Coffee. Anyone who knows me on any level, whether personally, professionally or only through social media, knows how much I adore coffee. My favorite meet up with friends is over coffee. My favorite place to write is at a local coffee shop. My favorite activity to do alone is go to Barnes and Noble and, with coffee in hand, browse through the hundreds of books on the shelves. Coffee seems to facilitate creativity for me, creativity in my writing, creativity in my coaching, creativity in my podcast ideas, and general creativity in my day. Whether it's a hot summer morning or a chilly rainy afternoon, warm coffee is my drink of choice. As a dear friend accurately put it in describing her own connection with coffee, "Coffee is romantic to me."
With my immense adoration of the drink, you can imagine my surprise when a few nights ago a couple fellow coffee-loving friends expressed there is actually a time in their lives where they DON'T appreciate coffee.
We were sitting around discussing the topic of anxiety actually, because all three of us have experienced the uncomfortable emotion to one degree or another at some point in our lives. I have been collecting ideas from non-clinical friends of mine lately for an upcoming blog post I would like to write on coping with anxiety, so we were sharing our individual strategies for dealing with the uncomfortable emotion. As our conversation shifted to what aggravates our anxiety, one of my two friends mentioned he cannot have any caffeine when his anxiety is flowing in a high state, and my other friend laughed and agreed, while comically sharing her own disaster experiences of mixing caffeine and anxiety.
Listening to their accounts, I found myself staring at the two of them in confusion wondering who they were and how they had inhabited the bodies of my dear, coffee-loving friends, while quickly running through my mental list of exorcism options. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. They proclaimed themselves coffee-lovers and yet were also claiming there was a time when coffee wasn't a welcomed, soothing experience in their lives. I couldn't relate at all! This was a concept that was completely outside of my paradigm.
I clearly had to defend the honor of my most favored drink, so I shared my own experience with mixing coffee and anxiety. For me, coffee is a soothing ritual. In fact, it is the most soothing of all my rituals. In the morning, making time to sit quietly sipping my coffee keeps me from feeling hurried and frantic about the start of my day. When I fail to make time to include that in my morning routine, I notice I will spend the rest of that day in a higher state of anxiety feeling rushed and scatter-brained. When I'm actively experiencing a high level of anxiety, coffee acts as a time out for me to sit with whatever is causing the anxiety and sort out my thoughts. Perhaps it is simply the act of quietly sipping a warm drink that I find soothing, because I also enjoy Valerian tea in the evenings, but either way, drinking coffee is a grounding strategy of mine, and one I couldn't imagine coping with anxiety without using.
Despite understanding that caffeine can make some people feel jittery, which would be a most unpleasant experience indeed in a high state of anxiety, I just couldn't seem to wrap my mind around NOT drinking coffee when my anxiety is high, which brings me to the actual point of this article. While I could write ballads about coffee all day long, that isn't what this article is about. This article is about empathy.
Psychology Today defines empathy as "the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective", commonly referred to as walking a mile in their shoes. However, this can be difficult to do if you are stuck within your own paradigm. It had never occurred to me that coffee could increase someone's anxiety. This made me realize that while I tend to pride my ability to have empathy for others, empathy is a constant practice. To truly practice empathy it seems, we must always be open to the idea that our paradigm might not match up with the paradigms of others. This simple realization made me wonder, how many problems in the world, both large and small, could be cured, or at least soothed, with just a touch of empathy? Since these thoughts on empathy were facilitated by a conversation about coffee, it is my intention while sipping my coffee every morning from now on, to consciously welcome empathy into my day in the hope that it will broaden my perspective and weaken the hard lines I have drawn around my paradigm throughout my life. What could we accomplish in the journey for world peace, if each of us started our day out with a daily practice of empathy?
Much love <3
A lover of words, magic, and the idea of changing the world by encouraging the pursuit of one dream at a time. Living the dream myself as a professional boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter.