Essential oils for relaxation & stress relief

April is Stress Awareness Month - a campaign run by the Stress Management Society. It sets out to raise awareness of the causes of stress, the negative effects it can have on the body, mind and soul, and how to relieve symptoms. 

Stress is one of the great public health challenges with millions of people in the UK experiencing high levels of stress. The Mental Health Foundation report that 74% of UK adults have become so stressed at some point during the last year that they felt "overwhelmed or unable to cope".

Stress is described as anything that disturbs our normal balance of mental and physical health. Triggers can be external in origin (e.g. from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (e.g. due to an illness or following a medical procedure). Stress from any one trigger can result in us being less able to withstand stress from other sources. So, for example, if we are feeling emotionally drained due to stress at work, our immune system may become compromised, and we might be more likely to catch an infectious illness.

Fortunately, aromatherapy is an excellent de-stressing technique and there are a huge range of essential oils that help to relieve stress and its various symptoms.

Our blog offers some beautifully soothing and calming blends to help support relaxation and stress relief – so, if you’re in need of de-stressing, stop what you’re doing for 5 minutes, grab yourself a nice herbal tea, settle down somewhere comfy – and read on.

Causes of stress

According to the Stress Management Society, stress is a physical response to being under attack, which makes us switch into fight, flight or freeze mode, releasing a mix of hormones to help us prepare to survive danger.  In this way, it can be a good thing – but the problem occurs when we are kept in a state of stress for prolonged periods of time.  We can end up living in a permanent state of either fight (feeling agitated/agressive), flight (avoiding rather than tackling the situation) or freeze (where the energy gets locked in the nervous system and we literally freeze) - all of which can be detrimental to our health.

Effects of stress

When we are stressed, we often experience emotional, physical or behavioural challenges.  For example, we can suffer with our cognition, feel brain fog, lack confidence, or feel overwhelmed, low/depressed, anxious or irritable.  We may turn to distractions like alcohol, isolate ourselves, or sleep too much or too little.  Physically, we can feel tense, experience chest pain, our heart rate can increase, we can forget to breathe, and we might suffer with insomnia, low immunity, high blood pressure, digestive problems or skin conditions. 

Thoughts about stress

It might sound obvious, but for me, I know that stress actually comes from stressful thinking; whatever we experience in life comes from how we think about things.  That’s not to say we are able to ‘think’ ourselves out of it – we can’t just try positive thinking and hope everything will be ok.  What we can do, though, is know that our thoughts can’t harm us and aren’t always the truth.  So, we can become conscious of the idea that we are living in the feeling of our thinking, and that moment to moment our experience of stress can change – and this itself may help.  Sometimes we may feel stressed, and sometimes we may not.  In the moments where we are feeling stressed, we can remember that it will pass, and that underneath all of it is our innate health – even when it doesn’t feel like it!

The best thing to do in this situation, in my experience, is to slow down and ask the following question: “What can I let go of to allow myself to be more of my less stressed, true self?”

Relieving symptoms of stress with relaxing self-care

When you are feeling stressed, it is time to STOP and RELAX.  It might not feel easy to do so, especially when all you see/feel is pressure from others, but it is the first step in allowing yourself to feel better.  So often when we are stressed, we look to the external to try and find out how to rectify it.  However, the most important person to listen to is yourself.  We support the Stress Awareness Month’s campaign which advises that you start to say ‘NO’ and prioritise your health.  

It also advises to sleep, breathe, hydrate, eat well and move your body – all of which are beneficial for re-balancing your wellbeing.  As mentioned above there is also a huge array of essential oils that can aid relaxation and be a great first-step into self-care. Popular choices include Bergamot, Chamomile (Roman), Clary Sage, Frankincense, Lavender, Geranium, Jasmine, Mandarin, Sweet Marjoram, Neroli, Orange Sweet, Petitgrain, Rose, Sandalwood, Vetivert and Ylang Ylang.

Using essential oils to support stress-relief and relaxation

Firstly, essential oils have therapeutic properties which, once they are in your blood stream, can help safely and naturally alter the chemistry of your body (when used correctly) in order to work on a specific aim.  Sedative or antidepressant essential oils for example will help you to relax, unwind and de-stress, and there are many different ways you can use them, wherever you are!

Diffusing essential oils

You can diffuse essential oils by adding up to 2-3 drops each of up to 3 different essential oils mixed in water in an electrical diffuser or candle burner.  This method gets the oil molecules into the air where they make their way into your body via inhalation.  This is a great way to use essential oils whilst you are at home, either in the morning to help relax you if you are anxious or agitated on waking, or at night if you can’t sleep.  Having said that, you can pop it on for up to half an hour at a time at any point of the day!  All we are doing is simply using the fragrance to remind our body what it is meant to do: i.e. slow down and calm down!

  • To aid relaxation try 3 drops Bergamot, 3 drops Rose and 2 drops Lavender
  • To aid more restful sleep try 3 drops Valerian, 3 drops Cedarwood and 2 drops Lavender 

Aromatherapy Inhalers

Inhalers are little sniff sticks that you can carry with you and are perfect for calming stressful feelings while on the go! Simply add 3 drops of essential oil to the cotton wadding inside the inhaler (or use a rolled-up cotton pad) and sniff as and when required.

  • Try 1 drop each of Mandarin, Sweet Orange and Sweet Marjoram
  • Or, 1 drop each of Jasmine, Clary Sage and Melissa

Aromatherapy Spritzes

Spritzes are also great for carrying with you as you go about your day! Simply spray into the air around you to remind yourself to relax. Mix 100ml of Lavender Hydrolat in spray bottle with up to 30 drops maximum of essential oil (we typically advise using no more than different oils).

  • 10 drops Clary Sage, 10 drops Bergamot and 10 drops Chamomile
  • 15 drops Lavender, 10 drops Ylang Ylang and 5 drops Vetivert 

Aromatherapy Baths

If you’re after total, ultimate relaxation, I’d recommend immersing yourself in a de-stressing bath!  Mix up to 2-3 drops each of up to 3 different oils in our SLS free Bath & Shower Gel or Bath Oil and pour into the warm water.  Close doors and windows to keep in the aromatic steam, get in, relax, and close your eyes whilst you do some deep breathing. This is my favourite way to relax when I’m feeling stressed!

  • To aid relaxation try 3 drops Rose, 3 drops Geranium and 2 drops Patchouli
  • To aid sleep try 3 drops Valerian, 3 drops Mandarin, 2 drops Chamomile 

Aromatherapy Massage

A really great self-care technique is, of course, having a massage.  You could either book an Aromatherapy massage with a professional therapist, or you could attempt to treat yourself to a little love at home, depending on how you feel!  Aromatherapy massage is great because not only does the massage itself relax the nervous system, but the essential oils have a therapeutic effect on the nervous system as well.  Simply choose three essential oils, and mix 2 drops of each into 15ml of carrier oil, such as Sweet Almond or Grapeseed oil, and then massage gently and slowly into your skin in a direction towards the heart.  Make this a real relaxing treat by having an aromatherapy bath first.

  • Try 2 drops Bergamot, 2 drops Rose and 2 drops Geranium (uplifting and balancing for the mood)
  • Or, 2 drops Frankincense, 2 drops Sandalwood and 2 drops Sweet Orange (calms the mind and deepens the breathing)

Integrative Aromatherapy

A final point to make is that you can combine aromatherapy with other things to help you relax. For example, you may wish to try something like meditation or yoga and incorporate the use of essential oils to support your practice. Pop the oils in a diffuser or make up a spritz or massage oil from the blends above, or get creative and choose your own oils. Our bodies are intuitive things and the scents we like tend to be the scents we need, so experiment with the oils and find the ones you love.

If you'd prefer a pre-blended oil then don't forget we have a fantastic range of 100% pure essential oil blends that can be used for all of the above applications. These include Relaxing, Uplifting and Sweet Dreams which are all perfect for relieving stress, tension and improving the mood. We also have a selection of pre-blended, ready to use massage oils and massage waxes.

Overall, as part of a balanced wellbeing plan, essential oils can really helpful with relaxation and stress-relief – and they can definitely help with allowing you some space to really become aware of what is happening in your body, mind and soul.  Delve into yourself, take some time for you, explore our beautiful aromatherapy oils and you’ll be feeling better in no time! 

Nicole Barton
Consultant Aromatherapist

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