Why Coffee Relaxes the Mind

Why Coffee Relaxes the Mind

Anxiety, stress, or just plain worrying—you may not be able to give a name to what you’re feeling but whatever it is, it can definitely mess with your mental wellbeing. Your overthinking mind and snowballing thoughts can cause you to lose sleep, affect your mood, and even hamper your ability to function.

If your noisy thoughts are starting to affect your life, then it’s time to learn how to relax the mind. And while there are the usual tips to take deep breaths, there’s a surprising thing that can help your head calm down: coffee. Learn more about how coffee can relax your mind, as well as the causes and other ways to manage what’s troubling you.

What’s on Your Mind?
While stress, anxiety, and worry are often used interchangeably, they do have some differences. Recognizing what you’re experiencing is the first step in learning how to manage it.

Stress, as defined by the Cleveland Clinic, is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. It can stem from a looming deadline, for example. Stress, therefore, can be the starting point of worry and anxiety.

But how do you know if you’re worried or anxious? An article in Psychology Today outlines the differences between the two: Worry is something you experience in your head, while anxiety tends to spread throughout the body. Worry is caused by more realistic concerns versus anxiety (for example, you’re worried that your spouse will be upset by something that you forgot to do; you’re anxious that your marriage will fall apart over one little argument). Worry tends to be short-term and can be resolved once the cause of the worry is addressed; anxiety tends to stay for longer. And while worry can be considered a normal response, anxiety can be considered a disorder, depending on the duration and intensity.

Don’t Worry, Have Coffee
For someone experiencing anxiety, caffeine might seem counterintuitive. But a 2015 study suggests that it may help people stay calm. The study was conducted on two groups of mice, one given caffeine along with their water and another given just regular water. After three weeks, both groups were exposed to stressors, and results showed that the caffeine group responded better to stress. Of course, further studies need to be done and it’s unclear whether the results will be replicated in humans. But it’s certainly promising (and welcome news for coffee lovers).

Previous studies have also linked coffee consumption to a lower risk of depression. Plus, there’s the fact that caffeine helps the brain release dopamine (a feel-good neurotransmitter) to the area of the brain in charge of regulating mood, according to Psychology Today. It may also have something to do with the ritual of drinking coffee—going to your favorite neighborhood café, interacting with a cheerful barista, and sitting down to enjoy your cup in the middle of a busy day can have calming effects.

But do take note that there can be too much of a good thing—overdoing it can have adverse effects on your health. Two cups a day should be enough, and better if you take your coffee drinks with no sugar and, if you’re sensitive to dairy as 90% of Asians are, no milk. And if you’re experiencing insomnia along with your anxiety, then it may help to limit your caffeine intake.

Other Ways to Relax Your Mind
While coffee can be helpful, it shouldn’t be your first line of defense against worry and anxiety. Arm yourself with the tools to help you manage once you feel the anxiety-inducing thoughts set in:

Go to your happy place. Visualize being in a place that calms you, whether it’s on your favorite beach or up in the mountains breathing fresh air. You can assign your thoughts and feelings to passing clouds or a wave retreating from shore, so you can visualize them going away. Take deep, calming breaths to relax you—when you’re worried or anxious, you tend to take shallow breaths.

Let it out. Having an outlet for your thoughts may make it easier to deal with them. Writing in a journal before bed can help you unload some of your worries to set the stage for a peaceful night’s sleep. You can also try talking to a friend or a therapist.

Assign a “worry time.” Give yourself permission to stress over what’s bothering you—but only for a limited time. Give yourself a designated deadline then go on with your day.

Stay in the moment. Anxiety is typically associated with events that haven’t happened. Try to focus on the now. After all, worrying and being anxious is essentially just suffering twice.

Have healthy habits. Eat healthy food, get some exercise, and get enough sleep. If you’re the type to experience caffeine side effects and find that it doesn’t really help you, then you can try to cut back. Limit your alcohol consumption as well. You’ll find that taking care of yourself can do wonders when it comes to chasing those worries away.



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