Getting through the stress of the daily grind wears on the strongest of minds. We all find ways to help process life’s daily challenges, and sometimes it is just plain hard. Add in emotional trauma, hormonal changes, or holidays with family, and you may find yourself in need of a little extra emotional support. Healthier than grabbing a beer to unwind, using essential oils to help release the stresses of the day won’t add to your waistline or leave you with a hangover the following morning.
Essential oils are extracted from plants and possess a variety of natural healing properties. Studies continue to show how oils contribute to everything from better, more restorative sleep to calming nerves and easing nausea. Stress is a common factor in everyone’s life, and the key to finding happiness on a daily basis lies in how you address these challenges.
If your muscles are tense from hunching over a desk, a soothing massage is a proven method of treatment. That relaxing massage also includes essential oils – they are infused with the massage oil and diffusing throughout the air of the room. So how exactly do these volatile oils work? Let’s walk through the basics of your emotional well-being and how essential oils can help.
What is Emotional Health?
Studies support close ties between physical health of the body and mental wellness. Emotional health is the foundation for strong mental conditioning which gives an individual the ability to cope with stress, make better life decisions and even tackle physical obstacles. The Surgeon General recognizes the need for emotional well-being. There is a National Prevention Strategy providing recommendations for federal programs and community agencies alike, encouraging them to band together and form a network of support.
The American Psychological Association further discusses how success does not equate to happiness, as researchers previously thought. Emotional health, or happiness, leads to better personal relationships, stronger physical and mental health, and career success. Sound familiar? Yes, money doesn’t buy happiness or a positive sense of well-being.
How do Essential Oils Affect Mood?
Essential oils are used in three different manners:
- Direct inhalation happens when you add a few drops of oil to hot water and breathe in the steam
- Indirect inhalation involves particulates in the air (by a diffuser, for example)
- Massage oils use essential oils diluted in a carrier liquid such as vegetable oil
- Some essentials have antiseptic properties or promote skin health
- Certain oils may be safely ingested
The fastest way to your brain is through your nose. Inhaling essential oils stimulates nasal passages and sends messages on a fast track to your brain – specifically the “old brain.” The limbic portion of the human brain controls our most basic of nerve impulses. These electric receptors are in charge of our unconscious brain functions such as sleep, pain, pleasure, and you guessed it – emotion.
Stress goes hand in hand with emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, and irritability. Essential oils such as lavender and ylang-ylang have proven track records at reducing stress and high blood pressure when used regularly.
C’mon and Get Happy
Since the same part of your brain that controls emotion is tied to memory, finding your happy place can be as simple as triggering fond memories from childhood. The right fragrance can transport you back in time to playing hide and seek in your grandmother’s rose garden. Aromatherapy can open a path to meditation, calming the mind and assisting in the escape from the day’s stress.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by extreme nervousness and persistent anxiety. Treatment for GAD may include the highly addictive drugs in the benzodiazepine family, a strong sedative found in medicines such as Xanax or Valium. One study compared the use of benzodiazepine to lavender oil and found the latter to be a feasible alternative without the sedative or addictive qualities.
Emotional Health and Physical Pain
Constant pain wears on your mental health too. When chronic pain from an old injury or arthritis inhibits you every day, it distracts from the good things in life. It can keep a grandparent from enjoying precious time playing with grandchildren or sitting comfortably through an entire movie in the theater. Finding ways to support pain therapy is vital to improving your emotional health.
Essential oils have already shown significant effects on mood, stress, blood pressure and anxiety. They are not addictive and topical or inhaled applications are an extremely low risk. Volatile oils are a common supplemental treatment for cancer and during pregnancy.
Since the time of the Egyptians, chronic pain treatment included essential oils. Some common oils used today to compliment pain management are:
Support Your Well-being
Building a positive outlook on life is a daily process. Knowing how to relax the conscious brain and turn off the stress button improves your physical health. Even if you aren’t the type of person to embrace meditation practices or find you never have time for an hour of yoga, essential oils are available in so many ways it is not hard to add them into daily life. Here are some great ways to try a little aromatherapy:
- Rub a small amount of your preferred oil on your temples before bedtime. It allows your body more restful, restorative sleep – better equipping your immune system to fight off infections.
- Add essential oils like eucalyptus to a warm bath. The heat activates your nasal passages while the steam from the water diffuses the oil into the air. Only fifteen minutes of slow inhalation can clear your head and sinuses at the same time!
- Take a trip down memory lane before an intense day. Finding scents that induce fond memories before walking into the lobby at the doctor’s office can calm nerves or help get your best attitude primed before an important meeting at work.
- Had a great massage? Ask the therapist what he or she used in the oil or the air. Once you know what works, having the oil at home will upgrade that at home massage too.