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Essential Oils For Stress
Stress is a fact of life for all of us. No matter how happy you are on the whole, you are always going to experience periods of stress and you are always going to face certain pressures at any given time.
For most of us, the majority of our stress comes from financial strains, relationship difficulties, work and simply having a busy calendar without much time to ourselves. But just because stress is commonplace, that doesn’t mean it is something we should just accept and live with.
Stress is actually very bad for us in a number of serious ways. It’s crucial that we do everything we can to get it under control for our mental and physical health and as you’ll see in this post, there are a number of inexpensive and non-invasive ways you can do just that – using essential oils being one particularly good example!
How to Use Essential Oils for Combating Stress Hormones
Essential oils can used to treat stress in a number of different ways. That is to say that they can be directly beneficial thanks tot heir active ingredients but also indirectly by providing relaxing and therapeutic sensations and smells.
In terms of using essential oils for their active properties, there are a number of particular oils that can be highly effective. These work by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in many cases. Serotonin is a chemical that is produced in the brain and often referred to as the ‘happiness’ hormone. This is responsible for helping us feel elated after we’ve eaten a good meal, gone for a run or had a great conversation with friends – and it also acts to reduce our perception of stress and of other negative emotions. It can even act as a naturally painkiller!
One essential oil that increases serotonin is bergamot oil. Another good example is lemon oil. Bergamot oil works particularly well when burned for aromatherapy using an oil burner or similar. Lemon oil meanwhile works well when ingested in small quantities and mixed with warm water to create a brew. This contains a lot of vitamin C, which is great for strengthening the immune system and as an added bonus, vitamin C also increases serotonin.
Another essential oil that can combat stress and that works in a somewhat different manner is valerian root. Contrary to bergamot oil and lemon oil, valerian root oil does not increase serotonin. Rather, this oil works by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). This is the key inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it works to suppress and reduce neural activity in the brain. This helps to reduce anxiety by suppressing the kinds of thoughts that make us stressed and by helping us to relax as a result. In short, this is an anxiolytic and a sedative and can also be very effective when used as a sleeping aid!
Relaxing Therapy With Essential Oils
As mentioned, essential oils can also help to combat stress simply by aiding the relaxation process. In other words, this can be an ideal way to unwind after a hard day at work.
One example of how essential oils can be used in this way is to use them for massage. Receiving a massage is always a highly relaxing and therapeutic experience which can help to release muscle tension and discomfort while also helping you to forget about your troubles. If you can convince your partner to offer you a massage with eucalyptus oil or valerian root oil, then you will benefit from additional muscle relaxation, as well as the pleasantly relaxing feeling that comes from having someone take good care of you.
It’s also possible to use essential oils for self-massage. For instance, many people find it particularly effective to massage their own temples or forehead gently using oils like eucalyptus oil to provide a cooling sensation.
Likewise, essential oils added to a bath work particularly well when it comes to helping us unwind. This has the effect of relaxing the muscles further (warm water does this job on its own but is enhanced by the essential oils) while also providing the aromatherapy as the smell enters the room around you.
Another way you can use essential oils to combat stress is by burning them. Even where neurotransmitters are not involved, certain smells are very therapeutic and relaxing simply because they are such pleasant aromas. A good example of this is lavender oil. Lavender creates a smell that most people find highly enjoyable and relaxing and many of us will use lavender scented products to help us feel ready for bed. Studies have also found that this association stands up to close scrutiny with a lot of research supporting its ability to help us sleep longer and better.
And there’s another way that scents can be used to encourage sleep too – through ritual. In other words, if you use a lavender smell every time you go to bed, then you will gradually come to associate the smell of lavender with going to bed. Eventually, it will get to the point where this association alone is enough to make you sleepy when you smell it!
The great thing about using essential oils in any of these ways, is that you can combine them. For instance: you can receive a massage while also burning oils for the relaxing scents. This is an ideal way to completely unwind and relax if you’re feeling very anxious!
Why It’s So Important to Unwind
If you find yourself constantly feeling stressed and anxious, then using techniques like these to unwind and get some ‘you time’ is very advisable.
Stress in itself is not actually a bad thing. The stress response is an evolutionary adaptation that allows us to perform at our physical and mental best when in danger. When presented with a threat, our body responds by increasing the heart rate to deliver more blood and oxygen to the brain and the muscles. The blood thickens so that it will clot more easily if we’re wounded and we gain a narrow focus that prevents our mind from wandering.
All this is great in the short term. The problem is when it continues in the long term. When this happens, blood is constantly fed to the muscles and the brain to the detriment of other processes like digestion and the immune system. The result is that we become more likely to become ill and struggle to absorb nutrition. Meanwhile, thickened blood and an increased heart rate puts us at increased risk of heart problems and even raises the blood pressure. Adrenal fatigue meanwhile can lead to lethargy, low motivation and energy and depression.
This state was simply never intended to persist for extended periods and it can be very dangerous when it does. Even if it were not dangerous, it would still be enough to hamper your enjoyment of daily activities and to place a strain on your relationships while reducing productivity.
If you are constantly pushing yourself at work, constantly worrying at home and feeling perpetually stressed and rushed, then you will risk your health in a number of ways. That’s why having a period of time at the end of the day, dedicated to relaxing and recuperating can be so beneficial.
CBT and Essential Oils
If you find that taking time out isn’t enough to combat your stress levels, then you could consider using CBT and mindfulness practices in conjunction with this relaxation. CBT stands for ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’ and is a psychotherapeutic approach that involves looking at the kinds of thought patterns and ruminations that lead to stress. For example, you might find that you’re stressed because you keep worrying about bad things that could happen.
CBT teaches us the tools and strategies we can use to replace these negative thoughts with positive ones. One of these tools is ‘mindfulness’ meditation, which helps us to observe the contents of our thoughts in a more detached and relaxing manner.
To learn CBT techniques, it is advisable to see a trained therapist. From there, you can then practice them while unwinding with some essential oils and calming music. This is a great way to take care of yourself psychologically and can make a massive difference for your health and your mood over time.
In fact, even if stress doesn’t seem particularly prevalent for you, chances are that a little alone time like this could still do you a lot of good!