Relaxing Essential Oils to Soothe Stress and Anxiety
In today’s world, it is difficult to avoid stress and anxiety. Both are ever present in everyday life, whether it be from relationships, finances, career, or health. If you don’t face and manage these sources of stress, however, you may find your overall health becoming compromised. This has inspired many to search for new ways to reduce the stress and anxiety in their lives. One of these ways is the use of relaxing essential oils. Users report that diffusing certain essential oil scents makes them feel much calmer, and both stress and anxiety levels immediately start to go down.
Understanding Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety affect everyone. There are many ways for a person to become stressed. For starters, there are the environmental stressors, which include stressors from one’s home, work, and community. One can also experience stress due episodes of trauma and abuse. Meanwhile, major life events such as childbirth, marriage, or losing a family member can also trigger significant stress levels in the body.
When you get stressed, reactions occur throughout your body. It’s probably something that many Americans are familiar with considering 43 percent of adults in the country suffer from various health effects of stress.
It’s possible to feel the symptoms in your body, mood, and behavior. If you have chronic stress, you may start experiencing frequent headaches, jaw pain, faintness, dizziness, lightheadedness, neck ache, back pain, or muscle spasms. You may also find yourself having frequent infections, stomach upset, sleep problems, colds, allergy attacks, heartburn, constipation, or diarrhea.
Mentally, you may feel like something is not right. You may have racing thoughts and concentration difficulties. You may become disorganized, forgetful, irritable, or confused. As a result, work productivity and efficiency may suffer. Many also have problems communicating when they are under stress.
At the same time, your behavior may also be impacted by stress. Without realizing it, you may already be having more frequent angry outbursts. Socially, you may become withdrawn. Some end up abusing alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.
Anxiety can be called an effect of stress. Some experts believe anxiety is stress that goes on long after the stressor is gone. When you are feeling anxious, fear is the primary emotion that takes over. As a result, there’s increased apprehension and even greater stress.
The effects of anxiety depend on its severity. Some feel restless, nervous, and irritable. You may also experience trouble sleeping or concentrating. In the case of extreme anxiety, the effects can be worse. Some experience chest pains, rapid breathing, palpitations, excessive perspiration, shortness of breath, trembling, numbness, and coldness. Many have an ongoing sense of doom or danger, making it difficult for the body to relax and settle down.
As you can see, stress and anxiety are very uncomfortable. Aside from these, they can also create further damage to your health. When you are stressed out and anxious, your adrenal glands can fall victim.
Stress, Anxiety, and Adrenal Health
The moment your body perceives a stressor, your brain sends a signal to your adrenal gland to start releasing epinephrine. Also known as adrenaline, this is a hormone that is released when you experience strong emotions such as anger or fear. It is also responsible for raising glucose levels in your blood while increasing your cardiac output.
During times of acute stress, epinephrine stimulates the body to prepare for a flight-or-fight response. Once the adrenaline kicks in, you may feel an increase in heart rate. Meanwhile, resources are moved to critical areas of your body while less important bodily functions are slowed down. At the same time, your pupils become dilated to give you improved vision. Essentially, this is how your body prepares itself to face danger.
Ideally, the adrenal glands should be given enough time to recover after every anxiety or stress episode. Unfortunately, when stress and anxiety are continuous, the adrenals glands become overworked.
As a result, you may suffer from an overproduction of hormones in your adrenal glands. This is also how your body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response gets disrupted. Because of this, your body becomes imbalanced, leading to all sorts of serious problems in your health. Ultimately, your body becomes depleted of critical hormones to handle stress and anxiety.
When Stress Leads to Adrenal Fatigue
Once your body has reached its maximum hormone production capacity, the supply begins to dwindle. This means that your body no longer has what it needs to feel capable of fighting off a stressor or source of anxiety. In other words, you feel weak and your adrenal hormones can no longer meet your body’s demands.
If nothing is done to mitigate the situation at this point, chronic stress can develop into Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This comes with several health problems that are much worse than fatigue and weakness. Your immune system also becomes compromised so you easily catch colds. At the same time, your tiredness may lead to fatigue and the breakdown of your muscles.
In some cases, adrenal fatigue can also increase one’s risk for cardiovascular disease. This is because excess cortisol produced due to stress also cause an increase in blood pressure. In fact, research found that as much as one-third of people suffering from hypertension also have significantly high cortisol levels in their body. Moreover, it also leads to truncal obesity, which further puts a person at risk to suffer from heart disease. Another study linked increased cortisol levels with higher risk for renovascular disease.
On the other hand, having low cortisol levels can be quite dangerous too. This can lead low blood pressure, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and vomiting. In addition, having low cortisol in the body has also been linked to sexual dysfunction and a host of reproductive problems including infertility.
How Relaxing Essential Oils Reduce Stress
Many experts agree relaxing essential oils can be effective in helping bring down stress levels in the body and may even help relieve adrenal fatigue. The phytochemicals present in essential oils are similar to those present in many medications and may have a direct effect on the cells of the body.
How this functions is not known yet, but one study conducted by the Youngnam Foreign Language College in Gyeongsan, Korea found that aromatherapy resulted in lower stress levels among high school students. The same result was also achieved by a similar study conducted for an undergraduate thesis at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana.
One possible cause for this is due to the fact that some compounds found in certain essential oils are similar to cortisone. These may be able to help stimulate the cortex in the adrenal glands. Moreover, it is also possible for these relaxing essential oils to mimic the action of cortisone by having a modulating effect on adrenal cortex activity.
The Best Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety
These stress and anxiety remedies using relaxing essential oils can be made at home. This aromatherapy regimen may have an excellent capacity for reducing stress.
However, as with anything new you do for your body, it’s best to read thoroughly to make sure any essential oil you use is safe for you. Some people have allergic reactions to essential oils, greater sensitivity, or other possible reactions. These may include pain, itchiness, rashes, hives, swelling or tenderness of the skin. Especially if you have preexisting conditions, it’s best to consult with a physician first before trying aromatherapy and start slowly.
That said, here are some incredibly relaxing essential oils you can try out today:
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender has long been known for its curative and therapeutic therapies, including relaxation. In fact, according to one study, lavender oil can be an effective mood stabilizer as well as a sedative.
Both rosemary and lavender essential oil can make an excellent blend. One study done by Meikai University in Japan found that combining these can lead to a decrease in cortisol, which also helps protect the body from oxidative stress.
When blending essential oils together, it’s always best to start with a 1:1 ratio first. You can make adjustments later on depend on the kind of scent that works best for you.
Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot essential oil has long been known to be a great mood improver. A study conducted by several medical and educational institutions in Taiwan found that patients who underwent aromatherapy using bergamot essential oil had a significant reduction in preoperative anxiety levels. In addition, an animal study also found that bergamot effectively reduced the corticosterone response to stress.
Orange Essential Oil
Other citrus scents such as orange essential oil have also been known to help ease various anxiety symptoms. In fact, one study conducted by several institutions in Iran found that orange essential oils can significantly reduce a child’s anxiety before undergoing dental procedures.
Jasmine Essential Oil
Jasmine oil has traditionally been used for various problems, including low libido, insomnia, and depression. A study conducted by the Chia-Nan University of Pharmacy and Science in Taiwan found that inhaling jasmine essential oil can help people become more relaxed as shown by the subjects’ steady blood pressure and heart rate. Another study conducted by Mahidol University and Srinakharinwirot University in Thailand found increased feelings of activeness, romance, and well-being after inhaling jasmine oil.
Rose Essential Oil
Rose essential oil is said to be effective in promoting peace and calm from within. One study done by Srinakharinwirot University found that inhaling rose oil resulted in a lower breathing rate, reduced systolic blood pressure, and better blood oxygen saturation. Another study conducted by Birjand University of Medical Sciences and Neyshabur University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that rose water aromatherapy helped reduce anxiety among hemodialysis patients.
Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood essential oil is an excellent way to calm yourself down from within. According to a study done by Thames Valley University in the U.K., this oil was especially effective in reducing anxiety levels among palliative care patients. Another study found that sandalwood essential oil can help decrease blood pressure, further indicating reduced stress levels among participants. In addition, it was also found that sandalwood essential oil can make a person more attentive.
Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile essential oil has long been known for its sedating and relaxing properties. Its scent is also quite appealing, making it a popular choice for massage therapy. According to research, this oil has anti-anxiety benefits, helping relieve stress while calming an overactive mind. In fact, it is also a popular natural remedy for insomnia and headaches.
Any of these relaxing essential oils can help you fight off stress and anxiety. As you become calmer, you will probably notice stressful thoughts and feelings begin to fade. These oils may improve your energy levels, giving your more drive to take on tasks needing your attention. They may also facilitate your body taking a much-needed break to rest and restore your health.
Go ahead and rest. Doing aromatherapy regularly can help relaxing essential oils keep you from getting too stressed or anxious about anything in life. The better you feel inside and out, the better your health often becomes.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What are the benefits of using relaxing essential oils?
Over the years, various studies and medical research have shed light on the calming effects of relaxing essential oils. When used in aromatherapy, these can help significantly bring down both stress and anxiety levels. They are also effective in helping to prevent adrenal fatigue.