Coffee and Anger: Is there a link?

Have you ever noticed in the morning, after stumbling out of bed and hanging onto your steaming coffee cup as if it were a life saver, that this warm creature comfort has the undesired side effect of making you excessively irritable? I find this is especially the case if I get busy serving the kids breakfast and drink coffee before eating myself. What was meant to help me get going (a big adult soother really) can often make me much more wired and jangley than I would like, and about half hour after coffee, I find myself short-tempered and wound up, especially of we are trying to head out the door.

“Mom!” the kids complain, “Why are you being so grumpy? We are not even being bad!” It’s true…my reactions become disproportionate, and it’s hard to calm down and be cheerful. Why is this?

In his article Why does coffee make some people irritable and others not? Will Wister explains the stress-inducing effects of caffeine.

By stimulating your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin, caffeine puts your body in this “fight-or-flight” state, which is useless while you’re just sitting at your desk. When this adrenal high wears off later, you feel the drop in terms of fatigue, irritability, headache or confusion.

How many of us in our busy world push ourselves beyond our natural abilities by using stimulants like caffeine? “Oh, I’m exhausted but gotta keep truckin’. Guess I’ll have another coffee.” It’s a quick fix…but at what cost? Rather than trying to take a power nap, or eat a healthy meal to give us long-term energy, we grab a cuppa joe and keep racing around. We ignore exhaustion and mask fatigue, ramping up our adrenals as if to deal with constant emergencies.

If I fail to take little breaks to read, pray or put my feet up, I end up frazzled and impatient. Having another coffee to “make it until bedtime” is just a bandaide solution. Real self-care takes more work and more discipline. It is hard to stop and rest when your revolving to-do list is endless. You feel you can’t. The world might fall apart! Or at least the house!

I guess the important question is, do we really get more done by constantly multitasking– never stopping for a break? Or would we benefit from quiet moments of reflection, where we can calmly plan our day, reflect on our life, and redirect it when we are veering off course? I remember a famous doctor saying that his productivity trick was taking quick cat-naps between patients. He knew the magic of doing one thing at a time. There is such a peaceful feeling in focussing on just one thing…and as a mom this is rare unless you’re really intentional about it. Yet it is so necessary to slow down, and get out of panic mode.

Wister’s article describes the long-term effects of stress:

When you are exposed to long periods of stress, your body gives warning signs that something is wrong. These physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral signs of stress should not be ignored. They tell you that you need to slow down. If you continue to be stressed and you don’t give your body a break, you are likely to develop health problems. You could also worsen an existing illness. Below are some common warning signs of stress….Anger, anxiety, crying, depression, feeling powerless, frequent mood swings, irritability, loneliness, negative thinking, nervousness, sadness[7]

These are pretty serious!! We are talking crisis level emotions…constantly!

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If we don’t break down the stress chemicals (e.g. through physical activity) they stay in the blood, preventing us from relaxing. Eventually this results in a permanent state of stress. That initial buzz turns to worry, irritability or panic. Challenges become threats; we doubt our ability to do even simple things and problems appear insurmountable. [8]

My Dad, who is a master herbalist, reminded me that caffeine depletes B vitamins, which are essential for stress management, brain function and a hormone regulation. So we had better replace them! This morning I drank Oasis Green Smoothie (full of B vitamins) and ate my porridge before I had a cup of coffee. Perhaps for long-term depletion, a B vitamin supplement could help, or adding more B vitamin rich foods to your diet. I also like to take the omega-three Evening Primrose oil, which contains fatty acids helpful for mood regulation.

But my Irish temper still matches my red hair far too well! So I think–shocking as this may be for coffee lovers–that I should try to switch to tea for a bit, and see if it helps. My kids are worth it…I don’t want to snap at them so much. Someone said that having a house full of young kids is like living in a constant state of emergency, but I don’t need to make my body think its an even greater emergency than it is by pumping up my adrenals with too much coffee!4-up-on-2016-11-07-at-9-53-am-5-compiled

The other day I got my favorite ever penance in confession. I was mentioning how I get too busy running after the kids sometimes to eat enough, and I know it makes me more prone to grumpiness. So Father advised me to make a point of eating a good lunch, and offering up the sacrifice of taking time to do so. Hurrah! what a great resolution, and one that will benefit everyone. When my step-dad visits and we have a nice early afternoon coffee with real cream, after a solid lunch, I am so much more calm than after a morning coffee with watery almond milk on an empty stomach. Yuck! Eating well makes a difference, and we have to be humble enough to acknowledge our basic needs, and to take care of them. Nobody else can–nobody else can eat, rest, take a nice bath or relax for us. All you moms out there, are you with me? No more surviving on coffee and peanut butter sandwich crusts the kids left behind!

Bad Day Mama Blues

Sometimes when you’re tired it feels like the world is ending, even though everything is actually ok. So this is a shout out for all the moms out there who had a bad day, or even a bad week, and don’t want to feel alone. If you’re tired of airbrushed social media images of perfection, this post is for you. 

So it all started with running out of coffee. Think alarm bells and

Code red, code red: mom down, mom down!

  

A disaster of epic proportions…leading to an immediate need to at least consume extra chocolate. So how ’bout you join me? Here’s a chocolate quiz. Eat one chocolate for every time you answer yes (chocolate chip or chocolate bar? That’s up to you!).

  1. Did your baby spit milk on you within 3 minutes of getting dressed? (Hey, good job getting dressed!)
  2. Was there a civil war at breakfast over who was looking at whom, followed by the building of a cereal box wall?
  3. Did you have to chase your naked toddler around the house to get his or her clean diaper on, right before you had to leave?
  4. Did you wonder if climbing the piles of laundry counted as a homeschool sport?
  5. Did your dishes magically reproduce the second your back was turned?
  6. Did you daydream about hammocks and drinks with little umbrellas in them?
  7. Did you feel inadequate or incapable…especially late in the afternoon, during that “witching hour” before dinner?
  8. Are you getting a toothache yet? 🍫🍫🍫
  9. Did your kids run screaming or getting suddenly faint and ill when you mentioned chores?
  10. Did it take three tries to call your child by the right name when correcting them?

Well, my friends, you’re not alone! Hope you’re munching something yummy, and ignoring those little ugly voices that sneak up when you’re tired and tell you you’re not good enough. If you’re worn down and feel like you have nothing left to give, it’s likely because you gave it all already. Like a fireman, you’ve been putting out fires all day…so the smoke and dust are a sign you’ve worked hard. Battle scars!

Motherhood is a tough job, and requires all your strength and all your heart. Chances are you’re doing an awesome job…not perfect, but awesome, so keep it up, and here’s to moms everywhere, struggling to love their little ones and make their homes happy, even when disaster strikes, and the coffee runs out! 

Time change

When I wake up

The lights are still twinkling

On the ski hill

And it’s just light enough

To see the snow-dusted mountains

Against the pale blue sky.

The kids are up already

Regardless of the time change,

Reading Barefoot Books 

To their baby brother on the couch.

“Ooooh, aaaah, gawaaa!” He solemnly proclaims. 

“He’s so talky!” says his big sister. 

We all know he comes by it honestly.

It’s gonna be another big day of stories and chatter….

I boil water for coffee while the baby sings. 

Opa the Coffee King

How do you know you’re a coffee wimp (like me) instead of an afficionado? When you drink it for various reasons other than enjoyment of the coffee taste. And perhaps can’t stand it black.

As a teenager I thought it smelled so gross I made a bet with a true afficianado, my Dutch step-dad Rob, that I wouldn’t drink any coffee until after graduation. Coffee is a sacred morning ritual for him…perfect preparation of the perfect cup…and the ongoing quest for the best bean..despite all this I held out and won my $100!

But now I drink coffee for three reasons: cream, sugar and caffeine. And kids! Helps me keep up with the little monkeys…my kids have told me in the past, “Mom, maybe you need a coffee to feel better.” You said it honey!

One of my daughters likes to share a sip of my afternoon coffee, with plenty of milk of course.

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I like to call it “cheerfulness in a cup.” That little boost to get your day started when you feel like you’re wading through the morning fog in your head, or to pick you up after the afternoon slump, when you have fallen asleep reading the kids stories on the couch, or on some days, when you need your caffeinated buddy to cook dinner with you and make it to bed time. For many parents, as my dear friends say, “Coffee is purely medicinal.”

Because of this, I’m willing to drink it pretty much any way, except black, which makes for interesting experiences when I’ve run out of milk. I’ve had coffee:

With strawberry soy milk (barf!)
With Reece Pieces ice cream (yum, in a strange, ice cream float way…)
With powdered milk (meh!)
With canned coconut milk (ick!)

And all this for someone who used to be a barista!! I can see your heads shaking in dismay…

Although I admit I have found one coffee I like for it’s taste, Starbucks medium Kenya blend. And any coffee that Rob makes tastes good, because he has that magic touch.

The thing is, that the way my step-dad makes coffee–heating the thick cups so they’ll keep the coffee warm, measuring carefully, pouring slowly, lovingly cleaning his espresso machine every day–reflect the artistry and patience of a true craftsman, and the sincere belief that if you’re going to do something, you should do it right.

This attitude imbues his whole life, and as a result he has done many things very, very well, and created a lot of beauty. The same hands that make the perfect cup of coffee have made beautiful houses, films, clothing and most remarkably, miniature steam trains that really work.

I admire him a lot, and as today is his birthday, want to wish him, my children’s wonderful Opa, “Haartelijk Gefelicteerd!” And may you make many more beautiful cups of coffee before you run out of steam! 🙂