A lot more than just a coffee break

Third on my Fruits and Friends series is Hannah. Another fellow hare at Edinburgh, she is a coffee lover (addict?) who is always up for a coffee & a catch-up. In this post she goes into why a coffee break is so much more than just a cuppa. I won’t steal her thunder though so be sure to read on! 

Ah yes, the humble coffee break. A concept that has wiggled its way into most of our daily routines. Whether that is making yourself a home brew, meeting up with friends or sitting down for a solo coffee with your laptop, it is fair to say that the majority of us are familiar with the concept of a coffee break. In Edinburgh in particular we are so spoilt for choice with such a wide range of independent, and dare I say chain, coffee shops near and around our main campus.

I guess it seems a bit strange to be writing a blog on this at the moment, with current restrictions meaning a lot of our favourite coffee shops are closed or only offering takeaway services, but this post is not really about visiting coffee shops and more about the benefits that come with the chat. It seems fitting as it is mental health awareness week! With that in mind I have been enjoying seeing how the industry and people have adapted in the last few months; from socially distanced takeaway services to virtual zoom coffee mornings.

Firstly, an obvious benefit of a coffee break is in fact the coffee itself. However, I realise that everyone is not a coffee lover so tea, juice or even water is more than acceptable. Grab yourself a sweet treat as well if you fancy – you deserve it.

The typical benefits of taking a coffee break are not hard to see. Stretching your legs and getting some fresh air obviously will improve many aspects of your work such as your productivity and motivation. It is so important to give our minds a rest from our screens every once in a while. I am always genuinely delighted when one of my fellow library pals suggests a coffee break – even if we have only been there for an hour… But let’s not be so hard on ourselves and if you need a break then take it . You’ll feel better for it.

These physical benefits can’t be ignored but recently I have been reflecting on how these coffee breaks, whether solo or with a friend, are essential for our mental health. In our current society, our daily lives are filled by work, social, exercise and personal commitments. I was recently recommended the book ‘Notes on a Nervous planet’ by the social media sensation and author Matt Haig. He compares our brains to a computer. He describes how sometimes we can have so many tabs open in our brains and so if we do not close these then we will ultimately, just like a laptop, crash. And so yes, at points in the past few months I have definitely found that I have had ‘too many tabs open’ in my mind and lacked the ability to close these. Some of these ‘tabs’ in our life may never close but in order to slow our thinking down we need to try close at least some of them. Personally I have found that the university lifestyle indirectly opens far too many tabs in our brains:  we are encouraged to pursue sporting and social interests whilst maintaining a high standard of uni work and still keep on top of relationships and friendships.  We should try to recognise when there are too many tabs open and close some of these down when it all becomes a little too much. Maybe a coffee break and chat could do just that for us.

Earlier this year I was genuinely overwhelmed by the amount of people who reached out or dropped me a message to simply ask ‘do you fancy grabbing a coffee?’. Reflecting on this I have realised just how much I appreciated it at the time. As humans we tend to keep everything to ourselves as we are often scared to admit our struggles or weaknesses. For example I have found that at uni it is hard not to get caught up in a competition for who is ‘doing the most’: whether that’s going to the gym or clubbing. By reaching out to a friend not only will they feel like there is someone there to listen, but it also reveals the truth behind the ‘how are you?’. Our natural response to worries is to bottle them up and so these tabs on our personal computer will begin to build up rather than close down.

It may sound rather cliché, but I have found that speaking to others – emptying that bottle as such – about what I was really feeling has truly helped me through some tough days. It doesn’t mean that within that coffee break the only topic of conversation will be your ‘worries’, but it is nice to have them recognised by someone and for them to show some support. You may even find they can relate to you. We leave (hopefully) feeling refreshed and with a weight, even if only slightly, lifted off our shoulders. It is also somewhat comforting to know that everyone around you is doing the exact same thing.

Although I do love a good excuse for an overpriced coffee, looking back I now realise that taking a break to chat over coffee (or tea) with friends really is the ‘perfect brew’. These small breaks allow us to express how we are really feeling which is much more than a generic ‘I’m fine’ text reveals. It is so comforting to know that someone has genuinely reached out to listen to you and understands your worries. Shoutout to my flatmates who hear these on the daily. 🙂

I’d like to encourage you to reach out to someone and ask them for a coffee or a chat, maybe that is virtually right now, to ensure that we control those tabs in our brains. Especially in times like these.

On a separate note here are a few of my favourite coffee shops in Edinburgh for anyone who is visiting and fancies a brew. Myself and a few of my close friends also run a wee coffee account to spread the word of independent coffee shops in Edinburgh. You can find us at: @edinburghbrew.

  • Soderberg (Quartermile & Morningside)
  • Artisan Roast (Bruntsfield & Stockbridge)
  • Castello Coffee (Tollcross)
  • Machina Coffee (Tollcross)
  • Detour Espresso (Marchmont)

Big thank you to Emma for asking me to write this – I love her blog and would recommend it to anyone!

Before signing off I want to say another massive thank you to Hannah for writing this post. Brb while I go grab a cuppa and take a break 😉

Emma ♥♥