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In between the busy lives we lead, are those five to ten minute breaks we take to quickly get a ‘fix’ or to recharge and boost the energy we need to keep up in order to meet those back to back deadlines. Some of us don’t have to keep our energy levels high, however, there is that ONE THING we feel the need to consume, in order for our day to go according to plan. 

What are you consuming on a daily basis? At what point can you admit to have inculcated dependency on these substances? 

 According to Medical Doctor, Dr Thabang Molefe, dependency on substances has dire consequences as it has the potential to impair normal body functioning and can get other aspects of your health neglected, as more focus is shifted towards obtaining the substance that you are addicted to. 

This dependence on substances is usually taken as a norm. Medication and energy drinks have become an integral part of people’s lives, and this is not a healthy way of living. 

The most common addictive substances are:

  1. Caffeine

One of the most popular beverages that people are dependent on is coffee. ‘’It is the caffeine in coffee that is a problem, so people need to be aware of all other products that contain caffeine such as tea, colas and energy drinks,’’ says registered Dietician and Spokesperson for The Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Lerato Radebe. 

Excessive caffeine has the following ramifications:

  • Increases blood pressure
  • Causes dehydration (which leads to increased food intake in many people as they confuse thirst for hunger) 
  • Increases anxiety, heartburn, and insomnia amongst many other things.
  1. Pain meds e.g. Opioids (morphine, codeine), cough syrup, sleeping pills.

One of the most common reasons people often consult their local GP is to get some sort of pain relief or prevent potential pain. But what often happens is that people tend to become more reliant on the medication, and overuse it as they may enjoy the side effects of feeling euphoric, drowsy, numb or as an escape. They find themselves going over the counter more than they should. According to bhekisisa.org, experts are becoming increasingly concerned that people requesting medication by a specific brand name or asking for a repeat prescription earlier than needed could be addicted to codeine. 

Some of the health effects of painkiller abuse include:

  • Weak mental function
  • Liver or kidney disease or failure
  • Cardiovascular problems, etc.
  1. Sugar, Refined carbohydrates and Fats

“For individuals who have busy lifestyles, it is possible to keep up without being dependent on substances. ‘’The best diet is one that involves a lifestyle change instead of trying to rely on quick fixes,” says Radebe. Such a diet should include;

  • Plenty of vegetables, the more raw, the better.
  • Good balance of fruits (don’t overdo fruits, two small portions a day is enough).
  • Plant based carbohydrates like potatoes, sweet potatoes, mielies, etc.
  • Healthy portions of meat (try to consume more fish and chicken, red meat should be eaten occasionally).

‘’The ease or difficulty of rehabilitating depends on many factors, such as the duration the person has been dependent on the substance, the insight the person has on the impact of their substance use, and readiness for change both psychologically and cognitively, because the person may think they are ready to change, however, because of their psychological dependence on the substance, they may struggle with rehabilitation,’’ says Psychologist, Dr Marcia Zikhali as she shares the following tips to maintaining a healthy lifestyle while we lead busy lives;

  • Mindfulness– this can assist you in staying in check of both your physical and mental well-being.
  • Creating routine– this helps with creating discipline to daily activities and will keep you goal orientated, as you will know that there are certain things that need to be achieved for the day.
  • Having a support system– the importance of having an emotional support system is important to your mental health as it gives space for expression so that you are able to offload, or debrief when things get overwhelming.
  • Having activities or hobbies-this allows a more relaxed space to be an outlet, this space can be used for emotional grounding in that you are able to detach from emotional distress.
  •  Boundary setting– setting healthy boundaries in interpersonal relationships can assist you in staying in control of your emotional wellbeing.

This may take a bit of time to get used to, however, with a little bit of discipline and determination, you can restructure your lifestyle to a healthier non-detrimental version. Think about it, and start cutting off all those things you might be dependent on!