We make many promises to ourselves at the beginning of a new year, and although I'm not here to judge your life, one of the suckiest New Year's resolutions you can make has to be giving up coffee. That's not just because coffee is delicious. Deciding to stop drinking coffee can actually be physically painful because caffeine is addictive. So when you finally do give up caffeine, you'll probably experience some withdrawal symptoms from the lack of caffeine, including mental fogginess, irritability, and a pounding headache. FUN! And really, there's nothing quite like a nasty caffeine headache to make you want to hook yourself up to an IV drip of black coffee for the rest of the day. Nay, the rest of your life.
But you can't do that, because mainlining coffee would totally defeat the whole purpose of your resolution! And, since you've probably broken all of your others already, instead, you should be diligent and come up with strategies to deal with the caffeine withdrawals when you decide to give up coffee for good. Fortunately, there is a way to stop drinking caffeine without pulling out your hair strand by strand. You just have to be a little kind to yourself, know some stuff about caffeine withdrawal, and do these six things to help curb your caffeine cravings.
Instead of trying to end your coffee habit all at once, consider cutting back over the course of a few weeks. For the first week, only drink coffee before 5 p.m. The next week, stop drinking coffee after 2 p.m. After a few weeks, you'll be down to one cup of coffee in the morning, which is way more manageable than four or five cups spread throughout the day.
Even if you don't fully give up on caffeine using this strategy, simply limiting the times of the day when you do drink coffee can have a positive impact on your health. For instance, there's some compelling evidence that you can improve your sleep by only drinking coffee before 2 p.m.
Switch to Tea
I know that this is a lame bit of advice for anyone who genuinely loves coffee, but switching to tea can really help take the sting off of quitting coffee. Part of it is psychological. When you're drinking a hot cup of tea in the morning instead of a fresh mug of coffee, you're still drinking something hot—and that will make you feel like you're not totally giving up on your daily habit. Brewing a pot of hot tea instead of a carafe of coffee will fill what would otherwise be a gap in your morning routine.
The tea you drink in the morning doesn't have to be weak-ass tea, though. You can drink a cup of tea with a little bit of caffeine, like a strong black tea. It's not as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, for sure, but it's enough to take the edge off any potential caffeine withdrawal symptoms, in a more sustainable way. (Plus, you can become a tea snob, which opens up a world of possibilities.)
Drink More Water
One of the classic symptoms of caffeine withdrawal is a pounding headache, which you can alleviate by drinking more water than you might normally. Hydrating has been proven to help mitigate symptoms of headaches—even caffeine headaches.
Get Rid of Your Coffeemaker
If you're really serious about quitting caffeine for good, hide—or completely ditch—your coffeemaker, along with any coffee beans that might be in your freezer or fridge or pantry. That way, you're not tempted to brew a cup for yourself, for old time's sake.
Find a New Routine
Part of the reason some people drink so much coffee is because it's become an unconscious part of their daily routines. This is especially true if you work in an office, where there's always freshly brewed coffee in the kitchen. Even if you don't want to drink coffee, it's there, and it's a good excuse to leave your desk. Same goes for that cappuccino at 3:30 p.m. But walking to the coffee shop with your coworkers is a good reason to take a break and leave the office for a little bit.
So instead of going to your local coffee shop on your way to the subway, consider stopping by a place that makes smoothies or fresh-pressed juices. You can still go down to the kitchen during the afternoon lull, but maybe use that time to make a cup of tea instead. Or just take a quick walk around the block. After all, you don't need coffee to take a break.
Quit Cold Turkey
I know, I know. I'm recommending exactly the opposite of what I said at the start of this piece. But sometimes, quitting coffee all at once is the best way to go. Extra Crispy's site director Ryan Grim did just that in 2016, and he swears by the strategy of quitting cold turkey. "You're going to get headaches, so you might as well get it over with immediately," he explained to me, while sipping on a classy hot tea. "You have two or three days of headaches, the severity of which depend on how much you drink coffee, I guess. But if you taper for a month or so, you're prolonging your own misery." So his final advice to give up coffee, once and for all? "Quit quickly, and be resolute." And sometimes, that's all you can really do.