Stop using caffeine and stress as fuel to chase the unreachable

Tanya Keskar | The Chronicle

Caffeine is a crutch.

As high school students, we are fortunate to have seven classes each day, options for post-secondary pathways and a multitude of extracurricular activities to learn from. However, the pressures to do it all can become overwhelming. And it is that pressure that leads to becoming overdependent on caffeine.

As reported by Medical News Today, 83.2% of teenagers drink caffeinated beverages daily. We have turned to caffeine as a coping method, a way to extend our mental and physical capacity past human limits, but at what cost? We forget its dangers. The Guardian reported that caffeine stimulates neurotransmitters and blocks adenosine receptors that regulate heart rate, blood flow and sleep cycles. In high dosages, it can serve to boost moods, but then leads to anxiety. These problems all exacerbate the cycle of exhaustion that initially leads us to caffeine. One drink may not be a problem. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that people 12-18 years old should not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine per day. But with Starbucks and Panera Bread, caffeine has become trendy. Whipped up into unique and colorful flavors, caffeine is a fun drink to start a day with, to have with friends – a part of our culture – and it is too easy to forget the caffeine content, have multiple drinks and have too much caffeine in a day.

A Starbucks Grande (16 fluid ounces) Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino has 85 mg of caffeine. A Grande Starbucks Chai Tea Latte has 95 mg of caffeine. Mason High School sells caffeinated Sparkling Ice, with 70 mg of caffeine per can. 

Small amounts of caffeine are not harmful. But two drinks, even slightly more than one, already crosses the limit.

Corporate culture is also trying to take advantage of the caffeine trend by over-caffeinating drinks that they can advertise to adolescents, creating a positive feeling associated with their beverage without expressly telling the consumer the amount of caffeine they are drinking. A regular-sized Panera Charged Lemonade has 260 mg of caffeine, nearly three times the recommended amount of caffeine for teens, and almost as much caffeine as a Bang energy drink, which includes a warning that they are not for people under 18. Conveniently placed next to the soda fountain, these lemonades are in fun flavors and colors such as “Mango Citrus” and “Strawberry Lemon Mint”. It’s simple to forget that the consumption of one glass will feel energy boosting at the moment but then lead to sleep disturbances and anxiety, two traits that should be avoided in high school.

The chemical effects of caffeine added to the existing stresses and pressure of high schoolers only serve to further the stress and our dependence on caffeine. In the grand scheme of life, we often feel as if we have to live up to an intangible definition of success, something that is always just a little bit farther. We ignore the sacrifices we have to make to continue reaching for more, and it is all too easy to grab a coffee or an energy drink to try and force your brain to do a little bit more homework or to stay up in the morning after a late night.

Our bodies do not deserve to be dependent on caffeine to function.

Caffeine is a temporary bandage, a one-time solution to stay awake. We have to take action to prioritize our physical and mental health over a forever far-away definition of success. I struggle with closing my work at the end of the day to get to sleep at a reasonable time. I always tell myself that if I stretch my schedule for one day, I can get back on track, but it never happens. There will always be one more assignment, one more email, one more essay. But sleep is a necessary part of life, not an inconvenience, and I know that I need to treat it like that.

We deserve to feel healthy and in control of our lives. And while it is much more complicated to accomplish in real life, the balance between stress, caffeine and sleep is crucial for our well-being, for now, and in the future. We can intentionally educate ourselves about our caffeine consumption and be more conscious of the rash decisions to grab an energy drink in the middle of the night, choosing sleep and health over a never reached definition of success. 

Let us leave our caffeine dependency and choose balance.