Massage therapists can address burnout by using aromatherapy for self-care

The physical demands of our work along with the energetic depletion that can happen by giving, giving, giving all day long—while not filling our own cup back up—can lead to burnout.

The irony is that while we create tranquil experiences and deep relaxation for our clients, we’re often so focused on accommodating our customers that we are left needing our own reprieve.

Outside of the treatment room there’s the push-pull of emails, social media and the personal demands of family life, including children, significant others, elder parents, and extended family and friends, that further stretches us. We cannot sustain our strength and balance If we are taxing our bodies, layering stress factors, and psychologically fending off challenges from all fronts.

Self-care is an essential element to our own personal and professional sustainability. There is a shift happening—from a perception that caring for the self is narcissistic and selfish, to the understanding that nurturing and caring for our personal well-being is necessary in order to be a healthy and vital practitioner in the wellness field.

We advocate wellness for our clients, but we need to be walking the talk or there’s a disconnect in our role as a wellness professional: We’re advocating wellness, but not living it. It’s important to understand that if we’re not taking care of ourselves, our reserves get low and then we don’t have the energy, patience and empathy for our clients.

Natural Self-Care

Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils is one of the powerful ways we can support our own balance and well-being. As we gain more personal experience with essential oils we are better able to share our professional recommendations for how to use them, with our clients for their own self-care practice too.

There are many simple-yet-effective ways to use essential oils. First, let’s start with the basics.

Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts derived from botanicals and plant parts including flowers, leaves, twigs, roots, bark and fruit peels. Some oils contain phytohormones that have a chemistry—and this chemotype, or chemical distinctness, determines what physiological effects the oils have on the body. 

Essential oils are absorbed through inhalation or through application to the skin during massage, a facial or bath. The use of pure essential oils has been found to provide both psychological and physical benefits, when used correctly and safely.

Each essential oil has its own botanical chemistry with specific healing properties. Oils’ use has been documented from ancient healing traditions to modern science and integrative medicine. Their therapeutic properties assist the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate and support optimal well-being.

Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways, including personalized blending for massage, baths and skin care, and in diffusers for environmental fragrancing.

7 Methods of Application

Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from botanicals. Therefore, a small amount goes a long way. Here are some ways to incorporate them into your daily self-care practice:

1. Clear the mind, open the lungs for fuller breath. Breathing oxygenates the cells and brings vitality into the whole body. When we breathe with awareness, we are able to clear and quiet the mind. Using inhalation techniques, we can clear the sinus passageways and the lungs to engage in fuller breath.

2. Inhalation. Eucalyptus and tea tree are two very popular oils for inhalation therapy. Just boil water and pour into a bowl. Add two drops each, close your eyes, and with a towel over your head breathe in the vapors.

3. Muscle and joint pain. Essential oils that help to move circulation, relieve stiffness of the joints, are warming to the muscle tissue, and are anti-inflammatory can be applied after your workday or in the evening. Apply 10 to15 drops per one ounce. of unscented oil, using any combination of these essential oils: eucalyptus, lemongrass, rosemary, ginger or juniper. Apply one drop of lemongrass and peppermint to the temples, occiput and forehead to help relieve headache tension.

4. Soak for better sleep. A warm bath has been used for centuries to relax the body and prepare for a good night’s sleep. Warm water vasodilates and softens muscle tension. This deep rest formula is unwinding and sedating. Blend four drops lavender, two drops chamomile, three drops cedarwood and two drops orange to one ounce unscented massage oil. Mix half into bath water combined with mineral salts. Apply the remaining blend to your body after the bath before you go to bed.

5. Stress relief. Calming the nervous system to restore and recover withlavender, clary sage, ylang ylang, orange and cedarwood combined or used individually in a diffuser, body oil or bath.

6. Power of positivity. Prep for the start of your day, or even shift your energy after a long day, by diffusing citrus oils, known as joy oils, which are positive and uplifting. Orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime are positive, refreshing and uplifting. They are great for environmental fragrancing (in your diffuser) to change the energy of a space and to uplift your mood.

7. Immune resilience. During this year in the pandemic we’ve learned more than ever before how important our immune resilience is. Essential oils that have been traditionally used to support the immune system are eucalyptus, tea tree and lemongrass. Try blending three drops each of eucalyptus and tea tree with six drops of lemongrass into one ounce of unscented massage oil for your own self-massage in the morning.

Vital self-care

Essential oils can be a vital part of self-care practice through inhalation, transdermal delivery or environmental fragrancing. As you explore the many additional ways to utilize these botanicals for your own well-being, you will grow to love the relationship you cultivate with essential oils and the plant kingdom from where they come.

We are all striving for balance in our lives. Essential oils are one natural resource that supports us to thrive.

About the Author:

Tara Donna Grodjesk is VP of Earthlite Spa and Wellness Products and founder of Tara Spa Therapy. She is a certified holistic health educator, massage therapist, Ayurvedic practitioner and aomatherapist. She is also s co-founder of Green Spa Network and The Northern California Spa Alliance. For 30 years Grodjesk has been training massage therapists internationally. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include, “This is How CBD Treatments Can Help You and Your Clients.”