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For many of us, it’d be utterly unthinkable to start a new day without a cup of lovely, jubbly java. It’s often what we look forward to most when we wake up every morning. Coming in all flavours and sizes, this aromatic and invigorating beverage has us hooked instantaneously.

But alas, coffee is a mixed blessing.

You must have come across those conflicting studies that depict coffee as your best friend who can backstab you when you expect it the least. I still hurt now.

Is it any good career-wise? Can coffee take its toll on your concentration at work? Is it true that it only adds fuel to the fire in already stressed out individuals?

Let’s investigate what role coffee plays in our effort to stay highly productive and focused all day.

Man throwing coffee over himself


Temporary boost that can leave you feeling sluggish

The problem with our favourite mood-lifter is that it gives us “short term benefits of heightened awareness/alertness and more energy, but long term may result in a crash after each consumption to lower levels of energy than previously thereby necessitating another cup and another cup, etc. Thus, it may be addictive and ultimately may result in adrenal exhaustion”.

That being said, ever wondered if you would function more efficiently without your habitual cup of Joe? Seems like that ominous “crash” can lead to depleted energy levels and mess up your attempt at sustained concentration.

As luck would have it, there are coffee hacks that can help you maximise benefits and minimise downsides by orchestrating your coffee drinking habits in a certain way.

Basically, the rule of thumb is not to drink coffee when cortisol levels are at their highest and to keep oneself adequately hydrated. Low cortisol level times are the perfect coffee times – 9:30-11:30 am and 1:30-5:00 pm

“Production of cortisol peaks between 8 am - 9 am, meaning your body is naturally caffeinating itself (albeit without caffeine) during these hours of the day.”

Man crawling on the ground


Not for the anxious-hearted

If you’re one of those easily excitable people with naturally high awareness/alertness, gulping down litres of coffee can have the effect of pouring petrol on the fire. No, it’s not recommended to drink coffee if you’re prone to anxiety and restlessness.

Caffeine interferes with adenosine, a brain chemical that normally has a calming effect and activates a “fight or flight” mode. Hence consuming large amounts of coffee can throw anxiety sufferers out of whack.

How to spot that coffee does you more harm than good? Note your reactions each time you indulge in your daily fix.

Irritable, foggy brain, overstimulated or feeling like not knowing what to do with yourself? Sounds like too high a price to pay for a long macchiato.

Long story short, maybe avoid the 3am emergency coffee in the library. 

Man shaking while pouring and then drinking coffee

Green/black tea is our Lord and mighty saviour

If coffee is the only thing that keeps you going throughout the day and you’re using it as a crutch to mask fatigue from sleep deprivation, it might be time to begin to wean yourself off slowly and switch to different types of Camellia sinensis.

To avoid horrific withdrawal symptoms (emotional attachment and dependency we form to coffee are strong, indeed), cut back on coffee consumption gradually, in small increments.

The good news is that green tea has been proven to be even more beneficial for our productivity than coffee, so it’s not like you’d be missing out on something.

It can help you stay focused for much longer without the unwanted jitters, and you’ll finally sleep like a log at night. Tea contains an amino acid called L-Theanine which counteracts caffeine’s adverse side effects; a combination of these two substances markedly improves cognitive functions. Tea is literally like coffee’s more chill and balanced older brother – calm energy personified.

Either way, you decide; keep in mind that if you’re experiencing any negative effects of coffee, you don’t have to keep consuming it for the sake of a fleeting state of high. As with most life decisions, the pros should outweigh the cons.

Three men dancing

Katarina Matiasovska writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which helps career starters find everything from project management roles to marketing internships. Check out their listing for both graduate jobs London and graduate jobs Manchester.

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