Introverts, that cup of coffee may be doing more damage than you think

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Say it isn’t so. Introverts, we may need to lay off the coffee.

Psychologist Brian Little, in his book, Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, writes that introverts perform less efficiently on tasks after drinking two cups of coffee.

Extroverts, on the other, carried out tasks more efficiently after drinking the same amount of coffee.

Why can’t life be fair?

For introverts, this deficit is magnified if the task we’re engaging in is done under time pressure and is quantitative, writes Little.

This means a meeting at work that involves rapid-fire discussion of budget projections, solving a math problem on a timed test, or any kind of data analysis might turn out worse for us if we’ve had some caffeine.

Why caffeine affects introverts and extroverts differently

The reason why caffeine affects introverts and extroverts differently basically has to do with our differing levels of neocortical arousal in the brain, according to Science of Us. In other words, it comes down to how alert or responsive we are to our environment.

In general, introverts are over the optimal level of arousal — meaning, we’re more easily stimulated — and extroverts under the optimal level.

This means that consuming any kind of central nervous system stimulant, such as caffeine or even recreational stimulants, will move us further away from our optimal level of performance.

Likewise, being in a crowded, noisy room is overstimulating to us and has the same effect.

So what’s an introvert to do?

Try saving the coffee for later in the day, suggests Science of Us. Or at the very least, don’t ingest caffeine right before something important, like a big meeting at work, a final exam at school, or a first date.

If you want to wean yourself off coffee, do it slowly, suggests Brenda Canas, health coach and owner of Simply Serene Wellness.

Quitting coffee cold turkey will take a toll on you. Depending on how long you’ve been drinking coffee and how much you’ve been drinking, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches, restlessness, and irritability.

Try drinking a mix of half decaf and half regular coffee for three days, then move to a mix of three-fourths decaf and one-fourth regular coffee for a day, suggests Canas. After that, drink only decaf.

If you must have some caffeine, try drinking green or white tea, says Canas. Both teas have less caffeine than coffee, and you get the added benefit of powerful antioxidants that support your health. If you crave the warmness of coffee but don’t want any caffeine, drink rooibos or other herbal teas.

For more ways to get energized as an introvert, see Introverts: 7 healthy ways to get energized {plus smoothie recipe}.

To be honest, I probably won’t give up the one cup of coffee I drink every morning to get me going. But I’ll pass on that second cup.

Image credit: Deviant Art (agnsun)

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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert


Jenn Granneman is the founder of IntrovertDear.com and the author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. She also cohosts The Introvert, Dear Podcast and blogs for Psychology Today. For most of her life, Jenn felt weird, different, and out of place because of her quiet ways. She writes about introversion because she doesn’t want other introverts to feel the way she did.