Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

From Grumpy to Jumpy

Caffeine has been the bogeyman for lots of ills. Now an expert in emotional intelligence says it could stunt your success.

Side Effects of CaffeineTravis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, says controlling your emotions is a factor in business and professional success. Drinking too much coffee can make you lose control and doom your chances to sit in the corner office. He calls it the “silent killer of success.” He has a point.

A lot of people start drinking coffee to stay awake to finish term papers in the wee hours or wake up in time to straggle to work. Young adults, weighed down by raging hormones and an overload of Instagam selfies, have a hard time waking up before noon and need a jolt of java to get going when they do rise “early.” They are already grumpy and caffeine in coffee makes them grumpy and jumpy.

One morning coffee leads to another until, before you know it, you have consumed an entire pot and are wired. What goes up comes down, so you have another coffee in the afternoon to prop you up long enough to make it home.

It becomes a cycle of addiction. You live from caffeine hit to caffeine hit. And that’s the kernel of Bradberry’s thesis that getting high on caffeine isn’t as good as it seems.

“Coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood,” Bradberry says. “The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights. In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.”

The reason caffeine pumps you up is because it triggers the release of adrenaline. The rush can empower your emotions to overtake your reason. You can explode at your boss or lose it with a coworker, damaging your reputation or even leading to dismissal.

A steady stream of adrenaline can increase blood pressure, stimulate the heart and produce rapid, shallow breathing, which in turn denies oxygen to your brain. You in effect start losing your mind, which is a definite step down from either grumpy or jumpy.

Coffee and beansThat cup of coffee you down at 8 a.m. is still affecting you at 8 p.m. The mid-morning and later trips to the coffee machine will roll around inside you when you are trying to sleep. Your brain may be unable to hit its own reset button, which not only refreshes, but gives the gray matter a chance to sift and organize the day’s input.

Bradberry says caffeine is like other stimulants that can be physiologically and psychologically addictive. Drinking a lot of coffee feeds your habit. Trying to stop involves withdrawal symptoms.

Working long hours as a reporter and later as a congressional aide compelled my coffee-drinking habit. I savored the first cup of coffee, but after that I drank it for its effect, not its taste, which often resembled battery acid.

My moment of reckoning came when I passed out on my back porch drinking a cup of coffee. The diuretic effect of coffee dehydrated me. Facing the choice of passing out on my porch again or giving up coffee, I chose giving up the coffee.

People ingest caffeine from more than coffee. The biggest pop of caffeine comes from so-called energy drinks. Mountain Dew isn’t far behind. Even decaf drinks can contain some caffeine.

Caffeine isn’t all bad, but it certainly isn’t all good. People who down caffeine to wake up or plod on should embrace new strategies, such as pouring ice water over your head. It would be cheaper and less dangerous to your professional health, even though it won’t cure your grumpiness.



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