think that's crazy talk.

#6 - Stop biting my nails. And the skin around them. Yep, I'm yucky. But this year it has to be done.

#7 - Enjoy my own company. This is a bit of a cop out. I know perfectly well how to spend time alone - I'm a fiercely independent only child who always makes sure she has something to look forward to. But if I close my eyes I remember the times I used to take myself to museums or to the cinema to catch a flick or off on the train on a daytrip somewhere new, and somewhere along the line I've let that slide a little. For tea and Eastenders is not knowing how to utilize the time spent with yourself!

#8 - Start planning a big adventure. I have a dream of something I want to do before I'm 30. It's a little something that will be part of a much bigger journey. Time is ticking, so I had better get a move on.

#9 - Document my life in daily records. To my best girl, I'm so sorry I stole this one from you! And I feel a bit silly anyway as it's something that I try and do every year, you know, keep a diary, partake in a 365 challenge. But therein lies the catch: I try. I never succeed. Anyway this year I fully intend to see an Insta365 through to New Year's Eve and I've just started keeping my 'One Line A Day' diary, and I'm fully determined to cross this off my list.

#10 - Keep learning Polish. In 2013, I started to learn Polish. I didn't have to and by jove it made my head spin but I did anyway. At the end of the year, I no longer had a legit reason to keep learning Polish. It was a bit of a sore point for a bit but now all I can think is, why not? And why not indeed. It would be a waste of hours otherwise. I'm proud of what I've pushed myself to do so far, why not keep enriching it?

#11 - Spend more time with my parents. I'm getting to that stage in my life where I'm beginning to realise more about age and how much it scares me; not only because of how old I am, but also because of the age of my parents. While they are by no means old in the slightest, they aren't young either (my Dad turns the big 6-0 this year!) and I believe recently, more than ever, I know that forever is just a concept. I would hate to think that I had never spent enough time with my parents, at any stage in my life, so this year it's about keeping more up to date with my family and letting them know exactly how much I love them.

#12 - Be the best version of myself that I can possibly be. As long as my head can hit the pillow every night with the knowledge that on that day I smiled, I helped others, I made somebody's day better, I worked the hardest I could, I was good to myself... then in my opinion, every day can be a success. No matter what life throws at me.

What resolutions do you have for 2014?

Blog as you mean to go on

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Today is the beginning of a brand new 365-page book. Write a good one.

These seem to be the hot words of the moment; pretty much every other post I've noticed on all social media networks have bared some variation or depiction of this quote. With good reason to, as it rings so insanely true. It is often felt that the first day of the first month of the year is the ultimate kick-start to wiping the slate clean and bombarding onwards with a fistful of resolutions and good intentions. I often like to think of January 1st as just that, but prefer a more positive approach with realistic goals. For some time, my method regarding all sorts of things is to simply take everything one day at a time. Blogging, for example, can appear so overwhelming when I think of how I'm going to shoehorn it in between working, commuting and catching zzz's (and yes, all the evenings spent drinking brewskis also). Is there any way I can train myself sleep-blog? However part of teaching myself to take everything each day as it comes, was to stop worrying so much. If I can blog, brilliant! And if I can't, so what? There's always tomorrow. After all, every day is the beginning of something awesome.

However, let's not discredit 2013 in the slightest. I, for one, can quite easily accept that 2013 was a rollercoaster year to say the very least! While I won't divulge into dirty details just yet, I want to take a moment to recall the very last day of the last month of the year - the month where, all of a sudden, things started to slide back into their rightful places.

Most excitingly, I officially made it a tradition of mine to book an epic trip on every New Year's Eve. Well, if I do it two years in a row, it's a tradition right? Last year, at the actual stroke of midnight, I signed up for a sweet-as Trek America trip to Canada and this year I'm sticking to what I know best - that's right, I'm jumping straight back on the Trek America bandwagon except this time, I am doing what can only be described as the Western USA roadtrip of dreams. Read it and weep whoop! San Fran, Yosemite, Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Route 66 and LA all in a week. It's coming for me in May (or rather, I'm coming for it) and I am giddy with anticipation already. Americuuuuuurrrrr!

Possibly the greatest achievement of them all is that I made it out for New Year's Eve. As in, out out. Honestly, you just read that correctly. If you're not in the know, then hear this: I am not exaggerating when I say that I have spent New Year's Eve indoors for probably the past 8~ years. Every year, it's been a vision of mine to go out and part-ay until the early morn but every year, something happens and it's basically a write-off. But this year, I made it. Very last minute indeed because that's how I roll but there I was at the stroke of midnight, jiving in a club in Croydon to Slade's version of Auld Lang Syne (the very best I'll have you know) with my bruvva-from-anuvva-muvva J. Absolutely glorious!

And then bringing it back around in a full circle to books, and writing a good one. It's my belief that even beyond coincidence and (dare I say it) fate, you are the master of your own destiny. A smile and a little positive thinking can go a long, long way and these are the actions that have kept my motors running many a day - especially in 2013. I had heard of these awesome 'One Line A Day' diaries a while ago but really wanted to start mine at the beginning of 2014. So I waited out my excitement when my Amazon order arrived three days early and tonight I get to make my very first entry. This little diary is awesome in the fact that you basically have to pick out the most memorable parts of your day (or condense it into something cryptic and awesome) into Tweet-size and when you get to the end of the year, you go back to the first page and start again. So at the end of it all - when I will be very old, for sure - you will have five years of memories all on one page. Magical!

So there we have it: the best end to 2013 that I could never have expected, and I think I'm well on my way to making 2014 a truly amazing year. This is the beginning of writing a good one, guys.

P.S. Completely amazing that Dubai got their world record 'n' all, but literally when I thought that London could never do a better display than they ever had before... then we go and put out this absolute stonker of a show. Weirdly and unashamedly, this sort of stuff brings tears to my eyes. I love my hometown!