Coping with stress & anxiety during the coronavirus
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 and aims to raise public awareness of both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, and with the current COVID-19 crisis having such a drastic effect on our lives, this figure is undoubtedly set to rise.
High levels of stress can have a damaging and far reaching effect on our health. It’s a significant factor in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and is also linked to physical problems such as heart disease, insomnia, digestive disorders and problems with our immune system, which is absolutely the last thing that we need at this critical time.
In recognition of its damaging effects, The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already issued tailored guidelines and recommendations for managing stress and anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak. Their suggestions include:
- Avoiding watching, reading or listening to a constant stream of news that may cause further distress or anxiety. Instead, seek only factual information from official sources at specific times of the day which will help you take practical steps to protect yourself and family.
- Trying to maintain as typical a routine as possible.
- Eating as healthily as you can possibly can.
- Maintaining healthy sleep routines.
- Taking regular exercise including activities that promote relaxation.
- Reassuring children and engaging them in creative activities to help them express and communicate their own feelings of fear and/or sadness.
- Staying connected with friends and family through email, social media, video conferencing and telephone.
- Avoiding unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
Aromatherapy and stress
As an aromatherapy company we are constantly talking about how essential oils can support our health and wellbeing. We’ve written many articles in the past on how certain oils can help with emotional issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks and insomnia. We therefore thought it would be helpful to consolidate some of this advice into a menu of self-care tips and blends that may help control stress levels during these challenging times.
Best essential oils for stressful times
There are lots of different essential oils to choose from depending on your specific circumstances. If you have a collection of oils at home, the best way is to follow your nose, and choose the oils that you’re drawn to at that moment in time. These will be the oils your body needs most, and these may change from day to day.
Calming, soothing, relaxing and uplifting essential oils will be of most use and we’ve listed 10 of the most popular choices below.
- Benzoin is sometimes called the ‘cuddly oil’ due to its warming, cheering and uplifting effect. With its lovely sweet, vanilla scent it’s a lovely choice for those feeling anxious, sad, lonely or depressed. Perfect for use during a crisis and safe to use with children too.
- Bergamot is often referred to as nature’s Prozac and is one of the first choices for treating depression. It has a cheering, calming, balancing effect and is excellent for soothing agitation.
- Chamomile is soothing, calming and ideal chronic worriers. It has a balancing effect on the mood and can be used to promote relaxation, ease muscular tension and soothe stress related conditions such as nervous tension and insomnia. Another good choice to use with children.
- Frankincense slows and deepens the breathing which can help reduce stress and anxiety and may help prevent the onset of panic attacks. Its calming effect can be particularly useful for chronic worriers, helping to drive out persistent and unwanted thoughts and encouraging the mind to ‘switch off’.
- Lavender is one of the most versatile and all-round supportive oils. It’s ideal for soothing the nervous system, aiding relaxation and sleep and can be used with children too.
- Sweet Marjoram has a calming effect on the emotions and can help with nervous anxiety, fear, low self-esteem, insomnia or restlessness. It is a popular essential oil to use before bed.
- Melissa is one of the best essential oils for anxiety and depression. It is a sedative, uplifting and deeply calming oil that can chase away negative thoughts and soothe a troubled mind. It can also help with digestive problems that are aggravated by stress and help regulate panicky, over-rapid breathing.
- Neroli is a relaxing oil and is beneficial for nervous conditions such as stress, depression, fear, anxiety, insomnia and the inability to face challenges. It can also help with stress-related stomach conditions and heart palpitations. Petitgrain comes from the same bitter orange tree as Neroli. It is a cheaper alternative that offers similar properties.
- Rose with its exquisite aroma helps calm the nervous system, comfort the heart, soothe insecurity and fear, strengthen the inner spirit and encourage self-love. Although expensive it’s incredibly powerful and a single drop will often be all that’s required.
- Ylang Ylang calms, uplifts and helps create a sense of peace. It is recommended for anger, irritability, nervous tension, anxiety, depression and aiding sleep. It is also thought to help with heart palpitations and reducing high blood pressure.
In addition to the above list, ‘cephalic’ essential oils such as Basil, Juniperberry, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Pine and Rosemary can help stimulate and clear the mind, cutting through persistent worries and anxieties, and helping you to see problems more clearly and focus on finding solutions.
Recommended aromatherapy blends for self-care and stress-relief
- Day time: 15ml Bath & Shower Gel, 4 drops Bergamot, 2 Melissa and 2 Rose.
- Night-time: 15ml Bath & Shower Gel, 4 drops Lavender, 2 Chamomile, 2 Clary Sage and 2 Ylang Ylang.
- 15ml Bath Oil (or carrier oil) with 5 drops Lavender, 2 Frankincense and 2 Neroli.
- 15ml Bath oil, 5 drops Lavender essential oil, 4 Ylang Ylang and 2 Melissa.
- For deeper sleep try 15ml bath oil, 5 drops Sweet Marjoram, 3 Lavender and 2 Neroli.
- Make a jar of our favourite ‘Happiness’ bath salts with 300g Dead Sea Salt, 20 drops Lavender, 15 Bergamot, 15 Petitgrain, 10 Ylang Ylang and 5 Benzoin. Add ½ cup per bath.
Add your chosen blend to your bath once the water has run and swirl gently to release the aroma and therapeutic powers of the essential oils. Close doors and windows to seal in the aroma, then lie back and try to relax, taking calming deep breaths (see breathing tips at the end of this article). If you don’t have a bath simply add your favourite blend to a foot bath.
Uplifting Body Lotion
Mix 120ml Moisturising Lotion with 15 drops Lavender essential oil, 10 Geranium, 10 Bergamot and 5 Benzoin.
Self-massage or massage with a partner can be excellent for relieving stress and tension. Try any of the following blends:
- 30ml carrier oil (e.g. Grapeseed or Sweet Almond oil) with 5 drops Bergamot, 3 Frankincense, 2 drops Benzoin and 2 Rose.
- 30ml carrier oil, 6 drops Lavender, 4 Bergamot and 2 Frankincense.
- 30ml carrier oil, 10 drops Lavender, 3 Frankincense and 2 Neroli.
A steam inhalation offers a fast and effective way of getting the therapeutic oils into your system.
Add the following oils to a bowl of steaming hot water, lean over the bowl with a towel over your head and inhale the soothing aromas for 5-10 minutes. Steam inhalations should be used with caution if suffering with asthma and other allergies such as hay fever (start by inhaling for 30 seconds and gradually increase if no adverse reactions).
- To calm anxiety: 4 drops Bergamot, 2 Clary Sage, 4 Lavender and 2 Neroli.
- To aid sleep: 5 drops Lavender 4 drops Sweet Marjoram, 2 drops Chamomile and 2 Neroli.
The same blends can also be used in a burner, diffuser or aromatherapy inhaler.
Keep Calm Spritz
100ml Orange Flower Hydrolat, 25 drops Bergamot, 15 Frankincense and 5 Neroli.
Shake well before use and spritz over yourself as required throughout the day.
Stress-Relieving Pulse Point Roller Blend
Mix 10ml carrier oil, 2 drops Bergamot and 2 drops Rose in a rollette bottle. Shake well and apply to pulse points as required.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are great techniques that can help reduce stress during challenging times. Try sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing (see below) and senses while diffusing 3 drops each of calming Frankincense and Lavender.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” can help to reduce stress, anxiety and aid sleep. It forces the mind and body to focus on regulating the breath, rather than replaying your worries and concerns over and over, and encourages the body to slip into a more relaxed state. Practicing this regularly at least twice a day is thought to yield the greatest effects.
Find somewhere comfortable to sit or lie down (or do it while relaxing in the bath or when you get in bed). Diffuse some essential oils if you wish - the Frankincense and Lavender blend from above would be ideal.
Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, then exhale forcefully through the mouth for 8 seconds (pursing the lips to make a whooshing sound). Repeat up to 4 times.
We appreciate that not everyone has a collection of essential oils at home, and that it may not be economical, particularly at the moment, to buy a selection of different oils. If this is the case, or if you simply don't want to be blending your own oils, we do offer a selection of pre-blended products such as our pure essential oil blends, massage oils, and aromatherapy spritzes.
We hope that all of the above will help to calm troubled minds during this stressful time. If you have any questions or would like any further advice please do not hesitate to contact us and we will try to help. Please do not suffer alone, or in silence. Although we're currently in lock-down and physically isolated from friends and family, there are still many ways to stay connected with those you love. Pick up the phone, text, skype, facetime, or reach out to one of the many mental health services that are now moving their support online.
Please take care!