Judging from the lovely drawing at the top of your page, I can tell you might also be a fan of coffee. Like a lot of people, I drink it virtually every day.
However, I've started to suspect that this is not a healthy habit for me. Despite being physically active, eating a good diet, and usually getting enough sleep, I frequently feel tired and unmotivated.
That's not good for anyone, but being a college student, it's really not good. There's so many things I need and want to do. I have a history of procrastination that I've failed to shake, and this lack of energy isn't helping. Obviously, not doing your work and meeting deadlines doesn't pass anymore for me, so I keep finding myself in distressful circumstances.
After some self-reflection, all the caffeine I drink (ranging from 1-3 cups a day) seemed to be an obvious suspect. I realized that after drinking coffee, I feel super energized for about 50 minutes, and then feel dead afterwards. So, I experimented with quitting. I found that my energy levels were more stable, but it didn't make that much difference. My energy was stable at a low level. And the draw of caffeine addiction never made my attempts to quit last very long.
(As a side note, I know that certain genetic traits can result in people being more sensitive to caffeine and having their bodies process it differently. I'm probably in that category. Some people aren't, and I feel like they don't take me seriously for that reason because they have a different experience.)
I tried talking to some trustworthy people about this, and they helped me realize that it was more about my fundamental lack of motivation that was the problem. I was trying to substitute caffeine for my lack of focus and motivation. Working on those areas seems to help, but I eventually slide back into the same behaviors--with caffeine crashes there to kick me while I'm down. Realizing that the coffee was a smaller variable than I thought makes it easier to convince myself that it's okay to drink.
This complicated situation has kept me from quitting caffeine permanently. But what do you think? Should I try going all the way, or do I just need to focus on being motivated more?
Murray the Rat (age 20)
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There's nothing inherently bad about drinking coffee, and 1-3 cups is not too much (well, depending on cup size). There are numerous possible causes for your lethargy, both physiological and mental.
It sounds a bit like you are rather unmotivated. How long has this been going on? You're far too young to be feeling so sluggish. Have you seen a doctor? Do you have any other symptoms? Just for an idea, here are some of the things that can cause lethargy:
Since you don't have any serious symptoms like fever or pain, I think we can safely rule out stuff like meningitis and kidney failure. My bear instincts would suspect two more likely possibilities: 1) stress, and 2) sleep apnea or other sleep problems. For the latter, even if you think you are getting in 8 hours of sleep, this might not be sound, restful sleep. Do you know if you snore? Do you wake up feeling tired? You might want to get a sleep study done if you answered yes to either of these. Fortunately these days, sleep tests can be performed at home and you don't have to spend overnight in a hospital.
Stress can also cause feelings of being tired and even unmotivated. Other symptoms of stress can be depression, insomnia, headaches, digestive problems, decrease in libido, changes in appetite, increased heartbeat, and even acne. If you have some or all of these symptoms, it could be stress that is really the problem. The solution is obviously to try to reduce the stress in your life.
Bottom line is this: I don't think coffee is your problem; nor do I think you are just a lazy, unmotivated person. I think there is an underlying, more serious issue here that coffee just provides temporary relief from. Consider some of the above issues and consider talking to a doctor or nurse about your chronic feelings of lethargy.
Wishing you improved health and happiness,
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Hello again, Papabear. I’ve been doing some reflection/trying different things out, and I think I might have found the cause of the lack of energy I told you about. You don’t need to respond to this letter, but I’d thought I should share this because it feels important.
Without going on and on, I think I’m sort of a technology addict. I’ve realized that I have very poor habits/boundaries with my device usage. I check my phone and all my various social media ‘feeds’ way too much, scrolling up and down again looking for something interesting. Then I’ll do the same routine again 10 minutes later. When I’m trying to do work, I’ll also check my phone or open new tabs and get carried away watching YouTube. If I get frustrated, I might look at furry porn and that takes up plenty of time and energy. I can waste hours a day, trapped in this cycle. I think you get the picture.
Now, I’ve tried ‘detoxing’ from these habits. I’ll alternate between going an entire day without those things, or I’ll set strict boundaries (with the help of airplane mode and this time-locked website blocker). At first, I was afraid missing out on whatever my furry friends were talking about, but I realized it you never miss much.
So far, the results have been pretty impressive.! The tiredness and lack of focus I told you about in my last letter is largely gone when I follow this new approach. The only problems come when I don’t follow it. I don’t know if it will solve all my problems, but I think it was an important step. And as you mentioned, I don’t always get high quality sleep, so that’s my next order of business.
I just wanted to share because I think it seems relevant. I feel like a lot of people are in the same boat I am but aren’t aware of what’s causing it. I mean, the devices provide so much instant gratification that I think it just exhausts your brain of it’s desire to do anything challenging.
I know these things are mostly a benefit and it’s all about ‘responsible’ usage, but I’m almost jealous of people like you who got to grow up without so many devices. :)
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Oh, ho! I see it was indeed a problem other than coffee LOL. Tech addiction has become a serious problem. It used to be just video games, but now with smart- and iPhones and social networking, the problem has exploded. And, yes, it can interfere with work, sleep, school, and, ironically, socializing.
I, myself, have been a bit addicted with Facebook, I fear. When I was banned from it for a week (because I posted something anti-American by calling the government on their mishandling of the virus crisis), I did feel some withdrawal symptoms. That's good, though. It makes me realize I am on there too much.
Things you can do to overcome the addiction:
Good luck! Thanks for writing!
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