I’ll admit, I find it hard sometime not to feel overwhelmed in an era of 24/7 news, tweets, jobs, never-ending gymnastic practices and bills to be paid. It seems worry and stress are facts of life in today’s fast-paced world…especially for us women. According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, women in the United States have higher stress and a harder time managing that stress than their male counterparts. More specifically: mothers in the United States with school aged children…and a full-time job (hey wait…THAT’S ME!)
The fact is 23% of women indicated they were experiencing the highest levels of stress compared to 16% of men. What’s more: women suggested their stress levels were on the rise, and felt less like they were doing a good job of managing their stress as compared to men.
As a working Mom I fully understand the detrimental effects that constant worry can have on a woman, but let’s get real here: stress is not going away.
You can take control of your stress and your mental well-being, and it doesn’t need to involve a prescription pill. But you need the knowledge, the good habits and the tools to help manage your stress. While I am a BIG believer that exercise and meditation are key components to a healthy mind, this article will focus on natural remedies for anxiety primarily essential oils and aromatherapy.
But before I get into that, let’s talk about a neat trick to unlock some of your best vibes…
Scents and Your Emotions
One day during our extended trip back home to Chicago this past summer, I found myself on the floor in my old room rummaging through some old t-shirts and toys my mom had saved. As I opened the box, the smells of my childhood came rushing back to me. Vivid memories I hadn’t thought of in years. I closed my eyes and…for a few seconds…I felt as if I were 10 again, playing “office” with my best friend next door. Then it was gone…
…Smells are wicked powerful
But why? Turn out: there’s some science to it. The little scent molecules you breathe in every day, settle on cells in your head called “olfactory receptors”. Approximately fifty million of them! This intricate web of cells are over 10,000 times more perceptive than the taste cells on our tongue and can pick up a nearly infinite number of element compounds at extremely low concentrations.
What makes these powerful cells super-cool, is that they’re the most direct link to our limbic system: the oldest, the deepest, the most primitive area of our brain. It is also widely believed to be our core emotional seat.
So what does this mean practically? Well, if we in my example above, by the time I had identified what I was smelling (my Mom’s old detergent), the deepest part of my brain has already triggered a wonderful emotional response. In other words, it’s your first knee-jerk emotional response before your mind’s “thinking” gets in the way.
You can use this powerful connection to improve your emotional state, and your ability to deal with stress. Everyone is unique and your solution will lie in finding the scents that make you happy. For me it’s the woody, earthy and musky oils. Smells like Cedar wood, Sandalwood, Arborvitae and Vetiver. These help me to focus and relax and they also remind me of the times I spent outdoors as a child.
Others are drawn to the flowery, sweet smells like Lavender, Bergamot, Rose and Jasmine. Some enjoy mixing both together. Still others have totally different preferences. But the only way your going to find out what works for you is to try them out and get comfortable experimenting.
Candles or Diffusers?
I know plenty of friends that buy scented candles and love ‘em, but I’m a proponent of diffusers. They’re just too darn easy to use and so much cleaner than candles. You can apply certain oils directly on certain areas of your body including the top-rear of your neck, your feet and temples, but I find that the oils last much longer if diffused.
For the maximum effect, couple the essential oil aromatherapy with daily meditation and check out our article on the best ways to blend your oils if you are into mixing and matching.
Here’s my list of essential oils that most typically bring relief to an anxious mind. While no means exhaustive, it’s a good start to begin your journey to tranquility:
Bergamot gets its name from the Italian city of Bergamo, which is where is was first cultivated for treating digestive ailments and fevers. Made from the rinds of of a stout citrus tress, it has a fresh, spicy-sweet aroma that makes it a favorite with Fragrance manufactures and nearly everyone who tries it. Its aroma brings feeling on security and self-worth and blends well as a top note with many emotional blends.
Before I had even heard of essential oils, I was in the habit of making myself a cut of chamomile tea, and was familiar with its aroma and lightly sedative effect. Roman chamomiles essential oil offers a much more powerful sedative property and its fragrance is sweeter than the tea. We recommend Chamomile as an integral part of our friend’s apothecary for it’s wide range of benefits, including stress-related conditions, skin complaints, and anti-inflammatory conditions like headaches and joint pain.
Similar to the process of extracting rose or lavender oil, a single pound of neroli essential oil contains about 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested orange blossoms, which explains why this intoxicating essential oil is one of the most costly to obtain. Because of its ability to alleviate depression, ease stress, address hormonal issues, and soften skin, it is well worth the investment.
This simple, fragrant essential oil imparts feelings of warmth and happiness while helping to eliminate toxins and address a wide range of common ailments.
The smell of a rose is wonderfully relaxing, and rose essential oil is even more so. Useful for treating problems with skin disorders, its greatest value lies in its emotional benefits. Whether you are grieving, suffering from depression or dealing with a toddler who is prone to temper tantrums, rose essential oil can help.
The sweet, floral smell of jasmine is unmistakable. A favorite with many, jasmine essential oil has the ability to alleviate depression, addiction and treat menstrual-related problems. While this is one of the more costly oils, it’s quite strong – so a little goes a long way – and its benefits outweighs it price tag.
The warm, rich fragrance of patchouli essential oil reminds many people of the 1960’s and 1970’s but it’s usefulness extends far beyond the use in incense blends.
With an enticing, fragrance that promotes mental and emotional balance, ylang-ylang essential oil is one of the best options for easing anger, depression, and stress
In use for thousands of years for a number of purposes, Frankincense use as an incense to promote spirituality and focus in meditation is possibly its most well-regarded. In aromatherapy, Frankincense essential oil directly stimulates the brain’s emotional center, soothing, and calming the mind.
Lemon is a powerful detoxifying agent and contains high levels of vitamins and minerals. Lemon essential oil take the power of lemon to new heights and can be used to improve one’s mood, boost alertness and treat illness.
Marjoram is a very popular culinary ingredient with an interesting history: ancient Greeks gave it away to newlywed couples to assure good fortune. Essential oils made with this humble herb has a lovely, warm smell with spicy undertones. It’s great for centering an individual’s emotions, easing pain and treating respiratory issues.
Considered a luxury item in the ancient world, the Egyptians used Myrrh in the embalming rites and given as a gift to the infant Jesus. Today anyone can enjoy the fragrance and health benefits myrrh offers: this wonderful essential oil is effective in addressing emotional and physical issues, treating skin ailments and dental issues.
Vetiver is a thick balancing essential oil sourced from the roots of a tropical grass. It has an earthy, herb-like aroma that reminds me of the small of the forest in the late fall. I use it for focus and emotional balancing during times of stress.
While common garden sage is well known for its ability to add flavor to savory dishes, clary sage is best known for its medicinal values. I use clary sage essential for hormonal issues during PMS and have recommended it to friends with menopausal symptoms with great results. It has a pleasant, nutty fragrance that brings me relaxation during periods of intense stress.
With its refreshing, evergreen aroma and its ability to soothe stress, ease tension, and mitigate anger and irritability, cypress essential oil is an excellent choice for you home apothecary. Its ability to promote healing, improve circulation, and relieve cold and flu symptoms makes it even more valuable
The Juniper bush has been employed throughout ancient times for its spiritual and medicinal benefits and it’s oil continues to prove useful today. In aromatherapy, Juniper essential oil is excellent for melting away stress and as a astringent, helps to promote healthy skin.
For cases of moderate to severe depression, professional help should always be sought. It is important to consider if you one requires professional help if the depression is overwhelming – while aromatherapy can provide support in a significant number of situations, it may not be for everyone. Essential oils can safely be used in conjunction with other treatments – consult your care giver to ensure there are no conflicts if medications have been prescribed.