Is office life affecting your health? Writer and philosopher Keith Foster’s holistic approach to stress relief offers practical solutions to staying positive
To optimise your performance in your office and help with stress relief, it’s useful to take on board certain information that can bring significant benefits. This stems from a knowledge of how decision making and planning are affected by the environment and how the level of energy available to your brain either enhances or reduces your cognitive ability and operating capability. This knowledge is readily available today, and the original research that gave rise to its discovery derives from folk wisdom as described below.
Winds of change
You may be aware that the wind known as the mistral that blows down the Rhône-Saône corridor in France alters human behaviour. Road accidents go up, murders increase and people who have accidents bleed more freely. Where possible, surgeons avoid operating at these times. Being aware of this phenomenon, locals make allowances, and even the courts take note of it when in session, particularly during divorce cases.
These phenomena occur because people become more irritable with the wind blowing constantly and similar irritability is observed wherever these “witch” winds – such as the foehn in Austria, the Santa Ana in California, the Harmattan in Arabia, the sharav in Israel and the sirocco in Italy – blow. The reason for this enhanced irritability, which causes aberrant behaviour, is an excess of positive ions in the air. These are caused by the friction between the wind and the dry earth over which it passes. This warmer air helps to ripen crops and increase the sugar load in grapes, which makes it welcome to vintners.
Stress exhausts the nervous system
An increase in the level of positive charges in the body causes an increase in the secretion of the neuro-hormone serotonin which, in a similar way to adrenaline, stimulates the fight-or-flight reaction. Constant exposure to this stress exhausts the nervous system, which causes people to become extremely irritated and make poor decisions. However, being aware of this gives rise to more phlegmatic thought processes, and people take longer to come to a conclusion.
This phenomenon of a high dose of positive ions (positively charged air molecules) in the body alters the loading capability of the bloodstream that, after an initial energy surge, becomes depleted. The brain relies in large part for its energy supply on the negatively charged oxygen in the bloodstream. Any fall-off in the supply reduces performance quite dramatically and reduces overall cognitive ability, but you usually do sleep better.
Hypoxia – a lack of oxygen
It may surprise you to learn that oxygen levels in our cities – and therefore in our executive offices – have fallen in recent years to no more than 10 per cent of the total air stream. (Oxygen levels measured by Swiss combi board scientists since 1946 have fallen from 22 per cent to around 10 per cent today, while CO2 has risen proportionately.) The result of this loss has been a reduction in everyone’s metabolism, which is oxygen dependent and which may account for the increase in general ill-health but, more to the point, is an increasingly poor response to stress and a lack of stress relief. This stress can be rapidly dissipated by standing barefoot on the grass when you discharge the static build-up and relax.
Keep a cool head
Cool, good judgment is the main casualty as people dumb down imperceptibility and make poorer decisions. This malaise is now reaching epidemic proportions in government, business and commerce where reduced attention span and poor awareness are at the root of many executive and managerial problems. This ‘mind fog’ can be cleared up in short order by a return, however temporary, to a natural, balanced environment.
Air con: the hidden menace
The overall situation is made worse by modern air conditioning systems. These work very well in controlling temperature and humidity, moving and filtering air in offices. In the process, however, they pump air through metal ducting that both shorts out the negative charges in the air, which are so vital to good health, and increases the positive charges because of the friction between the moving air and the duct walls. To counter this effect it is now quite possible to create a naturally balanced office environment once you know how.
Starved of the energy that negatively charged oxygen contributes to the bloodstream, the immune systems of people working in this environment are reduced in effectiveness. In a body starved of oxygen, this brings about inflammation that is the root cause of many of the illnesses associated with middle age. This is reversible.
The endocrine system comprises ductless glands that produce chemical messengers called hormones which provide instructions to all parts of the body. Three of these glands are located in the brain. They are the command and control component of the endocrine system.
Starved of negatively charged oxygen, this can result in incomplete or ambiguous instructions being issued and muddling of messages being received from other glands. The outcome can be disruption to mental, physical and emotional responses leading to irritable behaviour and beyond. There are systems available that can enable you to earth-out these effects. These require expert evaluations and sighting, but do the job.
Inevitably, the mistakes induced by these environmental factors have an adverse effect on profitability. While it’s not possible to increase the level of available oxygen in our entire environment, it is possible for you to feed more energy into your brain by altering the polarity of the oxygen that you breathe in at work and by increasing the loading capacity of your system, naturally. The result is greater stress relief, more energy and better functioning of all your faculties.
Keith Foster is a member of the IoD.
For more on stress relief
Visit our wellbeing section