How to use essential oils to ease stress

Kristin Parks CMT, BCTMB, makes a strong case for aromatherapy with essential oils as an effective component of your de-stressing ritual.

How does aromatherapy work?

When we inhale oils into the lungs, we see both a psychological and physical benefit.  Not only does the aroma of the essential oil stimulate the brain to trigger a reaction, but when inhaled into the lungs, the natural occurring chemicals can supply therapeutic benefits.

What are the most common scents for stress relief?

Lavender, Chamomile, Rose and Sandalwood, just to name a few. 

What’s the best way to get started with oils?

I tell a lot of my clients to start small. Educate yourself.  The United States does not regulate the use of the word “aromatherapy” on product packaging and labeling for advertising, so many products are marked “for aromatherapy” but aren’t pure.  Read books and reach out to people that use oils for classes in town. Some of the well-known essential oil companies have reference guides, too, which are extremely helpful. 

Are there any concerns with applying oils to the skin?

Start with a small test patch on your skin to make sure you don't have a reaction.  Stress relief oils are usually less potent and people don't have issues, but it is always good to start small.  I like to apply a couple drops to a cotton ball and place it close by in front of a fan, or in a car vent while driving.  If I am lying down, I apply a couple drops to the edge of my pillow or put the cotton ball in my pillowcase.  If you think you might have sensitivity, these are good ways to try the oils without having the scent directly on your skin or clothing. You can also buy an essential oil inhaler, which looks similar to a lip balm container and makes the oil less potent. They are designed specifically for inhaling; you just remove the cap and wave it in front of your nose.  These are great for using oils at your desk or on the go. 

Is applying or diffusing oil better?

Both ways are beneficial. Applying to the skin makes the essential oil absorb into the bloodstream, but always remember to mix the oil with a carrier oil if you want to try this. Olive oil, rose oil, jojoba oil and almond oil all make great carrier oils.  The mild stress relief oils, like Lavender, can be applied directly to the skin without a carrier oil, but you’ll need to test the different kinds to see how you react.  When a client comes in and they are stressed out, I typically apply a couple drops to a carrier oil and massage it into their neck and shoulders.  Just a few drops on the chest or neck with some deep breathing will help you relax and calm your mind.

When using a diffuser, it’s best for the oils if you use a cool mist diffuser and start out with 15-30-minute sessions at a time.  The great thing about diffusing is, if you don't like applying the oils directly to your skin, you can still get all the benefits. If the smell starts to bother you, just dump it out and start over. With both applying and diffusing, the aroma does all the work while your body gets the benefits. 

Are there any special tricks?

My kids have sensitive skin, and my favorite thing to do is make a special nighttime lotion for them. I put 1 cup of pure coconut oil in the mixer and whip until it becomes nice and fluffy. Then I mix in a couple drops of essential oil, like Lavender, and put it in a glass jar.  I apply the lotion after they’ve been in warm water while their pores are open from the heat. This helps the body absorb the mixture. You can do this with several different oils. If you like baths, mix about 1/4 cup of Epsom salt or baking soda with about 3-5 drops of your favorite essential oil and sprinkle it in your bath.  The Epsom salt and baking soda help the oil absorb into your skin and not sit on top of the water.  I also like a couple drops on the edge of my pillow or on a cotton ball in my pillowcase so I can breathe it in while I sleep. I also put a couple drops on a Kleenex when I am at work and sit it close to me. This helps minimize the intensity of the smell in case a co-worker has a sensitivity. 

Feeling stressed and interested in the possible benefits of essential oils? Schedule a massage at the Parkview Center for Healthy Living and request aromatherapy. Call (260) 672-6500 to learn more. 

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