Stress and anxiety have become common issues in our fast-paced lives. This has led to a rise in stress-related health conditions and negatively impacts mental and physical health. Stress and anxiety can be attributed to a lack of sleep, increasing lifestyle commitments, and work pressures.
Aromatherapy has been used since ancient times to promote feelings of calm and relaxation. The beauty of essential oils is that they are natural – extracted from flowers, leaves, bark, or roots of plants. Pure essential oils can provide much-needed relief and healing for a variety of ailments, including stress, anxiety, insomnia, and tension headaches.
According to one study, essential oils can be detected in the blood within minutes. When inhaled, the various aromas penetrate the bloodstream via the lungs causing physiologic changes. In turn, the limbic system, which controls our emotions and memories, is affected. When essential oil compounds travel around the body, they are able to induce chemical reactions with enzymes, bringing about physical and psychological relief, and positively affecting blood flow.
When combined with intentional mindfulness, essential oils can effectively address negative emotions, calm the mind, and reduce stress.
The best essential oils to ease stress & anxiety…fast
One of the best things about essential oils is that they are so portable. By keeping one or two of your favorite oils in your handbag, you have easy access to a powerful therapy that can positively change your emotions and stress response in seconds. Try these oils for an instant calming effect.
Sourced from the peel of a citrus fruit known as Citrus bergamia, this refreshing essential oil may help lessen your stress. One study, done at a mental health treatment center in Utah, reported that bergamot essential oil aromatherapy could be an effective treatment to improve individuals’ mental health and wellbeing.
This floral scent has several benefits proven by scientific research, such as alleviating anxiety and lowering blood pressure in some people. Traditionally, ylang ylang essential oil is used to soothe stress, anxiety, sadness, tension, and sleeplessness.
The earthy, warming scent of frankincense is thanks to its sesquiterpene content. These compounds help to carry oxygen to the brain and lift the mood. Another active compound called incensole acetate, positively stimulates the limbic system, which is responsible for emotions.
A recent meta-analysis found that frankincense aromatherapy is effective in reducing anxiety for women in labor. This reduction in anxiety was also found to reduce the perception of pain.
When used in aromatherapy, clary sage oil can help alleviate stress by elevating oxytocin levels, which induces a sense of well-being. One small study done on women undergoing a stressful medical test, indicated that when inhaled, clary sage essential oil elicited feelings of relaxation and reduced blood pressure. Another study showed that an aromatherapy blend, including clary sage, improved sleep quality in middle-aged women.
Lavender oil is considered a nervous system restorative and helps with inner peace, sleep, restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, nervous stomach, and general nervous tension.
A 2014 study showed that dentists who diffuse lavender essential oil at their reception desk could effectively reduce the anxiety felt by patients before and after their dental treatments. In addition, a 2013 study found that nurses using aromatherapy to combat workplace stress reduced their stress symptoms by more than half.
The beautiful scent of a rose can transport you to another place – so it’s no surprise that this scent is on the list of top stress-relieving oils. Researchers looked into the effect of rose essential oil inhalation in a group of dialysis patients and found that the treatment significantly decreased their symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.
It’s not hard to imagine that the fresh and fruity scent of orange can make you feel happier and more relaxed. Science backs this up, a Japanese study on a group of university students showed that inhalation of orange oil induced a significant decrease in a stress-related chemical called oxyhemoglobin. Plus, it increased “comfortable,” “relaxed,” and “natural” feelings, in line with physiological and psychological relaxation.
How to use essential oils for stress relief
Inhaling the aroma of essential oils stimulates the olfactory nerves in the nose and sends a signal to the limbic system, also known as your “emotional brain”. This brain center is directly connected to other parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. This is why our sense of smell is so closely linked to our emotional responses and mood, and why certain smells remind us of past experiences.
A great way to enjoy the scent of essential oils is by using a diffuser on your coffee table, desk, or kitchen countertop.
Essential oils can also be applied to the skin, either within a cream or carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil or coconut oil. Remember, not all essential oils should be applied directly to the skin. For example, oils such as oregano and cinnamon can cause an extreme sensation on the skin. All oils must be mixed with a carrier oil before applying them to the skin, and always carry out a patch test with any new oil you try.
Here are a few easy ways you can get the calming benefits of your favorite essential oil:
- Add a few drops to the palm of your hand and inhale the aroma for quick, calming relief.
- Mix with water in a spray bottle for a calming spritz. Try spraying a scarf and carrying it with you throughout the day.
- Add a few drops to your bath for a warm, relaxing soak.
- Sprinkle a bit onto your pillow for a restful night’s sleep.
- Use a diffuser for long-lasting calmness around your home.
- Mix with a carrier oil or unscented body lotion to massage away tense muscles.
Wondering which essential oil is right for you? Pick the one you like the smell of most – this is your body’s way of telling you that it’s the right one for you!