The personal comfort of your environment can either drastically derail your physical contentment or propel you to the next level of health. Indoor air quality affects stress levels and can build negatively upon health issues related to stress. A 2010 study from the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California at Berkeley found the top 5 issues that affected health and happiness in the environment at the workplace to be:
- Bathrooms – level of cleanliness, odor, location, privacy
- Cleaning – inadequate cleaning, disruptive workday due to cleaning during working hours
- Temperature – an unstable fluctuation in temperature, too cold, too hot
- Air – quality (lack of fresh air, drafts, dust
- Carpet, walls and furniture – cleanliness, esthetics of furniture
How can a smelly bathroom or a stuffy office drastically alter mood and intensify stressful situations? Think about a recent intense day at home or work. Let’s assume that you do not get along with everyone you come in contact with or have a similar work ethic or approach to troubleshooting problems in the same way. This “challenge” or “threat” to our well-being, according to Kim Lebowitz, Ph.D. and Director of Behavioral Medicine & Psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, is stress.
Lebowitz explains stress as two-fold, the first being a strain on the body and mind can be positive or negative. “It could be something like a work deadline, having to give a public speech. It could also be something like entering a marriage, or a new relationship or changing jobs.”
We also have a physiological response (a.k.a what happens to our body when we are under stress). “When we’re in the face of a challenge or a threat, our body mobilizes all of our resources so that we can protect ourselves,” states Lebowitz.
This is called our body’s fight-or-flight response, which triggers our cardiovascular system, instantly raising heart rate and blood pressure.
The point of explaining what is going on in the body is to lay a foundation of how our systems are already under physical pressure and adding in an uncertain or unstable air quality can magnify the strain you are feeling.
For example, let’s say you have asthma and work in an office or live in a home where the air around you is not filtered and full of the elements and pollutants that irritate your condition. The general stress of life can bring on an asthma attack according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This harmful combination of physical, environmental and mental stress can result in a swelling and inflammation of the airways, a tightening of the chest, and difficulty breathing.
Imagine an asthma attack as trying to breathe through a straw stuffed with cotton. Pretty scary, right?
So, what’s the solution?
Of course there will always be stressful situations in life and while we are working on getting along and exploring our differences in a positive way, we can find stability in the air quality around us. Here are 4 ways to up the indoor air quality in your home or office:
- Use non-toxic cleaning supplies.
- Add a cool mist humidifier that washes the air free of impurities like dust, pollen, allergens, and stale tobacco smoke. The Venta brand has a unique system that regulates humidity and functions without a filter. Disks in the unit draw moisture into the air through vaporization and then humidify the air to the correct percentage based on your unique indoor environment.
- Quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke. “This is the single most important thing a family can do to help someone with asthma,” states the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission Smoking (A.D.A.M). “Outside the house is not enough. Family members and visitors who smoke outside carry smoke residue inside on their clothes and hair. This can trigger asthma symptoms.”
- Know what triggers your sensitivity by keeping a journal of what elements you are exposed to during the day or what you eat that might set off an attack.
The prevention of inflating health conditions and stress by simply cleaning the air will not only help reduce indoor pollution levels but help you breathe better and hopefully promote a more positive and productive work day.
About the author: Elizabeth Rago is a writer for Venta specializing in health, wellness, and women’s lifestyle content, working with yoga studios, chiropractors, mental health, and wellness practitioners. Elizabeth writes the weekly column, The Circular Home for Chicago Shopping (an editorial partner of the Chicago Tribune) and is Senior Editor of All Things Girl, highlighting topics related to the modern domestic woman. She has been published in Mamalode Magazine, MOMentumNation.com and thesavvyfreelancer.com. Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter, LinkedIn, Houzz, and Google+.