Folks, I'm half Cuban, half Colombian...being a coffee lover is practically in my DNA. Don't let the mellow website décor and penchant for meditation fool you, I am a full-fledged caffeine addict, and coffee is my drug of choice. And I meet so many parents who share my vice. My first taste was in childhood and by 9th grade, I was making myself a daily morning cup. As one might imagine, each year I just needed a little bit more...fast forward to my 30's and I'm easily consuming half a pot or more per day.
I drank the stuff almost competitively until earlier this year when a healthcare provider gave me a rude awakening: my body was dehydrated, and it was contributing to my chronic pain issues (more on that later…). Wait...hold up...ME?! The queen of "drink water, you ramen noodle!" I'm the one yelling at my best friends (one who's a physician, the other who's a psychologist) to drink more water. I'm the one who LOVES water! I'm the one who tells kids that their brains need water in order to function properly! This healthcare provider must have been confused when she told me this.
Nah. Not even close. *I* was the ramen noodle. Even worse, I noticed my coffee consumption was also interfering with my sleep. I was convinced that because I could *fall* asleep at a reasonable hour, my 6PM fix of café con leche wasn't to blame for the party in my brain that started at 2AM almost daily. If you hadn't already guessed, being a therapist and suffering from insomnia are NOT a pleasant combination.
So what to do? There was *no way* I was giving it up...but being the consumer of science that I am, I couldn't ignore the data that show that caffeine hangs out in the body for hoooours. When I tried to quit my afternoon cup(s) cold turkey, I'd be dragging ass by 3PM and that does me no favors when I typically work until 8PM or later.
Many stressed out parents that I work with face this same issue. When your daily routine includes working, prepping dinner, and getting the kids ready for bed, many folks simply can't do it without an evening caffeine fix. This then turns into a night of poor sleep, thus feeding the cycle of exhaustion and irritability that make parenting effing impossible. It's unbelievably frustrating when caffeine is both the answer to your sleepiness and the cause of your sleep deprivation.
Cue the nap-a-latte. I discovered this while listening to the Calm Masterclass (which I highly recommend!) "Better Sleep" by fellow psychologist Dr. Michael Breus. To be fair, this process is highly facilitated by the fact that I work from home and my house is often quiet. This is what works for me, but your circumstances may necessitate a different approach. I'm happy to consult with you about how to make this work given your context.
Here's what works *for me*:
1. Make enough coffee in the morning for one mug to have first thing, and one cup for the afternoon. Drink cup number 1 as desired (for me, it's milk) but only after I've had a glass of water.
2. Pour cup number 2 into a mug, let it cool down. Once it's cooled down, put it in the fridge for later. The nap-a-latte calls for no cream or sugar, which I can only do if it's chilled. It's also meant to be consumed within a minute or two, which I can't do if it's hot. Prepping this in the morning is also a major time-saver.
3. Every day, some time between 12PM and 2PM, I carve out about 30 minutes to drop what I'm doing and take care of myself. This has become part of my weekly schedule. I make sure there aren't any lingering issues that need my attention, and my phone is on silent.
4. Take the chilled coffee out of the fridge, no cream, no sugar. Chug.
5. Close the curtains, grab a cold eye mask from the fridge, go to the couch (I take mine on the couch, but some folks may have no choice but to go to their bedroom).
6. Set a timer for 25-30 minutes, depending on the day and my schedule. Open the Calm App and play either the Daily Calm, another favorite meditation, or a sleep story. It just depends on what my mind is craving that day. (Also, feel free to ask me about a free 30 day trial of the Calm app!)
7. Cold eye mask on. Blanket on. Chill out for 20-30 minutes depending on my schedule. Maybe I'll nap, maybe I won't. But I'll definitely rest.
What have I noticed in this process? Has this cured my afternoon slump? Sorta... With time, my need for caffeine in the afternoon has become more tolerable. Sure… I crave the warmth and smell, but my actual need for a boost has become much more manageable. Now all those other tips that experts give (like hydrating, rotating with my standing desk, going for a walk) are much more effective. And best of all, the party that used to go off in my brain at 2AM has mostly faded.
It's important to note that there's rarely a single change that will greatly alter your energy levels. I sincerely wish it were that simple. But real change, lasting change, is more often the result of many micro changes. Let's talk about the micro changes that you can make to take care of yourself so you can be your most rested, recharged self for your teen!
Note: This post was originally published on October 9, 2020 and republished with minor revisions on June 11, 2021