Tag Archive for Health

Why Your Brain Craves Coffee

Why Your Brain Craves CoffeeFor a long time, the man has held us down. They used their science and medicine to tell is that ingesting coffee, or more accurately the caffeine in coffee, was bad.

Freddie Mercury drinking coffeeTimes they are a changing we no longer have to justify drinking coffee to anybody. Recent research carried out by many free-thinking independent medical professionals from universities and health care institutes has shown that actually, caffeine has many benefits to our bodies and minds.

The caffeine present in our daily coffee can help us to live longer, have more mental ability and focus, fight depression and even help us to lose weight. What’s not to love about the nation’s favorite drink?

Fed up of justifying your coffee freedom to the man? This infographic from Dripped Coffee gives use 13 reasons why our brains carve coffee.

Dripped Coffee - 13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Coffee

Related articles

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.


Killer IT Jobs

The third annual GFI Software IT Admin Stress Survey reveals that 79% of IT staff are actively considering leaving their jobs due to job-related stress. According to GFI, that’s a significant increase from 2013, when just 57 percent of respondents said they were actively considering leaving.

GFI logoThe survey of 200 U.S. IT administrators also found that found that the largest source of work-related stress was management. 36% of the sample of IT professionals surveyed citing it as the biggest source of stress. An additional 34% cited a lack of budget and staff to get the job done, as a source of stress despite the perceived improvement in the US job market. Other key survey findings:

  • 77% US IT staff surveyed consider their job stressful up 12% over 2013
  • 38% have missed social functions due to overrunning issues at work
  • 35% report missing time with their families due to work demands on their personal time
  • 33% of IT staff regularly lose sleep over work pressures
  • 30% feel they are the most stressed person in their social or family group
  • 25% have suffered stress-related illness
  • 24% have had a relationship severely damaged or fail due to their job
  • 17% complain of feeling in poor physical condition due to work demands

Working overtimeOn average, the IT workers surveyed would work eight and a half hours a week over and above their stated working hours, with 23% of the survey sample working between eight and 12 hours of unpaid overtime each week.

Sergio Galindo, general manager of the Infrastructure Business Unit at GFI Software, said in a statement,

IT is renowned for being one of the most stressful white-collar jobs to undertake, now more so than ever given the critical role IT plays in everything from ecommerce to facilities management

Stress eatingIn more good news for IT Pro’s a study of 3,022 workers by CareerBuilder, reveals that information technology workers categorize themselves as overweight more than workers in any other industry. This is bad news because there is a link between stress and weight gain.

The problem is so bad that 50% of IT workers call themselves overweight, the study says. Sectors that outpaced the national average for weight gain include:

  • Information Technology – 50 percent
  • Government – 48 percent
  • Financial Services – 46 percent
  • Health Care – 42 percent
  • Professional and Business Services – 42 percent

FierceCIO says the estimated annual medical costs to an employer for those who are obese are $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.


Even though a disillusioned, stressed, unhappy, unhealthy IT staff may seem the norm for many organization, (I’ve worked in this environment) it will lead to a crisis. The last placed I managed at, it took a crisis like job offer for the senior systems engineer to get management moving on addressing some of the very issues identified here. In the long run they never brought on a high-caliber backup to cross train and when he left they were left with a hole to fill on the 

Progressive organizations need to take the lead and make sure that their IT staff are happy, engaged and content. Here are three suggestions to do so –

Gamify IT support. Break the ticket tedium and let agents compete against each other, give them incentives and challenges, let them view the points they accumulate. In short, take the boring out of the service desk.

Let staff work right from their email to spend less time at work and more time with family – while maintaining or increasing productivity. No more setting up a VPN, logging into the help desk, finding the ticket, updating the ticket and logging back out. 

Automate everything, set up a Wiki, a FAQ, set-up self-serve password resets,take the load off the agents. Some organizational direction towards this can take the effort a long way. Write scripts to automate new users and terminations.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.


The Healing Power of Dogs

Jessi & WileyIt is well-known that dogs can lower blood pressure, but they can have more positive impacts on their owners. NerdGraph shared an infographic from medical appointment startup, ZocDoc that talks about the Healing Power of Dogs. The infograhic explores the idea that dogs improve the physical and mental health of their Owners. The article concludes that living with a dog can reduce the number of required doctors visits and cut the cost of prescriptions.

The Healing Power Of Dogs – An infographic by the team at ZocDoc

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

How Does Caffeine Work?

How Your Brain Gets Addicted to Caffeine More than 80 percent of American adults drink coffee daily in such mundane settings as the office and in the car that we often forget it’s the world’s most popular psychoactive drug. The Smithsonian’s Surprising Science article This Is How Your Brain Becomes Addicted to Caffeine, reports that scientists declared caffeine chemically addictive in 1994. The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) included caffeine withdrawal as a mental disorder.

Coffee sparkCaffeine is a naturally occurring chemical stimulant called trimethylxanthine, which in its pure form, is a white crystalline powder that tastes very bitter. Regular caffeine use alters your brain’s chemical makeup, leading to fatigue, headaches and nausea for those who try to quit.

The article describes coffee withdrawal. Within 24 hours of quitting, withdrawal symptoms begin. Initially, they’re subtle: The first thing you notice is a mental fogginess, and lack alertness. Muscles become fatigued, even when you haven’t done anything strenuous, and you suspect that you’re more irritable than usual. Over time, an unmistakable throbbing headache sets in, making it difficult to concentrate on anything. Eventually, as your body protests having the drug taken away, you might even feel dull muscle pains, nausea and other flu-like symptoms.

Coffee trainThe author explains the reason caffeine is addictive stems from the way the drug affects the human brain, producing the alert feeling that caffeine drinkers crave. Soon after you drink (or eat) something containing caffeine, it’s absorbed through the small intestine and dissolved into the bloodstream. Because the chemical is both water- and fat-soluble it’s able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain.

The article says caffeine closely resembles a molecule that’s naturally present in our brain, called adenosine (believed to play a role in promoting sleep and suppressing arousal)—so much so, that caffeine can fit neatly into our brain cells’ receptors for adenosine, effectively blocking them off. Normally, the adenosine produced over time locks into these receptors and produces a feeling of tiredness.

Caffeine and Adenosine

When caffeine molecules are blocking adenosine receptors it generates a sense of alertness and energy for a few hours. Additionally, Surprising Science notes some of the brain’s own natural stimulants (such as dopamine) work more effectively when the adenosine receptors are blocked, and all the surplus adenosine floating around in the brain cues the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline, another stimulant.

Coffee beansFor this reason, caffeine isn’t technically a stimulant on its own, says Stephen R. Braun, the author or Buzzed: the Science and Lore of Caffeine and Alcohol, but a stimulant enabler: a substance that lets our natural stimulants run wild. Ingesting caffeine, he writes, is akin to “putting a block of wood under one of the brain’s primary brake pedals.” This block stays in place for anywhere from four to six hours, depending on the person’s age, size and other factors, until the caffeine is eventually metabolized by the body.

In people who often invoke this process (i.e. coffee/tea, soda or energy drink addicts), the brain’s chemistry and physical characteristics actually change over time as a result. The most notable change, the author says, is that brain grows more adenosine receptors. This is the brain’s attempt to maintain equilibrium in the face of a constant onslaught of caffeine, with its adenosine receptors so regularly plugged (studies show that the brain also responds by decreasing the number of receptors for norepinephrine, a stimulant). This explains why regular coffee drinkers build up a tolerance over time—because you have more adenosine receptors, it takes more caffeine to block a significant proportion of them and achieve the desired effect.

This also explains why suddenly giving up caffeine entirely can trigger the withdrawal effects. The underlying chemistry is complex and not fully understood, but the Smithsonian reports that your brain is used to operating in one set of conditions (with an artificially inflated number of adenosine receptors, and a less norepinephrine receptors) that depend upon regular ingestion of caffeine. Suddenly, without the drug, the altered brain chemistry causes all sorts of problems, including the dreaded caffeine withdrawal headache.

Darth Vader CoffeeThe article has good news, compared to many drug addictions, the caffeine effects are relatively short-term. To kick the habit, you only need to get through about 7-12 days of symptoms without drinking any caffeine. During that period, your brain will naturally decrease the number of adenosine receptors on each cell, responding to the sudden lack of caffeine ingestion. If you can make it that long without a cup of joe or a spot of tea, the levels of adenosine receptors in your brain reset to their baseline levels, and your addiction will be broken.

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Most IT Admins Still Want to Quit Due to Stress

Most IT Admins Still Want to Quit Due to StressThe number of IT professionals considering leaving their job due to workplace stress has jumped from 69% last year to 73% according to a recent survey by  GFI Software. The article in Help Net Security underlining the increasingly challenging business landscape in the UK and the growing emphasis being placed on IT to help businesses grow, thrive and compete.  Phil Bousfield, GM IT Operations at GFI Software says that IT staffers are under pressure. “Companies are more reliant than ever on IT innovation, uptime and speed of deployment, and thus, IT staff are under extreme pressure to deliver for the benefit of the whole business.”

GFI SoftwareOne-third of those surveyed by GFI Software cited dealing with managers as their most stressful job requirement, particularly for IT staff in larger organisations, while handling end-user support requests, budget squeeze and tight deadlines were also singled out as the main causes of workplace stress for IT managers.

The blog list other key findings from the survey:

  • 68% of all IT administrators surveyed consider their job stressful.
  • 49% are working six or more hours overtime a week.
  • 35% of respondents have missed social functions due to work issues.
  • 30% of those surveyed have missed out on planned family time because of work demands.
  • 28% of IT admins point to a lack of budget and staff needed to get the job done as their primary reasons for job stress.

StressedThe top sources of stress for IT admins are:

  • Management (35%)
  • Tight deadlines (19%)
  • Lack of budget (17%)
  • Users (16%).

To drive up IT admin’s stress, the most common user issues reported in the article were complaints of hardware not working, only for IT to find the device was either not switched on or not plugged in, and users spilling tea, coffee and other beverages over their computer or keyboard and then denying they had done it. Some of the most ridiculous thing that respondents said they had seen an end-user do included:

  • Broken computerComplaining their mouse wasn’t working when they were trying to use a foam stress squeezer
  • Thinking there was a ghost in her PC when IT support staff remoted into it to deliver support
  • Reporting the Windows version as being “Patio Doors”
  • Folding up a 5.25inch floppy disc to fit it into a 3.5inch disc drive.

A total of 80% of participants told GFI that their job had negatively affected their personal life in some way. The author states that the impact that work stress is having on health and relationships is a great concern.  Mr. Bousfield said, “We all know that a happy workforce is a productive workforce, so it is concerning that so many of our survey respondents are stressed to the point that they are actively considering leaving their current role in order to achieve a better work/life balance.”

The survey discovered some significant personal impact the IT career has had on personal lives of IT workers:

Personal lives and health affected by IT work stress

  • 28% have lost sleep due to work
  • 26% have had to cancel commitments to family and friends due to work.
  • 19% do not feel great physically as a result of stress
  • 18% have suffered stress-related health issues due to their work
  • Another 18% also revealed they had experienced a strained or failed relationship due to work stress.


The IT business can be a grinder, not only because its hard, but everybody is an expert because they can use their iPhone. I have covered the health impact of the IT business here and here.

GFI’s Bousfield concludes that the research is a stark reminder that IT staff need to be supported and given the right resources – staff, budget and technology – to do their jobs well and that management need to be an enabler, not an obstacle for IT progress.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.