Looking after ourselves is the first step to feeling good in our daily lives. However, when it comes to anxiety, taking good care of yourself isn’t always enough to reduce the negative thoughts and feel better. Sometimes you need to do something ‘extra’ to really help with feeling better. What I am going to talk to you about today is how you can use aromatherapy for when you feel anxious.
Let’s start with a definition (from a google search)
“ a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”
If you are anything like me or many other millions of people out there then you might not even know what that something is. It could be something specific. Or just as likely it could be a general feeling of foreboding or uncertain outcomes from life in general.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for their healing benefits. Essential oils are extracted from various plants or specific parts of the plant (for example, rose petals). The terms essential oils and aromatherapy oils can be used interchangeably.
As someone who occasionally struggles with anxiety I am a firm believer in taking time to proactively reduce stress for both the mind and body to prevent anxiety from getting out of control if/when it creeps up on you. I also believe that prevention is best… but in the real world it’s all too easy to let anxiety creep up on you and prevention is… well, difficult. We have a quite a lot of other blog posts which you may find interesting and useful if you experience anxiety so I recommend checking them out. For now we will take a look at managing anxiety with aromatherapy when it is happening right now.
Firstly, there is no point in knowing about what aromatherapy oils are useful for managing anxiety unless you know what to do with them. In a nutshell, you need to get them in your body and you can do this by absorbing these oils through your skin or you can inhale them (but do not eat/drink them!).
How to use aromatherapy oils
Wellbeing Pod/Diffuser Pod: These are really wonderful things that you fill with water and some drops of your essential oil (the amount varies depending on the pod) and plug it in and at regular intervals it diffuses bursts of the water and oil mix into the room. You can also get ones that are chargeable and do not need to be plugged in (great for the bathroom), and just plug straight into a bottle of aromatherapy oils with no water required. I have the NEOM Wellbeing Mini Pods which do not need to be plugged in. My trusted source tells me that Aromatherapy Associates have an excellent one which does require water and being plugged in.
Oil burner: Fill with water and add your oils. Light your candle underneath and let the oils evaporate into the air.
Candles (the kind with the proper aromatherapy oils in them): If you are aiming to get aromatherapy benefits from a candle then they must be proper aromatherapy candles with proper oils in them (like the ones that NEOM do). Scented candles are good for smelling nice but will not give you the same benefits as aromatherapy.
In the bath: This is one of my favourite ways to literally absorb the benefits of lovely aromatherapy oils. After you have a full bath and before you get in add just 3 – 6 drops of essential oil to your bath with a spoonful of carrier oil (like almond oil or coconut oil – I don’t recommend washing your hair in the bath if you do this!). Don’t be tempted to add more oils than this because it could irritate your skin.
Facial steamer: Simply fill a sink with hot steamy water and add a few drops of your oils (3 of each essential oils). Put your head right over it with a towel over it to trap in the steam and just breathe slowly. If it feels too intense, leave the towel or do it for a short amount of time. Whatever feels right for you.
On your pillow: It’s amazing that just 3 drops of essential oil on a pillow can really keep an anxious and busy mind calm whilst you are trying to sleep. If you can’t sleep just relax and breathe in the fragrance of the essential oil. Sleep is the best case-scenario but if sleep is tricky then it’s better to be awake and calm than awake and anxious.
Pulse point rollers: Brands such as Tisserand do aromatherapy pulse point rollers. These are useful to keep in your handbag, for an aromatherapy de-anxiety boost whenever you need it throughout the day.
Massage: mix a few drops of essential oils with a carrier oil (like almond oil) and massage into the skin.
Essential oils for anxiety
So when you are feeling especially anxious here are the oils that are especially good. There are plenty of others but these are some of my personal favourites.
Rose: The floral and sweet scent is calming and soothing. Rose oil is a bit like a cuddle in an oil. It is both nurturing and uplifting at the same time. Studies have shown that rose oil can reduce production of the stress hormone, cortisol. It is particularly beneficial for anxiety due to periods.
Neroli: This slightly citrussy-yet-earthy oil is really uplifting and has been shown to increase the happy hormone, serotonin, and reduce the stress hormone. It can have a slightly sedative effect so it is brilliant in the evening.
Bergamot: Another uplifting citrussy oil which can improve mood and general feelings of positivity. Brilliant at reducing the effects that stress has on the body such as high blood pressure and high heart rate.
Clary Sage: This one is known for its abilities to soothe menstrual cramps and lower the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. It can lower blood pressure and is a great all round stress reliever.
Chamomile: This one helps reduce anxiety when it hits you hard, it can help bring down your heart rate and also has a sedative effect so it can help you get to sleep. You may be familiar with chamomile tea which is different to an essential oil but it has a similar effect on helping you fall asleep if anxiety is keeping you awake.
Lavender: I saved this one until last on purpose because it is so well-known as being relaxing and beneficial that I didn’t want to jump straight into the obvious oil. However, there is a reason it is so well known and that is because it is so effective. Studies have shown that lavender can improve mood, lower blood pressure, help you sleep, and have antidepressant and anti-anxiety benefits. It is a wonder oil!
A note about mixing
Without being too sciency, aromatherapy oils have different ‘notes’. This means some are heavier than others and have what is called a base note, and some are much lighter and are known as ‘top notes’. There is also a middle note. It is worth knowing that to get the most out of your oils you should aim to have a mixture of these base, middle and top notes. Top notes are easily absorbed and ‘get to work’ quicker, base notes are denser and stay with you longer.
You can sometimes take a good guess at what ‘note’ an oil is by smelling it. The lighter and fresher oils (like lemon, orange, lime) tend to be top notes. The richer smelling oils (like clary sage, sandalwood, ylang ylang) are base notes. Middle notes are a bit trickier to figure out just by smelling because they could sometimes smell like they fit into either category (lavender, geranium). If you are really keen on blending oils which have a mixture of these notes then I would recommend doing a simple google search – but be warned that different websites say slightly different things. Some say that Clary Sage is a middle note… some say it is a base note etc.
Trust the experts if you are unsure – Tisserand, Neals Yard and Neom make great blends for anxiety, stress relief, sleep troubles etc.
A final note
Aromatherapy is great, there are many benefits to exploring it and trying it out. Even just taking time to try some of these tips is a great way of getting some ‘you-time’. Saying that, it is not a substitute for proper qualified medical help. If you have a problem that requires medical assistance then aromatherapy can supplement it but not replace it. Also, please don’t ever apply essential oils neat on the skin or eat or drink them.
Until next time