In his book ‘Why We Sleep’, Matthew Walker also talks about caffeine, because it affects our sleep. He says, ‘The consumption of caffeine represents one of the longest and largest unsupervised drug studies ever conducted on the human race, perhaps rivaled only by alcohol.’ The use of caffeine is an example of ‘self medication’.
We adopt behaviours that we think will make us feel better, whether that be a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, a doughnut, a cigarette, or a new pair of shoes. But of course, none of these things will make us feel better for longer than a couple of hours. Happiness doesn’t come from things it comes from within.
Self-medication with alcohol, sugar, caffeine, nicotine, recreational drugs, shopping or even binge-watching box sets can be fine in moderation. Once you begin to rely on them to change (or rather mask) the way you feel, they will be detrimental to your wellbeing.
Alcohol is a socially acceptable drug that many people use on a daily basis. There is plenty of evidence that if used excessively, alcohol leads to very serious health issues.
Caffeine in coffee, tea and colas trigger the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, putting your body into a state of alert. Maybe you find this helpful to wake up or stay awake, but stress hormones are designed for short term use only. When these hormones are activated for long periods there can be long term health implications.
And, of course, our modern-day addiction to sugar is a major problem. Our bodies are designed to work with no more than three teaspoons of sugar in our bloodstream. Breakfast cereals, for example, all contain sugar, and many people add yet more. A can of cola has seven teaspoons of sugar and the government recommendation for women’s daily intake of sugar is just ten teaspoons.
So, if you do feel stressed, try cutting down on caffeine, alcohol, and sugar for a while.
Certain behaviours can also be seen as ‘Self-Medication’
Sometimes we use things like shopping and gambling, when we feel down, in an attempt to feel better.
How often do you play online bingo when you feel a bit down?
How often do you order things you don’t actually need or even want in a late-night online shopping spree?
Emotional shopping can be as big a problem as emotional eating. And it won’t make you feel better either.
There are plenty of organisations that help with reducing dependence on alcohol, drugs, and gambling; your GP surgery may be the best place to seek information for that. Cutting down on caffeine and sugar is something you can work on safely by yourself.