Our sense of smell has a powerful influence on our emotions and mood. Unlike our other senses, which are processed through the brain stem, our sense of smell is processed through the limbic system, which governs emotion and memory. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies can take us straight back to our great-grandmother’s kitchen; the smell of wet grass in the fall might remind us of hours spent practicing on the soccer field.
Aromas are powerful memory triggers and mood enhancers—so much so that they can be used to relieve stress, uplift our mood, and provide an energy boost.
Aromatherapy refers to the practice of using essential oils or other aromatic compounds to enhance physical and emotional health and wellbeing. These essential oils are extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant. Many practitioners believe that inhaling the aroma of essential oils can stimulate brain function. Furthermore, some essential oils can be absorbed through the skin, where they reach the bloodstream and promote healing.
Aromatherapy is gaining momentum as a form of alternative healing. It is used to address many issues, including pain, fatigue, stress, nausea, cognitive function, and more. There is a wide variety of essential oils and each is associated with its own healing properties.
Using Aromas to Ease Stress
If your life is overrun by stress, consider incorporating aromatherapy into your daily routine to boost your mood and ease your tension. A certified aromatherapist can help concoct the right aroma for you, but you can also experiment on your own. It’s important to note that essential oils are highly concentrated and need to be diluted with another oil or lotion before applying directly to the skin.
Try these essential oils to quell your stress:
- Jasmine: Enhances mood and reduces anxiety
- Lavender: Promotes relaxation and a general sense of wellbeing
- Vetiver: Often referred to as the “oil of tranquility” for its calming properties
- Tangerine: Calms the nervous system and relieves stress, fear, and sadness
- Chamomile: Encourages calm, peace, and patience
- Grapefruit: Reduces fatigue
Combining two or three oils together often seems to make them more effective.
There are several ways to use essential oils:
- Vapor Inhalation: Place a few drops of the essential oil into steaming water. Place a towel over your head and lean over the water and inhale the fragrance.
- Infuser: Place a few drops of the essential oil into a burner or infuser and allow the aroma to waft through the room.
- Mist: Place a few drops of the essential oil into four ounces of distilled water for a room spray.
- Tissue: Place a few drops of the essential oil onto a tissue and wave it under your nose.
- Bath: Add a few drops of an essential oil to your bathwater for a soothing, relaxing treat.
- Massage: Blend essential oils with a “carrier oil” or lotion and use it for an aroma-filled massage.
- Compress: Add a few drops of an essential oil to a bowl of warm water; dip a washcloth in the water and wring it out to be used as a soothing compress.
- Ointment/Salve: Mix a few drops of your favorite essential oil with an ointment, carrier oil, or lotion and use it directly on your skin.
Aromatherapy is a wonderful, effective, and enjoyable way to reduce stress, but it’s important that you use caution with essential oils. Consult a professional to ensure that you are using the oils properly. Follow these tips:
- Keep essential oils away from your eyes.
- Always dilute oils before applying to skin.
- Keep essential oils away from children.
- Never ingest the oils.
- Less is more. Overuse can lead to headaches and nausea. If you’re overwhelmed by an aroma, drink some water and get some air.
- Read and follow all warnings.
- Pregnant women should consult a professional before using aromatherapy.
Stop and Smell the Aroma
Aromatherapy is extremely effective for stress relief. It’s a simple, fun way to breathe new life into your tired body. So, if you’re feeling stressed and run down, consider stopping to smell the aromas.