Caffeine Effects on the Mind and the Workplace

Caffeine Effects on the Mind and the Workplace - Introvert Whisperer

 

A cup of strong black coffee has been romanticized as the constant companion of those who really put their noses to the grindstone. Go to any coffee shop in any medium to large-sized city and there will be a budding novelist or two scrawling in their Moleskine notebooks with a mug of black coffee on the table or in their hands. The caffeine triggers their stream of consciousness. Or at least, that’s the romanticized view.

 

In reality, is this really what they should be drinking to get the most out of their muses?

Caffeine works by tricking your body into thinking it’s not tired. Adenosine is the neurochemical that, when bound to receptors, tells your brain that energy levels are low thus slowing processes. Caffeine blocks the adenosine from getting to its receptors, keeping your mind from slowing and burning your reserve energy sources.

The health risks of caffeine have long been talked about: high blood pressure, heart contractions, increased anxiety, depression. Less talked about is caffeine’s detrimental effects on an individual’s abilities to interact with their fellow man and to solve problems creatively.

 

Emotional Intelligence is a trait that many hiring managers see as equal in importance to standard intelligence. Those with good emotional intelligence are able to stay calm under pressure, resolve conflict effectively, lead by example, be empathetic, and make more measured decisions.

 

Adrenaline, which is released when caffeine is ingested, stifles emotional intelligence. It allows all of your emotions to happen at once, tripping over each other, and throwing rationality out the door in favor of a quick response. Irritability and anxiety often take control when normally they would not if adrenaline wasn’t involved.

When faced with a demanding task that could very easily trigger stress, the knee-jerk reaction for a lot of people is that “I need coffee to get through this. It will help me focus and get it done.” However, if you’re stressed from the get-go, the effects of adrenaline will only serve to amplify this stress.

 

Managers should especially be wary of the adverse effects of too much caffeine consumption. Employees must feel able to rely on a healthy line of communication between themselves and their managers. According to an article from the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s online business school, “Part of good management is nurturing a psychologically safe environment to encourage these meaningful interactions.”

Going back to that budding novelist in the coffee shop, pounding mug after mug of java, trying to write the next great piece of literature, is coffee opening or closing their floodgates of creativity? In an article from the New Yorker, Maria Konnikova argues the latter. “Creative insights and imaginative solutions,” Konnikova says, “often occur when we stop working on a particular problem and let our mind move on to something unrelated.” Since caffeine increases concentration, it hinders the mind’s ability to wander.

Without this freedom to wander, creativity is stifled. Instead of building a flying machine out of cardboard, twine, and dozens of Hot Wheels cars, the novel’s protagonist will simply go to the plane store and buy one.

 

If you’re a long-time coffee drinker, it’s going to be difficult to break free of the cycle of caffeine withdrawal and caffeine consumption. The worst symptoms of withdrawal are usually over in a week, but for heavy coffee drinkers, it can sometimes take a month or more to fully recover.

However, it will be worth it, in the long run, to be free of the caffeine addiction. Don’t be swayed by the romanticized image of burning the midnight oil with a cup of coffee steaming on the desk. It is not liquid inspiration. It is liquid irritability and tunnel vision.

 

As an alternative to quitting cold turkey, trade coffee out for green tea. With lower caffeine and higher antioxidants, green tea will give you the boost you need as well as greater health benefits than those offered by coffee.

Once free from the withdrawal symptoms, there are a handful of alternatives that will help get your morning off to the right start. For example, the natural fructose in an apple will wake you up and keep you going without the crash that comes from caffeine. If you’d like to stick with a beverage, Inc.com offers a list of healthy alternatives including Kombucha Tea, Yerba Mate, apple cider, and probiotic drinks.

 

Coffee has a strong grasp on the working class. It’s so often joked about as the secret to an individual’s working success. Everyone in the break room has heard someone say, “I’m useless without coffee.” However, that’s just the withdrawal talking. So do yourself a favor and retire your coffee mug, or at least fill it with something else.

Reed Parker

 

 

 

This has been a guest post by Reed Parker. He is a freelance writer whose interests include business, psychology, marketing, and bad jokes. He once stayed up all night trying to find the sun. Then it dawned on him.

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