Pathways for positivity: Anxiety and caffiene

It was as though my big toe had been plugged into a high-voltage power source.

I was charged up, completely awake, and fixated on the ceiling, a gradual sense of discomfort spreading throughout my body. I recognised the symptoms well. The onset of an anxiety episode triggered by an excessive intake of caffeine.

The morning had been a whirlwind of errands, my determination to tackle tasks head-on prompting me to skip both breakfast and my usual generous mug of fragrant jasmine green tea. I settled for a swift glass of water before rushing out.

By mid-morning, I found myself in a café, opting for a large cup of coffee to fuel my efforts. As I continued to check items off my to-do list, I rewarded myself with another huge Americano and a dash of milk, all in the spirit of maintaining momentum and getting my jobs done.

Soon after downing the second coffee and leaving the café, I was overcome by waves of queasiness, dizziness, and the jitters.

I held my hands up before me and saw that they were shaking uncontrollably. A twinge in my shoulder seemed to radiate down my arm, prompting a momentary panic about a possible heart attack. I knew it wasn’t, but my gosh did it hurt. It was actually the repercussions of my excessive caffeine intake.

Struggling, I managed to buy a sandwich, albeit in a confused state where I almost grabbed a bottle of Pepsi before correcting myself – additional caffeine certainly wouldn’t have aided my predicament. After eating the sandwich and hydrating, the tremors began to subside just enough for me to drive home.

I slept for an hour and a half, upon waking, I was greeted by a pounding headache and a dry mouth. I drank copious amounts of water, an attempt to flush the caffeine out of my system. Unfortunately, for the remainder of the day I felt unlike myself – a blend of queasiness, clamminess, and overall unease.

Later that night, while lying awake, a sense of impending distress started to take hold. Fortunately, my profession involves assisting individuals grappling with anxiety, and worry. As a First Aid for Mental Health Instructor, I’ve amassed practical techniques to prevent emerging anxiety attacks. Swiftly, I was able to divert these unsettling emotions and managed a restless sleep.

The following day, I prioritised hydration through water and soothing green tea, consciously avoiding caffeine in all forms, including chocolate for several days. Now, I proceed with careful consideration, learning from the experience and treading cautiously.

I was aware that caffeine overload happens, but it wasn’t something I’d experienced before. An empty stomach, stronger coffee than usual, and a large quantity in a short amount of time will have contributed to my ill effects. It hasn’t put me off drinking coffee, but it has made me more cautious.


Shannon Humphrey is a First Aid for Mental Health Instructor working within the education sector, businesses and private clients. Visit for more information or to enquire about a booking.

Photo: Shutterstock


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