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How Aromatherapy Can Help Manage Anxiety During Stressful Times

We all know that times are tough right now. The economic ups and downs, social changes, and environmental challenges we're facing here in New Zealand can really take a toll on our mental well-being. It's completely normal to feel a bit overwhelmed with everything going on.

One wonderful way to take care of ourselves is through aromatherapy. This natural, gentle practice can help create a calming atmosphere, ease anxiety, and reduce stress. Let’s explore how aromatherapy can be a helpful tool in managing anxiety during these stressful times.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion most humans naturally experience from time to time. It is a natural human response to threatening or stressful situations, and is characterised by feelings of fear, panic, nervousness, unease and worry.

However, anxiety becomes a mental disorder when it becomes excessive, happens often, and linger for long. In which case the sufferer is referred to as having anxiety disorder, a mental health condition that could negatively impact one's daily life. Symptoms of anxiety include excessive worrying, feeling of restlessness, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, intense episodes of fear, excessive sweating, muscle tension, shortness of breath, fatigue, etc.

Aromatherapy helps alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and create a calm, serene and comforting environment around you.

Aromatherapy for Anxiety

Aromatherapy is a form of natural medicine which relies on fragrances and essences from plants to bring healing and wellness to your body. It is a reliable and effective natural therapeutic practice that has been around for decades. In aromatherapy, essential oils extracted from plant parts are used to treat and prevent illnesses. These essential oils are full of powerful bioactive compounds with many therapeutic benefits.

Essential oils can affect your brain, senses and emotions to give balance to your mind, body and spirit. The chemical compounds they contain can improve blood circulation, regulate blood pressure, control pulse and respiration, and ultimately reduce anxiety. This makes essential oils a perfect treatment for mental health disorders, especially stress and anxiety. Aromatherapy has been used for several hundreds of years to manage anxiety disorders.

Best Essential Oils For Anxiety

There are several essential oils that have been scientifically proven to be effective for treatment of anxiety. Let's take a look at some of the amazing essential oils to use as natural remedies for anxiety.

1. Lavender Essential Oil

First on our list of essential oils that reduce anxiety and its symptoms is lavender essential oil. Study shows that inhaling the sweet fragrant smell of lavender essential oil has the ability to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. In one of the studies, lavender essential oil significantly reduced anxiety levels in patients going in for surgeries. Similar relief from anxiety was also noted in patients in intensive care units upon inhalation of lavender essential oil. Lavender directly impacts your limbic system, the part of your brain that processes and regulates your emotions. The soothing scent of lavender not only calms your mind, it also gently sedates you to sleep and eliminates anxiety-induced sleeplessness.

2. Bergamot Essential Oil

Bergamot essential oil, obtained from rind of bergamot oranges, is another powerful aromatherapy oil for relieving anxiety. Bergamot essential oil has been demonstrated to decrease anxiety levels in individuals awaiting surgery.

3. Clary Sage Essential Oil

Another highly effective essential oil for managing anxiety and stress is the essential oil from the clary sage plant. This essential oil contains many medicinal properties, and together with its effect on the limbic system, it offers great relief to people battling anxiety disorders. Studies observed that inhalation of clary sage essential oil induces significant decrease in blood pressure and respiratory rate. These effects calm you down and dispel anxious feelings. Clary sage also reduces high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, thereby relieving symptoms of stress and anxiety.

4. Lemon Essential Oil

Inhaling the rich citrusy smell of lemon essential oil effectively lifts your mood, eases tension and dispel anxiety. There are several studies backing up the use of lemon essential oil for managing anxiety. In one of these studies, lemon essential oil actively reduced symptoms of anxiety in patients that just underwent orthopaedic surgery.

5. Ylang-ylang Essential Oil

Ylang-ylang essential oil is popularly used in aromatherapy for relieving stress and anxiety. Results from some studies support this use. The oil has been shown to have anxiety-relieving properties. It helps to calm down tension, lift your mood and improve your self-esteem. It also lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.

6. Geranium Essential Oil

Geranium essential oil is good for reducing stress and anxiety symptoms. Sniffing the scent of geranium essential oil instantly decreases anxious feelings and reduces stress levels. Geranium has been demonstrated to be effective in managing anxiety during labour.

7. Patchouli Essential Oil

In Ayurveda, patchouli essential oil is used for relieving stress and anxiety. It helps to calm tension and alleviate feelings of anxiety. A study on the stress-relieving activity of patchouli essential oil showed a decrease in stress level in individuals who inhaled the oil compared to the control group.

8. Sweet Orange Essential Oil

Sweet orange essential oil has been revealed by some studies to be particularly beneficial in managing anxiety and stress in pregnant women. Inhalation of the oil reduces anxiety and depression. Sweet orange essential oil is good for both adults and children. In a study conducted in 2013, inhalation of sweet orange essential oil reduced tension and stress in children undergoing a dental procedure.

9. Frankincense Essential Oil

The sweet, musky aroma of frankincense essential oil helps to ease tension and reduce anxiety. Positive results from studies on the use of frankincense essential oil for managing stress and anxiety have proven its efficacy. It has also been demonstrated to be useful in reducing anxiety in pregnant women during labour. You can apply diluted frankincense oil on your hands and feet or inhale it. Both methods yield excellent results in reducing anxiety.

10. Mandarin Essential Oil

Mandarin essential oil has a sweet citrus fragrance that refreshes and calms your mind. Massage the diluted oil on your body or diffuse and inhale it to reduce nervous tension and feeling of anxiety.

11. Cedarwood Essential Oil

Cedarwood essential oil has a calming effect on the mind. Inhaling the scent of cedarwood alleviates symptoms of anxiety and lifts your mood. Several studies have authenticated the use of cedarwood essential oil in aromatherapy to manage stress and anxiety.

12. Grapefruit Essential Oil

Like other citrus essential oils, grapefruit essential oil contains the chemical compound limonene. Limonene acts to decrease high blood pressure, calm the mind, boost your mood, ease tension and alleviate anxiety symptoms. Grapefruit essential oil has a calming, anti-anxiety and stress-relieving benefits when inhaled.

How To Use Essential Oils For Anxiety

There are several methods you can use to enjoy your essential oils for relief of anxiety. Whether you are using oil blends or a single essential oil type, the process is still the same.

By Inhalation

Use a diffuser to make inhalation of your essential oils for anxiety easier and long-lasting. Add about 4-6 drops of your essential oil/blend to 100ml of water (depending on the capacity of your diffuser). Diffuse and inhale for at least 5 minutes.

Alternatively, you can add 3-5 drops of the oil to a bowl of warm water and inhale the steam. Sprinkling about 2 drops of essential oil/blend on a clean handkerchief or a cotton ball and sniffing the scent works as well.

Topical Application

Dilute 2 drops of your anxiety-relieving essential oil/blend in a tablespoon of carrier oil, and gently massage it on your hands, feet, shoulders, neck and/or pulse points.

Please note that it is not safe to ingest essential oils. Also, ensure to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil like jojoba oil, fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond before applying to your skin. Test the oil on a patch of your skin to confirm your skin is not allergic to it.

DIY Essential Oil Blend for Anxiety

All the essential oils mentioned above don't have the same components or medicinal properties. Essential oils for managing anxiety work better in synergy. Therefore aromatherapists usually recommend blending some  essential oils, in order to enhance their effect. 

Your selection of essential oils to blend is critical to how effective the blend will turn out. Here are our favourite blends for controlling stress and relieving symptoms of anxiety. These blends are guaranteed to yield faster and long-lasting relief from anxiety. You can also try creating your own unique blend using essential oils that work for you.

Anxiety-relief Blend 1

  • 2 drops of Ylang-ylang essential oil 

  • 2 drops of Lavender essential oil 

  • 2 drops of Bergamot essential oil 

Anxiety-relief Blend 2

  • 2 drops of Geranium essential oil

  • 2 drops of Lavender essential oil

  • 2 drops of Clary sage essential oil

  • 1 drop of Cedarwood essential oil

Anxiety-relief Blend Recipe 3

  • 2 drop of Patchouli essential oil

  • 2 drop of Ylang-ylang essential oil

  • 2 drops of Clary Sage essential oil

Anxiety-relief Blend 4

  • 3 drops of Frankincense  essential oil

  • 2 drops of Lavender essential oil

  • 1 drop of Sweet Orange essential oil 

Anxiety-relief/Mood lift Blend 5

  • 3 drops of Lemon essential oil

  • 2 drops of Bergamot essential oil

  • 2 drops of Mandarin essential oil 

Diffuse this blend or apply to fabrics, beddings, cushions, etc for a citrusy calm and anxiety-free atmosphere. It can also be massaged into skin or added to bath water after being diluted with a carrier oil.

For all the blends above, diffuse the blend and inhale for 5-10 minutes.

For topical application, mix oils in a dark glass bottle, add 2 drops of the blend to a tablespoon of carrier oil (jojoba oil, fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond) and apply on your pulse points. It can also be massaged on the feet, hands, temples, neck and shoulders.

Stressful circumstances might trigger or worsen anxiety disorders. Ensuring a calm and comforting, relaxing environment around yourself will help to keep anxious feelings away and ease existing symptoms of anxiety. Aromatherapy, using essential oils for anxiety, is the easiest, safest and stress-free way to create an anxiety-relieving environment.


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