In 2002, when Dalai Lama came to Croatia, I rushed with several thousand other people to hear him talk about ethics for a new millennium. The whole lecture was inspiring, but one thing stuck to my mind. He was telling a story of how he was visiting some people (who were incidentally very well-off) and he went to the bathroom. While being there, he checked their medicine cabinet (I can just image he did it with a mischievous glint in his eyes) and saw many tranquillisers lined up in it.
The moral of this short story?
Almost everybody is stressed. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, tall or short, fat or thin, glamorous or dull.
Why is that? When did we become a race of troubled, stressed beings?
Well, stress definitely shows a lack of two very important things in our lives: faith and gratitude.
If you have faith- and I’m not talking about any organised religion in particular- then you believe that anythings that’s happening is happening for a reason and that, even though you may not see it at the moment, it is for a greater good.
If you practice gratitude every day, then you know that whatever (subjectively bad) happens, you still have plenty of things to be grateful for and to enjoy.
But, I will leave the philosophy of permanent happiness, which can be achieved only through these two things, for some other discussion.
If we understand that stress is something we choose and it is not imposed on us (I know, this is difficult to believe), we are already halfway there to eliminating it. Let’s trust aromatherapy to help us with the other half.
Using essential oils for relieving stress syndromes is a widely known and used method of healing. There are many oils that have a calming and soothing effect (as if Mother Nature knew what humans will need), but there is a catch.
To experience full and proper effects of the oils, you have to use it with a certain intention.
What does that mean? Very simply- if you use the oils to reduce stress, at the moment of application, as well as afterwards, you have to cooperate with the oils and allow yourself to calm down.
For example, after a stressful day you put a couple of drops of lavender on your wrists and go to bed. After lying down you toss and turn, thinking about the issues that caused your anxiety, analysing all the things that have happened during the day. Now, isn’t that a shame? Can you imagine those little drops of that lovely lavender struggling with your thoughts and trying to calm you down?
No, to feel the full benefit of the oil, you have to help it. Lie down, try to empty your mind. If this is difficult, try directing your thought to something pleasant, not connected to the events of the day. Breathe deeply and slowly. It also helps if you close one nostril with your finger and breathe through the other one.
In that way, you are using the oil with intention, and, believe me, the effect will not fail.
I mentioned there are many essential oil that can be used for calming down, but here I will mention three of my favourites.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender is probably the most known oil- even people who don’t know anything about aromatherapy have heard of it.
To get the full benefit of the calming effect, make sure you use real lavender (latin names can be Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula vera or Lavandula officinalis). Spike lavender or lavandins don’t have quite the same molecular composition, so the therapy outcome wouldn’t be the same.
When to use lavender?
Lavender regulates the nervous system and subsequently calms us down. It is also an antispasmodic, so it relieves spasms and can be used for headaches, migraines and all other cramp-related pains.
Lavender is best suited for every day use. If you have a stressful job or a difficult period of life, lavender is very helpful as a general tranquilliser. Its soft, sweet smell and mild effect makes it appropriate for children.
What is the best way to use lavender during stressful time periods?
As most of other oils, you can use lavender oil in a diffuser. This is a good way to distribute the oil throughout all the rooms and give them a calming quality. In the bedroom, or at your office it will make a soothing atmosphere.
Feel free to use it in the children bedroom, also.
I have found that, even though I have tried many other oils for helping me sleep, I always return to lavender. Simply put one drop on your wrist and rub your wrists together. If you like, put also one drop on your neck. One drop on your pillow is also a good idea, but if you have already applied it on your wrists, maybe it’s not necessary. After going to bed, use the calming-down techniques I mentioned earlier.
Peppermint oil is a well-know remedy for headaches, but if your pain originates from stress or strained muscles, try lavender. One drop on your temples and forehead (be careful not to apply it near your eyes) will help a lot. Also, I find putting a drop or two on the scalp while massaging the head is a very effective way of alleviating the oncoming headache.
Mandarine (Citrus reticulata)
Mandarine is sometimes called “children’s oil” because kids love the candy-reminiscent smell and also, the oil is mild enough to be used by children.
Depending on the time of the year the production process takes place, you can obtain several “colours” of the oil- green, yellow or orange. There is also one other particular oil- mandarine petitgrain, made of leaves, which is an extremely good calmative.
When to use mandarine?
Similar to lavender, you can use mandarine for everyday stress. It is very calming and relaxing and mildly antispasmodic. Mandarine has one other very useful feature- it is a digestive tonic and carminative.
Mandarine oil is a perfect choice for people who have digestive problems (pain in the stomach, gastritis…) due to stress.
How to use mandarine during stress?
Again, diffusing the oil is the easiest way to achieve a nice calming effect. Same as lavender, use it freely in your children’s bedroom. The smell is sweet and refreshing.
You can also use it topically, on wrists or the solar plexus area. Be careful, the oil is photoxic, so don’t use it on your skin if you intend to expose yourself to the sun.
But, the most effective way to use mandarine is orally. I am aware that many aromatherapists do not recommend internal usage of essential oils, especially if it’s self-administrated by laypeople. In many cases I absolutely agree, but in case of some oils, and mandarine is one of them, I don’t see any problem as long as it used with common sense.
Having said that, I suggest you put two drops of mandarine on a small amount of sugar (or honey, or any other sweetener of your choice) and swallow it. Essential oils are always consumed after a meal. Taking mandarine oil orally is especially beneficial if you have digestive disorders, so you can use it for that purpose only.
Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis, Chamaemelum nobile)
Roman chamomile is one of the most potent and valuable stress-relieving oil. It has an almost instant effect in calming the central nervous system. It is also a powerful antispasmodic.
When to use roman chamomile?
This oil is so powerful that is makes no sense to use it every day. I really hope that nobody is under a stomach-churning stress on a daily basis.
Use roman chamomile oil in the moments of extreme anguish and anxiety.
One of its many advantages is a very short time of effect- after utilising the oil you can expect it to start working its magic in literally minutes.
How to utilise roman chamomile oil?
In some cases, only opening the bottle and smelling the oil will have a certain benefit. Of course, you will probably not diffuse it because it’s one of the more expensive oils.
Applying the oil topically is a good idea. One or two drops distributed every on your wrists and solar plexus, while at the same time inhaling deeply, will make you more serene very quickly.
I have to mention again oral use of this oil. Only one drop of this oil taken orally will have an astounding effect. Even the most intense stress will be reduced and you will be able to cope more cooly and rationally with the issues that are bothering you.
Using aromatherapy for stress reduction definitely makes sense, since many oils have the calming quality. I mentioned only three of them because these are the ones I use the most.
Whatever oil you decide to use and whatever type of application you think is best for you, always remember to implement the oils with intention. There are numerous calming techniques, and all of them easily accessible with the help of the internet. Breathing, yoga, meditation, singing, dancing, thinking happy thoughts….or whatever you think will work for you. Help the oils to help you, so you can experience their optimal influence.
If you are interested in online aromatherapy and natural cosmetics consultations, lectures or workshops, or you have a need for texts about aromatherapy, please contact me.