Anxious? 4 Ways Aromatherapy Can Help

Written by Amy Jirsa, LMT

Aromatherapy is the fastest way out of your head and into a better mood. The sense of smell is one powerful message-delivery system, as you've probably experienced. Let’s use it to chase that wiry, uptight, panicked anxiety and depression right out of our heads and (hopefully) out of our lives.

Herbs, too, are invaluable for treating anxiety, but they can take time to work, and sometimes instant action is needed. Aromatherapy allows us to tap into that powerful fusion of smells, memory, and emotion and can haul us right up and out of our anxiety.

All you need is a sniffer and something to sniff. Easy, right?

1. Lavender

The sound of the word just makes my shoulders begin to drop and all that tension in my brain begin to fade away.

Lavender is tonic for the mind, body, and heart. It slows breathing, heart rate, and sedates the nerves (exactly what you need when you’re anxious or panicked). By the way, lavender is also perfect for the kind of anxiety that keeps you up at night.

Plus, there are lots of ways to use this guy. Simplest? Carry a small vial of lavender essential oil (or a carrier oil such as almond oil spiked with enough lavender that you’re able to pick up the scent easily).

Either surreptitiously sniff this whenever you need it, or apply a bit to the pulse points, the backs of the hands, or the hair around your face (pretty close to the nose, which makes it convenient).

You can also feel free to add as much lavender as you like to a warm bath. This fabulous if you have trouble sleeping. Try a warm (not super-hot) bath 90 minutes or so before bed.

You can also use any variety of aromatherapy infuser, such as one of those handy little rings that sit on light bulbs. Just add a few drops of essential oil and let the heat from the light do the rest. Breathe.

2. Citrus

I think I go through a wild orange aromatherapy bottle like once a month (which is pretty hard to do — a little goes a long way).

But seriously? Wild orange (lemon or grapefruit works, too) is my absolute go-to when I feel anxious and tired.

The citrus wakes up receptors in the brain, sparking energy, creativity, and hopefulness. At the same time, it's just an all-around scent of joy. That’s right. If joy had a scent (and I think it does), it would be joyful, juicy, tart, sweet, and refreshing citrus.

My favorite way to get that wild, bright joy into my day? I like to make a post-shower body oil by combining a cup of almond oil (or coconut, if you prefer) and about 20 drops of wild orange (adjust to your own scenting preference, of course); apply this right out of the shower. It brightens me up first thing in the morning and all I need to do is take a subtle scent of my wrist in order to re-boost throughout the day. I also like to add a few drops to my bottle of conditioner — hair is a great vehicle for scent, as every shampoo company knows.

3. Pine

Maybe it’s because I’m a girl from Maine, but no matter how far removed I am from those incredible pine forests, I still feel a connection to the healing properties of pine.

Pine itself is clearing and grounding. Meaning? Well, sniffing a little pine essentially pulls you back down to earth, out of the brain (the place anxiety begins and lives so comfortably), focusing and centering you on the present moment.

And, trust me, anything is possible, anything is doable, and everything is easier to deal with when you’re here. Now. Present, instead of flying off into some imagined reality where anxiety is king and breath and calm are nowhere to be found.

One of my absolute favorite ways to get in some quality pine time is to take a walk in a pine forest, or to take some cuttings (thanking the tree, of course), and putting them up around the house.

A walk in the woods not possible? No worries. Grab a vial of balsam fir essential oil and place it in diffusers around the house, or place a few drops on a light bulb in your near vicinity.

My workspace has a pine needle stuffed pillow I picked up last time I was home. Whenever things get overwhelming, I just give it a hug and breathe deeply.

4. Chamomile

So you’re probably already familiar with chamomile tea and its calming effects (if not, definitely give it a go, either taken as tea or added to your bath—heavenly and calming).

But the scent of chamomile — sweet, a tad bitter, and just a little cloud-sent puff of happiness — is just as effective in calming the mind (especially if you tend to have nightmares or anxiety-inspired dreams).

You can get this benefit from inhaling the steam from a cup of brewing tea (be careful of the heat!) or from the oil itself. Chamomile can be pricey, so if you find it blended with other (non-scented) oils, that works just as well.

Just like the other oils mentioned here, feel free to apply this to the body/hair/pulse points (it’s also really nice added to that post-bath orange-y moisturizer, by the way).

You can drink the tea morning, noon, and night (although if you have a ragweed allergy, try a small bit of tea first; sometimes, people can have a chamomile allergy as well — same plant family).

When brewing, be sure to cover your tea as it steeps — that keeps those essential oils from escaping in the steam before you even have a chance to inhale them yourself.

Baths are another wonderful way to get the benefits of chamomile. Run a warm bath, adding enough drops to elicit some soothing, slowing breaths. Even adding a few tea bags to your bath will work.

Be well, be calm, and breathe deeply.

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