Raise your hand if you feel stressed, if you work too hard, sleep too little, and don’t take much time for yourself. It’s likely that in this virtual hand-raising situation, you are not the only one with your arm lifted high.
Thankfully, if you care for yourself and take the time and space you need to be at your best, then everything around you benefits. When you put your wellbeing first, you are more prepared to be present to those around you. We are hearing this more and more, but when will we start to really believe it?
Now is the time. The change of the seasons often inspires changes within our own lives. With fall unfolding around us, it’s time to consider the positive changes we can make as we enter this new season. One of these changes can be to practice self-care, to take intentional steps toward de-stressing. Aromatherapy can play a key role in that.
Aromatherapy as Self-Care Ritual
There are as many ways to relieve stress as there are ways to activate it. Exercise, eating well, and meditation are a few that come to mind. Another practice that has risen in popularity lately for its incredible ability to calm and center is aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is a broad term that encompasses any type of therapy that uses essential oils. Essential oils are the volatile oils extracted from a plant’s flowers, seeds, leaves, roots, or fruit through a distillation process. This practice has been used for thousands of years to not only to help alleviate stress, but also for overall health and wellbeing. Aromatherapy is most commonly practiced by applying oils topically to the skin with carrier oils or through inhalation by diffusing the oils.
You might be wondering how aromatherapy actually works. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that, “The ‘smell’ receptors in your nose communicate with parts of your brain that serve as storehouses for emotions and memories. When you breathe in essential oil molecules, some researchers believe they stimulate these parts of your brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health.”
Tips for Approaching Aromatherapy:
1. Learn the basics.
Aromatherapy is a vast and ever-evolving realm. There is much to learn, so it’s important to study its many folds and corners before diving in.
There are numerous ways to use aromatherapy: in oils applied to the skin, in sprays distributed in the air, in skincare or even cleaning products, in the bath, and beyond.
There are also countless benefits to using essential oils as aromatherapy. Some of these include mood enhancement, boosting the immune, circulatory, and respiratory systems, and stress relief.
2. Know the safety concerns.
Because of the potent nature of essential oils and our unfamiliarity with individual responses to them, it is important to know safety precautions.
Some recommendations when using aromatherapy are:
• Do not use oil undiluted on the skin.
• Some essential oils can cause allergic reactions or irritations.
• Do not take internally without consulting a trained specialist.
• Do research before using essential oils on a young child.
3. Experiment and have fun.
While it’s true that many oils are known for their specific effects on the body and mind – lavender for calming, orange for energizing – this can vary from person to person. You may find that your sister’s favorite blend for relieving anxiety is anything but relaxing for you. Try out different essential oils and blends to learn how you respond to each one. Have fun in the process!
4. Incorporate into your daily life.
One of the more appealing aspects of aromatherapy is that it doesn’t have to be an isolated, stand-alone practice; you can incorporate aromatherapy into habits and hobbies you are already involved in.
If you meditate or practice yoga, try using an essential oil diffuser in the space to release aromas that help enhance your experience. If you are working at a desk, use an aromatherapy spray (typically a mix of essential oils, an alcohol, and water) to help elicit a certain ambiance. If you’re in the car, experiment with a travel diffuser to make your car a fresh space that you enjoy being in.
5. Acquire from reputable sources.
One of the most important things to consider when practicing aromatherapy is where you acquire your essential oils. Thankfully, with the increasing popularity of this practice, more trustworthy sources have appeared.
Here are some things to consider when purchasing essential oils:
• Environmental sustainability. Purchase certified organic essential oils to ensure that the health of the environment – and your health – is not compromised.
• Wording. Know that terms like “therapeutic grade” are not regulated by any governmental body. This term is used by individual essential oil companies that coined the term and does not have any official meaning.
• Packaging. It’s best to purchase oils that come in glass amber bottles. Be wary of anything packaged in plastic or clear bottles. Amber bottles protect the oils from direct sunlight, which would otherwise break them down much more quickly.
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Do you use essential oils?
Image via Milena Mallory