Let’s have a chat about habits. Like all other things in the world, they exist on the plane of “good” and “bad.” Some good habits that I try to practice are properly hydrating before going to the gym, and then stretching appropriately afterwards. A bad habit that I used to have was indulging myself in foods that are far from nutritious (my favorite guilt snack is Cheez-its.) Most of us, unless you’re one of the exceptionally lucky few, have our vices. That one bad habit we just can’t seem to let go of, regardless of a desire to break the habit or change your routine. Whether that vice is smoking, drinking, gambling, biting your nails, or even cursing “too much,” they can be hard to cut out of your life for one reason or another.
My vice happens to be caffeine, which sounds pretty benign on the surface. In reality, though, caffeine is considered a drug because it is a stimulant. It triggers a release of Dopamine in the brain, and can improve your mood and ability to concentrate. Being someone who suffers from a mood disorder, any sort of natural upper holds a certain level of inherent appeal. I was never a fan of soft drinks, so I started out my caffeinated journey with good old fashioned coffee. I started small, not needing too many milligrams of caffeine per day to feel the effects. As with any substance that produces a chemical change, you do start to develop a tolerance, needing more and more for the effects of the caffeine to register. By the time I was a sophomore in college, I was drinking coffee along with a variety of highly caffeinated teas throughout the day to get my fix. I even had a brief and regrettable foray with Bang Energy drinks in college to keep me going, which is essentially drinking Adderall in a can. That was my “rock bottom” so to speak, and I cannot stress how horrible I always felt after consuming beverages with sky high sugar contents.
Previously, my “habit” left me feeling somewhat sick to my stomach, on edge, and it even exacerbated my feelings of anxiety. While I haven’t kicked my caffeine habit, I have found what works for me personally in terms of giving me the boost I need without feeling crummy afterwards. I started drinking Yerba Mate pretty religiously over a year and a half ago, and I personally feel that it has changed my relationship with caffeine consumption. For those who are unfamiliar, Yerba Mate is a derivative of a species of Holly tree found in the rainforests of South America. The naturally caffeinated dried Mate leaves are rumoured to possess magical properties, providing those who imbibe with energy and vitality. Traditionally, it is brewed in a hollowed out gourd and then passed among friends as a symbol of unity. I drink my Mate out of a run-of-the-mill mug, but the magic of the Mate is not lost.
I discovered that the Mate gave me my morning push, but didn’t come with the negative feelings I experienced with coffee. I drink one cup per day, and my cup of Mate is the cornerstone of my morning routine. My favorite brand is Guayaki; it’s easily accessible in my area, affordable, and delicious in my opinion (my husband told me it smells like dirt, but to each their own). I incorporate the other tinctures I take into the tea, mixing in my Ashwaganda and Garcinia into the tea once it’s done steeping. The “magic” of the Mate for me is that it makes me feel more alive, banishing my grogginess without the shakes or stomachaches. I’ve noticed that the caffeine “high” I get from drinking Mate is a lot more mellow than what I experienced when I was still drinking coffee on a daily basis. Of all the revelations I’ve made about my health habits, I can truly say that this is the one I’m happiest about.