Brain fuel – week 54

PhD Life

We did not order any coffee to come in the shopping this week which was a slight mistake. I am writing this with a brain that is awake but very cloudy. Concentration and logical thought are a bit of a struggle. From experience, without coffee, it will take around a month to reset my coffee addiction.

So, the dilemma is whether or not I want to lose optimal performance for the sake of weaning myself off of coffee. On the plus side, I will spend less money. On the negative side, I will lose a ritual that I enjoy – the first coffee of the day whilst reading a book.

I quit coffee for around three months last year, and it was not fun for the first month. After that it became normal, and everything was okay again. My energy was evenly spread throughout the day when I was a non-coffee drinker. Whereas, when I drank coffee, I got to choose when I was most alert.

Choosing when you are most alert is quite the ability if you stop and think about it. I guess this is only the case if you have a relatively low tolerance of caffeine otherwise you would have to consume coffee constantly just to feel ‘normal’. I don’t think addiction is quite the right word as cars aren’t addicted to fuel they just can’t perform without it. Dependence is probably better.

And there it is, the preamble ramble…

If I wasn’t quite explicit enough with my explanation that I am not feeling myself, maybe the length of the preamble could be used to diagnose the fact that I am not quite on top form.


There were a couple of interesting things that happened this week. Firstly, one of my fellow students has been told they cannot continue. This has come as a massive shock to me as I thought she was a good student. She did not get on well with the supervisor, and this is probably the main reason for her dismissal.

She is far more qualified than I am for the job. She had two masters degrees and had already had a years experience of being a PhD student for one year prior to joining our group. I am a masterless wonder, wondering how it is not me that is leaving. There is still time.

I was told this news by the lab gossip and don’t actually know this.

The second interesting thing that happened was that we went out for a meal with everyone in our lab group – minus one. It was at a restaurant most of us had already been to and enjoyed. However, our table was situated next to a party of very drunk middle-aged men. Singing. Loudly. The entire of the restaurant were sick of this group, and after a good twenty-minutes of everyone trying to be nice, the tension was cut.

A brave group of women sitting adjacent to the group asked for them to politely shut-up. They said okay and then carried on anyway. Then a group of similar looking ‘adult’ males started swearing and trying to persuade them to stop.

At first, it all seemed like bravado, until both groups stood up simultaneously, and the waiting staff jumped in between. Having not been involved I wasn’t scared of injury, I was scared of all the lovely Indian food getting pushed off of our table in the brawl!

A long few minutes of squaring-off occurred until there was classic ending as far as macho posturing is concerned.

It turns out one of the people from the offending group went to school with one of the other group, and they spent the rest of the night hugging and reminiscing, which was only slightly less annoying than the original singing.

Whether or not you were hoping for a bloody ending or a happy ending to that story, will be largely subjective, and perhaps a reflection on you.

This was just from one day this week! The rest of the stuff I did seems dull in comparison.

Author: Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

30 thoughts on “Brain fuel – week 54”

  1. Loved this. I can also relate since I gave up caffeine last month, though not coffee. I switched to decaf on a whim when I saw they had it fresh-ground style at the local shop. After I switched I was having terrible headaches for a week then suddenly realized why that must have been. I never thought caffeine affected me so much but clearly it did. I have noticed more energy in the afternoons slowly coming on. But the first week was grumpy.

    I feel very sad for your fellow student…. that must indeed have been very shocking. You write humbly… perhaps you a better communicator in some ways? And perhaps that’s a significant part of any candidature. But there could be other things behind the scenes not known. It must be a lot of very hard work for you and anyone else in the program, and very stressful. Sending good vibes and take care Louis

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    1. Thanks for commenting Nadine, as this was written a few months ago I can say that she has now turned a corner and is doing well! have you been tempted to have any caffeine recently? I found I also miossed the routine of making coffee and sipping it when I gave it up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Louis, so very glad to hear that. No I don’t miss caffeine at all but I still love my (now-decaf) coffee. And the headaches are gone. For me it’s all about the ritual. I might evolve the ritual to tea one day (I do also drink a lot of herb tea during the rest of the day), or perhaps lemon water, as I was doing for a while, but not yet. I love my steel coffee press… ahhhh.

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          1. Maybe try herb teas… those ones that come in pyramid-shaped bags with dried flowers in them…. soooooo goood. Or just pick some clover heads, raspberry leaves and/or linden leaves & berries in the summer and pour boiling water over them… I say this because I’m not a fan of black tea either.

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  2. Great post! I wanted to chime in on the “coffee issue.”

    I love coffee. I love the smell. I love the fill of a warm mug in my hand. It’s comforting and whole and makes me complete.

    I also gave up caffeine several months ago. Wait was horrible. I pray your experience is MUCH easier than mine was, but — I will tell you one thing — I will not go back! I feel so much better mentally and physically! Plus, that whole spending less money doesn’t hurt at all either!

    After a while with absolutely no caffeine, I began drinking, indulging and binging on one mug of decaf coffee a day while I read or write. Why? Because, come on! Doesn’t it feel so right?!?!? And, around here I found some truly excellent decaf coffee.

    Good luck on your journey! And, thank God for saved Indian food!

    ~DMM

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel for you Louis, one does not order shopping and then forget the coffee.
    With regard to your fellow student, just goes to show that qualification only is not always the key to success. Maintaining a good regard and respect for ones superiors is sometimes best for succeeding in ones current state of existance.
    May you have a wonderful day, get yourself some coffee, life is hard enough as it is, you dont need to punish yourself by withholding coffee.

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      1. It embodies all the senses Louis, that smell, it can catch your attention anywhere in the world, a good bean being roasted. The liquid dripping ever so seductively from the spout into an open, wait in b, wanting mug. There is something about watching the dark rich liquid creating that lustres foam, then you know you have a good brew going, then that first sip, the wet, heat on your lips almost as if you can taste the stress, sleep and worry leave your body, even if it’s just for a moment. Then that little sigh after you swollow, a little like that moment just after a kiss when you no for sure your going in for seconds.

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  4. hey! i know a thing or two about habits, how to change them, and things, and i don’t know if you know the book the power of habits by charles duhigg. it’s a nice neuroexplanation on how your brain deals with it. TL;DR: you need to find a way to reward yourself better when you do not have coffee and connect it to the cue that tells you “it’s time for coffee” and also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMbsGBlpP30 🙂

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  5. Nice post Louis. I got cracked up by the part about not scared of injury but scared of the lovely Indian food getting pushed off your table. I took a lot of coffee as a student. Most of us did to keep alert for better performance. I just hope you’re not exceeding caffeine daily intake though, so you don’t exceed the healthy amount.

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  6. Being a doctor takes a special kind of mind that some people never attain in their limited time on Earth. Those people can be bright but they may never cross into the doctoral hemisphere until they crossover. These people tend to always have multiple masters degrees. You seem to have an eccentricity to you that may make your endeavor to becoming a doctor quite possibly. Good luck with it.

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  7. Having read this post and some of the subsequent comments, I’m quite relieved to hear that coffee withdrawal becomes easier as time goes by! I’m only at the beginning of my journey to cut my caffeine intake, and so far it’s been rather a trial. So, coming across your words was fortunate timing for me 🙂 Apart from this, I’m glad another door opened for your student, and that all ended well in the restaurant. Twists of fate, perhaps, which are just some of life’s little mysteries!

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      1. Thanks! I’m going for the cutting down by degrees approach, as trying to go straight to zero was giving me terrible headaches. The struggle is real indeed! But it’s been two weeks now and the cravings at least are gone; that’s legitimate progress for me haha 🙂

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