How To Use Essential Oils To Calm Stress & Anxiety, STAT
Essential oils are wonderful tools for calming down when paired with other stress-relief techniques. There are a number of oils that can be helpful when anxiety strikes, such as rose, jasmine, and lavender. (Check out a full list of 13 stress-reducing essential oils here.)
More peer-reviewed research still needs to be done regarding the efficacy of essential oils, but anecdotally they seem to be helpful for many people and unlike prescription anxiety meditations, they come with few side effects. While essential oils cannot cure an anxiety disorder, they can help support a better mood and positively affect the body and mind. Here are a few ideas about how to use them the next time you feel anxiousness come on.
Diffuse your own stress-busting blends.
When we inhale essential oils, they travel through the olfactory system into our brains, where they can affect the body in a number of ways—including potentially regulating the nervous system1 response and promoting calm. You can fill any room in your home with the scent of an oil using a diffuser. Here are two more of my favorite blends to diffuse when anxiety strikes. Note that a diffuser should be used intermittently, and only for a few hours a day.
Calm & focus diffuser blend
- 3 drops rosemary essential oil
- 2 drops lavender essential oil
- 2 drops wild orange essential oil
- 1 drop peppermint or spearmint essential oil
Overwhelm reset blend
- 2 drops geranium essential oil
- 2 drops clary sage essential oil
- 1 drop patchouli essential oil
- 1 drop ylang-ylang essential oil
Add oils to a cotton ball and sniff.
You can still reap the benefits of smelling essential oils on the go by getting a little creative. For example, if you want to get pumped for your stress-relieving workout, drop a cotton ball with peppermint essential oil into your gym bag. It will make you feel like your airways are wide open for deep breathing, and research has found peppermint to be potentially helpful for increasing alertness and enhancing memory2. Combine it with wild orange for an invigorating cooling, citrusy blend.
Put oils on a clothespin in your car.
If you experience stress and anxiety behind the wheel, you can add a drop of calming lavender, ylang-ylang, or bergamot to a clothespin and place it on your air vents to ease your nerves during a tense commute.
Put essential oils on your jewelry (but be sure to add a carrier oil, too).
Aromatherapy jewelry is also immensely popular, from diffuser necklaces with felt pads to hold the essential oils to terra-cotta pendants that naturally soak in their scent. Even leather bracelets can both provide aromatherapy throughout the day when worn on your wrists, where pores tend to be larger (just make sure you're using an oil that is safe to place directly on skin, or diffuse it with a carrier oil).
Work essential oils into a deep breathing routine.
One of the simplest ways to tell your body that you’re in control is by breathing deeply. Deep breathing calms the body, regulates the heart rate, and can help reduce cortisol levels3.
When you regularly practice deep breathing, it becomes second nature, so I recommend scheduling breathing pauses throughout your day. Start by practicing the following deep breathing routine at the top of each hour, pairing it with the calming essential oil of your choice. Lavender is my favorite essential oil to pair with this ritual (bonus, it also tends to be an affordable oil!). I'll take a whiff before getting started and let the effects of the inhaled oil circulate through my body as I go:
- Get into a comfortable position and bring your attention to your breath.
- Allow the rhythm of your breaths to complement a slow count of 10 in your head,
- Counting to 5 in your head, allow a steady stream of air to flow in through your nostrils, billowing into the deep recesses of your lungs.
- Pausing gently and hold your breath in for 5 seconds before gently leaking the air out for 5 seconds through your mouth.
Incorporate calming essential oils into a self-massage.
Applying essential oils topically4 with massage can be effective on multiple levels: you'll inhale them, your skin may absorb some of the oils, and the massage itself may enhance the effects of the oils. Again, be sure to combine them with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil first, since high concentrations of essential oils can irritate the skin.
One of the most effective trios of essential oils for massage include lavender, bergamot, and frankincense. Mix one drop each of the three essential oils in 1 teaspoon of carrier oil and dab on pulse points (behind the ears, temples, wrists, ankles, over heart, etc.) and down décolletage. Avoid rubbing near the eyes. Throw in your deep breathing for the ultimate aromatherapeutic stress and tension relief.
The bottom line.
There is no panacea for stress or anxiety, and what works for one person may not work for another. Try to use your favorite stress-relieving oils in a few different ways and really tune into how each one makes you feel throughout the day. While essential oils may help with momentary anxiousness, they are not a cure-all: If anxiety is getting in the way of your everyday life, you'll want to see a doctor.
Mariza Snyder, D.C., is a functional wellness practitioner and public speaker currently living in Northern California. She received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic College West and her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Health Psychology from Mills College. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, Women's Health and O, The Oprah Magazine and is the author of five best-selling nutrition books. Snyder specializes in holistic medicine and nutrition, aiming to help people live a healthy and abundant life.