We could all use a little less stress in our lives, especially those of us who act as caregivers in some capacity. We asked Sarah Weaver, MSN, FNP-C, HN-BC, holistic nursing coordinator, Parkview Health, to give us some pointers on how to use aromatherapy to de-stress and the secret to choosing the right smile-inducing essential oils.
Essential oils are volatile substances derived from plants through a distillation process. The oils themselves are complex, and in plants they play many roles, from repelling insects and preventing infection, to healing wounds. The oils that we distill maintain many of the same properties, and have the potential to similarly affect the human body. They’re also proven to influence emotions.
One of the more popular ways we utilize the emotional benefits of essential oils is through aromatherapy. Typically, essential oils are put into a diffuser for inhalation. When the oils are inhaled, they pass through the olfactory nerve cells and are transferred deeper into the brain, touching the amygdala and the limbic system — the parts of the brain that are in charge of our moods, instincts and basic emotions. Through this process oils can have a drastic impact on stress, anxiety, insomnia, and even headaches and nausea.
The addition of oils into a daily routine is great for everyone, but it can be especially helpful for both caregivers and the people they’re caring for. One of the easiest ways to incorporate essential oils into a care plan (self care or otherwise) is by using a diffuser. It’s best to use a cool mist diffuser, and diffuse at 15-30 minute intervals in the beginning.
The best oils for combatting stress
Lavender can be used to help anxiety and insomnia. Its gentle, calming properties make it a go-to for parents to incorporate into bedtime routines for both their children and themselves. If, as a caregiver, stress is making it hard for you to fall asleep, try diffusing lavender before bed. It’s also great to diffuse for an individual struggling with pain or sickness. If you don’t have a diffuser, you can put a couple drops on a tissue or cotton ball, then place it inside your pillowcase before bed.
Peppermint can help relieve headaches and nausea, as well as improve attention and focus. For caregivers, if you need relief from a stress headache, or if you just need a bit of a mental boost during the day, try peppermint. For patients, diffuse peppermint to help with nausea, or as a way to combat fatigue.
Orange is great at balancing emotions. It’s been known to reduce depression and anxiety, and it can aid in relaxation. Caregivers, if you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed and in need of an emotional pick-me-up, drop some orange in the diffuser. For patients, orange is great for lifting moods and promoting a positive outlook.
Because of the chemical composition of essential oils, their impact on emotional wellbeing is much more significant than the use of synthetic scents, which is what’s often found in soaps or candles. Make sure you’re purchasing pure essential oils, and enjoy the wonderful scents while improving your emotional health!
If you’re interested in learning more about aromatherapy, and you’re a clinical professional, our Parkview Holistic Nursing team invites you to register for the upcoming R.J. Buckle Clinical Aromatherapy course offered on September 29 and 30. To learn more or to register, click here.