Chronic stress has a profound effect on the brain and body – suppressing immunity, digestion and hormonal function as an example. Essential oils can help relieve stress, support the nervous system and unravel tension, with very little effort on your behalf. Here are 6 of the best to start using today.
Today I want to share a little on how stress affects the body, and which essential oils to turn to for support. Stress is a topic close to my heart – it may not seem like a big deal to many, but considering I know just how incredibly debilitating it is to reach the point of burn out – I’d like to help other women avoid that path as much as possible!
Now, whilst the stress response in an acute setting is appropriate, it is chronic, on-going stress that I am referring to today, as this is what drives imbalance in the body.
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The wide-reaching effects of chronic stress
When you are under chronic stress, the biochemistry of your body changes as it swings into survival mode, and bodily functions not deemed useful to survival are dampened down.
Chronic stress is known to;
- Negatively impact your digestive function – with less hydrochloric acid and enzymes being produced, and a reduction in gut motility. This can have wide reaching consequences – such as nutrient deficiencies due to decreased digestion and absorption, and fatigue
- Dampen down reproductive function – and libido
- Suppress both the cellular and humoral immune responses, causing an increased susceptibility to infections
- Impair the body’s ability to regulate inflammation, as immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory action
- Cause in increase in glucose mobilisation, increasing risk of insulin resistance or diabetes
- Increase blood pressure and increase risk of atherosclerosis
- Increase your risk of anxiety or depression
More of a worry, is the effect chronic stress has on the brain:
- The prefrontal cortex of the brain atrophies, in other words – shrinks. This part of the brain is responsible for complex behaviours such as decision making and your ability to concentrate, short-term or recall memory, and elaboration of thought
- Similarly, the hippocampus shrinks. This part of the brain is where new nerve cells are produced. It is also the area responsible for learning and memory, particularly long-term memory. It is associated with emotions, and regulates the autonomic nervous system. A decreased hippocampal volume is also seen in depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The loss of volume can be as much as 20% in people with depression, according to one study.
- The amygdala on the other hand, hypertrophies, or enlarges. This part of the brain is associated with emotions, particularly, fear and anxiety. When this part of the brain is over-stimulated as it is during stress, your perception of fear is enhanced
Some time ago now, a large part of my stress was coming from the workplace. Working long hours to meet unreasonable deadlines for equally as unreasonable clients, I was often in the office over the weekend, just trying to catch up on my workload. A recipe for mental health disaster! (And oh, my poor, shrinking noggin!).
Essential Oils for Stress
What I love about the essential oils, is that they quietly go about their business of calming the nervous system and unravelling tension, with very little effort on your behalf.
All you need to do is breathe in their beautiful aromas and let them work their magic.
The essential oils below contain constituents that influence mood and wellbeing via their interaction with the limbic system in the brain.
Stress buster sleep enhancer, promoter of clear communication.
Makes you feel: Like you’re a babe again, tucked up in Grandma’s arms. Lavender has a Crone energy about it to me. A wise old grandma rocking and soothing. Luckily, doTERRA’s lavender essential oil smells nothing like granny – light and floral – not dusty and heavy like dried lavender can be.
Lavender is harmonising to the nervous system, calming an over stimulated mind and providing comfort. This oil is cooling energetically (in fact, most remedies for the nervous system are – as they cool off over excited nervous tissue) and calming to the heart.
The main actives responsible for its calming and sleep promoting effects are Linalool, and Linalyl acetate.
2. Ylang Ylang
To release frustration, bring out confidence and playfulness.
Makes you feel: like a Queen! When I think of ylang ylang, Beyoncé spring to mind. Have you seen ylang ylang’s flower? Bright, exotic, and oozing femininity. The flowers remind me of dangly earrings – dressing up any outfit. To me, this playful oil helps you take yourself less seriously, boosts your confidence, lifts moods and eases tension.
Ylang ylang is an aphrodisiac, and is well known for its soothing effects, thanks to the sesquiterpenes it contains. Because it has an affinity for the reproductive system, it makes a great oil to use during your cycle, to ease the mood swings that can come with PMS.
Because it so intensely floral, I like to use just a little in my diffuser blends, otherwise it can be overpowering.
To ease stress and anxiety and put the mind to rest, to foster self-acceptance.
Makes you feel: like a carefree teen again – happy, positive, joyful with no worries. If Bergamot could talk, I think she would say: don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re doing enough, you’re doing great, just relax, stop worrying, it will all be fine.
This uplifting citrusy scent is a favourite of mine, and incredibly soothing to a busy, anxious mind.
Grounding, gets you out of your head, promotes sleep.
Makes you feel: like you’ve got your feet back on the ground again. Vetiver’s energy feels like Mother Earth herself, providing stability and balance. It is particularly calming to us Vata types, who tend to be a bit scattered and all over the show.
Vetiver smells sweet, woody and smoky. In addition to supporting the nervous system, it can be applied topically to joints when in pain, and makes a great addition to your body lotion, to help tone weak or loose skin.
5. Roman Chamomile
Relaxes tense muscles, calms the nervous system and promotes sleep
Makes you feel: like the sun! Another one of my favourites – and rather than a personality, a tarot card springs to mind – The Sun from the major arcana. It exudes radiance and joy, happiness, positivity. Everything will be ok.
Physically Roman chamomile is effective at easing tension in the muscles, so try and wrangle a neck and shoulder massage with Roman chamomile from your partner. It’s also soothing applied over the abdomen if you hold tension there. Likewise, a great remedy for menstrual cramps.
Roman chamomile is another great sleep promoting oil, and is gentle and safe for use on young children at appropriate dilutions. It smells light and fruity, quite like fresh apples.
6. Clary Sage
To release tension, promote sleep, support during burnout or exhaustion.
Makes you feel: like you’re the boss of your own body again. Clary sage feels like the CEO – in control, thinks and sees the big picture, and absolutely runs the show when it comes to your stress and sex hormones.
Clary sage is rich in esters, which help release muscle tension and promote restful sleep. This is a great oil for chronic stress – insomnia, burnout and adrenal fatigue.
A tonic for the nervous system, this is another rich, intense scent.
How to use them
- Blend a few of your favourites together and get them in the diffuser
- Take your favourite essential oil with you to work and add a drop to your scarf to breathe in during stressful times
- Add a few drops to your bath or shower – creating a scented steam
- Dilute in carrier oil (4-6 drops to a tablespoon) and massage all over the body to aromatically dress yourself for the day, fresh out of the shower
- Dilute in carrier oil and massage over your pulse points or temples to relieve tension
SOURCING THE ESSENTIAL OILS
The essential oils I use are doTERRA, because quite simply, they are the absolute best quality. If you’d like to get started with your own account, you can either book a complementary consult with me to learn more first, or join with doTERRA right away.
If you know you’d love to get on them right away,
I’ll guide you through how to purchase them here.
If you’d like to chat further,
you can book a free consult with me here.
And if you’re local to me in Auckland and would like to come along to a class,
have a look at my timetable here.
Thank you for reading, I hope this brings a whole new world of peace + calm to your life,
See you again next week,