Tag Archives: caffeine

Share your strengths


Of all the places to find inspiration for a post, the tag on a teabag was one of the last places I’d think to look!  For some time (actually, since I went caffeine free for August last year) I’ve been drinking all sorts of different teas.  I’m not too keen on black tea, and there’s caffeine in that anyway, so I’ve been going through a couple of brands here in the UK, Pukka and Yogi.  The tea bags from both are individually wrapped and they have little tags on them: the Yogi teas have some kind of “thought for the day” or mindfulness quote on the tag.  

Share your strengths, not your weaknesses

– Harbhajan Singh Yogi

Today’s tag was Share your strengths, not your weaknesses, and I thought that was a really good way to look at life. I know that Bing Crosby sang about something similar back in the ’40s or ’50s with the release of Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive, but it strikes me that this is a really sensible approach to the stresses and rigours of life these days.  

I had been unhappy at my previous employer for several years before I finally plucked up the courage to leave.  One of the main problems I had was that I was really good at finding reasons why someone else wouldn’t employ me (I had a limited skill set, I had no marketable skills, that sort of thing) and I was really bad at finding reasons why they should.  I had talked it through a number of times with Dee and eventually sat down to draw up a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) chart, a bit like the one below. 


It was hard going, but I managed to come up with a number of things which I thought I was good at, and then set about targeting roles which allowed me to capitalise on them. It also helped me figure out what sort of role I wanted, what sort of working environment and conditions I wanted, etc. I found what I was looking for and have gone from (pardon the pun) strength to strength.  It turns out that the blend of skills I had was exactly what my new company was looking for too, and I’m really please I made the move.  I try to play to my strengths all the time, but in the background I’m also working on my weaknesses, so that I’ll be able to develop them into positives too. 

How many of us get bogged down in negative thoughts and poor self esteem?  When talking to people, do we talk about the good things or the bad things we’ve experienced?  For example, mention to someone that you’re going in to hospital for an operation, and the chances are you’ll get a horror story back from them about someone they know who went in for the same thing and who had the worst experience imaginable?  What about if someone is waiting for a book deal, or about to take their driving test? There are endless examples which I’m sure you can come up with.  
Why do you think that is?  Why do you think there’s a tendency among many to focus on the negatives, on the pessimistic outcomes?  

Here’s a thought.  Next time you hear a conversation that’s going down a negative route, why not look on the positive side, give a helpful example where everything worked out ok?  Try it, and see how the people you’re talking to react.  See how you feel after sharing a story with a positive outcome.  Is it better, or worse, than when you’ve done the opposite?  

For the record, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences from my two stays in hospital since I turned 16.  

This sort of positive approach is allied (in my opinion) to the view that “before you say anything, ask yourself if it is true, if it kind or if it is helpful: if the answer is no, then don’t say it”. In this case it becomes “if you can’t say anything positive about something (a person, event, activity, place etc) then don’t say anything”.  I think the world would be a much happier (and dare I say, quieter) place if we could all do this.    

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Coffee Time

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Towards the end of July I decided that I’d go caffeine free for the whole of August.  This was partly inspired by Dee removing processed sugar from her diet for July, and partly from January this year when I went without alcohol for the month.  I reckoned missing caffeine would be more difficult than missing alcohol – and I was right!  It wasn’t about just not drinking coffee, but not drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it, so “normal” tea and energy drinks like Red Bull were also off limits.

Normally I drink a lot of coffee, and I don’t drink the mild stuff.  Dee calls it “rocket fuel”, because I probably have 4 or 5 mugs a day (on average) of the strongest coffee I can find, always black and always without sugar. I don’t use a spoon to measure it out, just pour it in the typical Norwegian way. Having spent a week in Norway towards the end of July, where everywhere gives you unlimited refills, I was probably as caffeinated as I’ve ever been.

August 1st brought such severe headaches and flu like symptoms that I had to go to bed immediately after dinner. The headaches and symptoms faded over the next few days, but I probably only felt well after about a week or so.  I also felt permanently tired and worn out for the first couple of weeks, though perked up a bit after that.

So what did I drink instead?  It’s been quite warm so I had a lot of squash and / or fruit juice.  I also bought a number of speciality teas – I quite like the options provided by the Yogi brand – so had a lot of spiced chai, mint tea, fruit teas, that sort of thing. I enjoyed them, but probably not as much as coffee.

I made it to the end of the month in one piece, and hadn’t touched caffeine at all. I’m very pleased that I managed it, despite strong temptation from time to time.  Did I feel the benefit? Honestly, I’m not sure. The headaches had gone, and some of the cravings had also gone, but I love the smell of coffee so stopping off in a cafe while shopping was tough. I’m sure that my heart was glad of the break: I probably should have checked to see what my resting heart rate was at the beginning of the month and at the end.

During August I treated myself to a coffee grinder (I have always wanted to grind beans myself) and a cafetière, so I got up a bit earlier than usual on September 1st and set to work making my first “real” drink for over a month.  The image in this post is of that first cup, and it was worth the wait.  What I hadn’t bargained on was the headache that followed, and the feeling of being spaced out for several hours afterwards!  I only had one coffee that day, and only one yesterday, and am having one as I write this: whether I go for two in a day remains to be seen because I’m still getting a bit light headed as the caffeine hits me.  I’ll still drink the “special” teas as well though, because I did enjoy them.

Coffee anyone?

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If we were having coffee right now, I’d be pretty disappointed with myself.  You see, I’ve given up caffeine for August, so I’d have relented after less than a fortnight. I had pretty bad headaches last week, as the caffeine left my system, but other than that it’s been reasonably easy – easier than I expected to be honest!  I gave up alcohol for January, which was easy because I’m not addicted to it: I suspect I am / was slightly addicted to caffeine.

If we were having coffee right now, it would be touch and go whether I’d sleep tonight. It’s nearly bed time, and I know that a coffee just before bed doesn’t help one relax.  So why do people often finish off their meal on a night out with an espresso?

If we were having coffee right now, I’d be the easiest person to make it for.  Coffee. Hot water. Stir. Done!