Student Life

Jad Does Things! Quitting coffee cold turkey

Hi! I’m Jad Abukasm, News Editor at The Concordian, and in this new segment, Kayla runs my life!

[Upbeat music]

This week, Kayla challenged me to quit coffee during my midterms. Here is how it went down.

It’s important to note that I love coffee. There’s nothing better than the first sip of liquid gold on a chilly February morning. You feel your senses wake up and a rush of energy shoot through your veins. In short, I love coffee, and I’m addicted.

Day 1:

I never really understood what people meant by “I have a headache because I didn’t have my coffee yet.” Well on Monday, I learned the hard way. After a long weekend of studying on about five to seven coffees a day, on Monday I crashed like a truck on a highway. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, felt nauseous, sleepy, and mostly, I had the worst headache of my life. Popping Tylenol and Advil every few hours, I was just looking forward to going to bed.

Day 2-4:

I feel AWESOME. From then on, I might have become a superhuman. My attention span (of usually about three seconds) drastically increased. For the very first time during my undergrad, I was able to multitask on more than two basic things at a time. I felt happy and full of energy. I became way more productive; instead of downing cups to battle the daily lows, I took the time to breathe, take a break and actually rest for a bit before I kept going.

Day 5-7:

Maybe the first rush mellowed down since I wasn’t as excited all the time, but I was still feeling great. The only issue was that I craved the taste of coffee. I was at my friend’s place on Friday morning and he made coffee for everyone. I found myself sniffing everyone’s cup for some kind of comfort. 

Overall, I realized that coffee is not necessary in my life, and really shouldn’t be. Why drink something that gives you short-term benefits, and only troubles in the long run? But things aren’t all-or-nothing either. Instead, I will start drinking coffee in moderation whenever I’m craving it for the taste! After all, we all have our weaknesses and mine, when coping with stress, is drinking coffee. So, my early February resolution is to take time for myself whenever I need to, consume stress-related foods and drinks in moderation, and think twice before brewing a hot cup of Joe.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

A cup of coffee and a spoonful of psychological effects

The impact caffeine has on Canadians and how it became a cultural dependence

It’s 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and the first thing you do after getting out of bed is probably make coffee. Whether you are having a shot of espresso, an Americano or a latte, there is nothing like that coffee aroma filling up your kitchen. As you pour it into your mug, add a splash of milk or teaspoon of sugar, you can already feel the warmth rising from the cup. Finals are right around the corner and, for many students, coffee is the go-to beverage for all-nighters and staying alert.

This is no surprise given that caffeine, the stimulant in the coffee, is a psychoactive substance that has physiological and psychological effects. Coffee is also ingrained in our society. According to the Coffee Association of Canada, Canadians drink an average of 3.2 cups of coffee per day. Here is a deeper look at how caffeine actually affects your body and how it has become a vital part of our daily lives.

What does coffee do to your brain and body?

According to Uri Shalev, a Concordia psychology professor whose research focuses on drug abuse and behavioural neurobiology, caffeine typically doesn’t have many negative effects when consumed in reasonable quantities. However, when a person drinks coffee, Shalev explained, the caffeine interferes with signals in the brain being sent from neurotransmitters to their receptors. Caffeine acts as an antagonist, essentially blocking the adenosine receptors, which are inhibitory sensors in the brain that calm the body and mind.

Since caffeine interferes with this calming effect, the body becomes more alert and awake, Shalev explained. That is why drinking coffee increases heart rate and blood pressure, and keeps you awake longer. The physiological effects caused by this over-stimulation can negatively affect a person’s mental state. Sylvia Kairouz, a Concordia sociology professor and the chair of research on gambling addiction, emphasized the risks of sleep deprivation caused by excessive coffee consumption. Since coffee keeps you alert, it also risks disrupting your sleep cycle, which isn’t something you want to happen during a stressful period like finals, Kairouz said.

According to Shalev, the physical reaction coffee causes can result in increased anxiety among people who are already prone to anxiety. This happens when the body interprets a faster heart rate and increased alertness as a sign of danger and raises stress levels. “I become stressed when I have more coffee than I’m used to,” said Sara Betinjaneh, a second-year political science student at Concordia.

Yet many students, including first-year sociology major Yasmin Mehri, rely on coffee to stay awake to study or finish assignments. Drinking coffee to stay up late can work to a certain extent, but too much can cause an imbalance in sleeping patterns, Kairouz explained. “It’s a loss more than a gain when you are not adopting a healthy lifestyle during finals,” she said. “Students should focus on an equilibrium.” Shalev reiterated that, as long as coffee consumption is moderate, it is not considered an addiction—not until it negatively affects the functioning of your daily life.

Why is coffee part of your day?

“My day is organized around my coffee,” said student Betinjaneh. “That’s when I take breaks.” According to Kairouz, “the ritual, the habit and the routine of having coffee daily limits the capacity to remove coffee from our daily life.” This dependence on the drink is also sociological because there is a whole experience that comes with drinking coffee, she explained. Drinking coffee has become a very popular social activity—when people meet up, it often happens over a cup of coffee.

“There is a connection that exists in people’s lives between working or studying and drinking coffee,” Kairouz said. The accessibility of coffee also plays a huge role in society’s growing dependence on coffee. Kairouz offered the example of Montreal’s Mackay Street, where there are at least six coffee shops. “I love the idea and the feeling of sitting in a coffee shop and having my coffee,” Betinjaneh said. The stimulation from an environment filled with coffee shops has impacted our caffeine consumption, Kairouz said.

Easy access to caffeine has impacted the amount we consume since a single press of a button can make our coffee right at home. According to the Coffee Association of Canada, coffee makers are increasingly popular in Canadian homes with 47 per cent of households owning a drip coffee makers and 38 per cent using single-cup machines. Kairouz added that the consumerist environment we live in plays a role in people’s coffee dependence as well. Since coffee has become ingrained in our culture, this leaves a looming question: are we having coffee because we need it or because we just walked by a cute coffee shop that serves the best latte art?

Photo by Kirubel Mehari.

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