Responding to stress is something people naturally do to help regulate the body—but staying in a constant state of stress will eventually have negative health effects. Cortisol, also called the stress hormone, is part of the body’s natural response to stress, but when released at high levels, or when is it not allowed to disperse due to chronic stress, it can decrease immunity, bone density and overall quality of life.
Practicing consistent and intentional self-care to support the body’s natural relaxation response and to keep our body’s cortisol levels balanced and healthy is essential for long-term wellness. Self-care helps us to manage stress before it becomes constant. Aromatherapy is one effective self-care method we can use to stop stress from taking root in the body.
Aromatherapy triggers the relaxation response, necessary for self-care. The relaxation response can be triggered by doing something you like, such as deep breathing, walking, and self-massage. Triggering the relaxation response has many health benefits, including healthy cortisol levels and decreased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, improved digestion and normalized blood sugar levels.
That’s why it is important to make time for yourself every day, even if that means stolen moments here and there, such as while you’re between clients, in the car, washing dishes or even doing laundry. Aromatherapy is flexible and portable, and it provides a lot of diversity, so your self-care time can be most meaningful.
Consider using essential oils as part of your everyday health routine. Using essential oils when you are already relaxed, such as during a massage, creates a positive conditioning response, a positive association.
To support everyday use, try inhalation of single essential oils, or, if you have more time, creating a personal blend of essential oils. Both methods have therapeutic properties. Deciding which method is most appropriate for your immediate needs may be a simple factor of available time.
If you choose inhalation, select essential oils with a pleasant association. Waft (or diffuse) calming, yet uplifting aromas like palmarosa Cymbopogon martini, neroli Citrus aurantium var. amara, or bergamot Citrus aurantium var. bergamia. Inhale deeply.
If you choose to make a blend, select essential oil with relaxing and/or uplifting properties. Anise Pimpinella anisum, basil Ocimum basilicum, clary sage Salvia sclarea, geranium Pelargonium graveolens, grapefruit Citrus paradisi, lavender Lavandula angustifolia, nutmeg Myristica fragrans, petitgrain Citrus aurantium, rose attar Rosa damascena, rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis, sweet orange Citrus sinensis, tangerine Citrus reticulata, and ylang ylang Cananga odorata are especially useful for simple, stress-reducing blends.
For a stress-relieving shower, combine 4 ounces of unscented shower gel, 15 drops of rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis, 10 drops of grapefruit Citrus paradisi, 10 drops of tangerine Citrus reticulata, and 6 drops of petitgrain Citrus aurantium. Use externally.
For a more sedating blend for massage or bath, combine one-half cup of sweet almond oil, 6 drops of anise Pimpinella anisum, 6 drops of rose attar Rosa damascena, and 6 drops of nutmeg Myristica fragrans. Use as needed as a massage oil or add 1-3 T to bathwater.
Note that you can use these essential oil blends in a diffuser. Simply leave out the base oil or gel.
Dorene Petersen is president of the American College of Healthcare Sciences, a school committed to exceptional online education and recognized as an industry leader in holistic health education worldwide. For more information, visit www.achs.edu.