Stress is a very general word to describe physical or emotional turmoil; there are several types of stress and various levels of intensity. Even if you have a balanced and happy life, chances are that acute stress can throw your emotions out of whack from time to time.
Acute stress is different from chronic stress, and is actually considered – at small doses of course, as a kind of motivational stress. A deadline at work? Great, it might help you follow a schedule and gain organization skills! But that is not always the case.
As an example, my personal stress stems from health issues I had in the past. All is well today, and I don’t have chronic stress anymore, but any visit to a doctor scares me to my core, and I know that is not useful at all. Essential oils are tremendously helpful for me in managing these acute episodes of high stress.
Another good example: our summertime travels! If you are not comfortable flying, driving, packing, you name it, grab your essential oils and make yourself a beautiful relaxing blend.
Do what works for you
I will, of course, suggest a blend of a few essential oils that I find particularly efficient. But eventually, it all comes down to what you like. We each have a different library of scents in our brain: different likes, dislikes and reactions to essential oils. The best combination will be the one you make because it makes you feel happy.
When you blend for other people, the best approach is to have them smell oils and select the ones that they connect with. Emotional work is all about the individual: I can tell you that in the classes I teach, half find lavender calming and relaxing, a few find it uplifting and energizing and some simply dislike it. Although lavender is a great sedative and relaxing oil, I definitely would make sure the person feels good about it before including it in a blend.
As aromatherapists, when we work with emotions, it is sometimes better to put aside what we think we know about essential oils. Let your sense of smell guide you!
Essential Oils For Acute Stress
I decided to select an even number of essential oils – this is something I learned in Cathy Skipper and Florian Birkmayer’s “Essential oils for trauma and addiction” class – to promote harmony, and restore balance.
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) – Be back in the “now”
Stress usually takes you into a world that doesn’t exist, one I like to call the “what if” world. It is a place in our mind where we play the worst-case scenarios, again and again.
Vetiver is so incredibly grounding and heavy, I visualize it as a root that pins me to the ground and slows me down, bringing my mind back into my body.
It returns me to the now, where everything is okay; I am alive and safe. It is a wonderful oil to use for over-thinkers!
Black spruce (Picea mariana) – Breathe…
To me, there is no place like a forest. There is no stress in a forest, just an ecosystem that works in perfect balance. Trees are still, strong, and full of life. It is far from being quiet, but the sounds are deeply relaxing, as if they were designed to make you feel that you belong there.
Black Spruce is the perfect forest smell; it is fresh and warm at the same time. It smells like a tree basking in the sun, minding its own business. I can almost hear birds singing when I smell Black Spruce.
Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium) – A happy place!
Petitgrain (also called Petitgrain Bigarrade) essential oil comes from the bitter orange tree. But instead of the fruit or the blossoms, the leaves and twigs are steam distilled.
It is an aroma close to Neroli, but with a little bit of a woody scent to it. I find it extremely relaxing.
I connect with Petitgrain on another level as well – I remember my mother preparing bubble baths for me and my sibling using a very similar scent. It immediately brings me back to a comfortable memory, nurturing and caring.
Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) – The heavenly beach.
Although I am not a fan of Ylang Ylang on its own – a bit too heavy, sweet and floral for me – I find myself adding it into all my blends. It brings a touch of joy and sweetness to the scents I usually favor – trees, citrus, earthy scents – and rounds the overall synergy beautifully.
Before using 100% natural sunscreens, I remember using oils and lotions scented with Ylang Ylang. I associate it with summer, white sand beaches and paradise islands.
Ylang Ylang brings a smile to my face!
Relaxing summer mist
You can use this synergy in an inhaler and easily carry it around (especially on planes), but I love making aromatic spritzers! It has a dual benefit during summer: hydrating your skin and bringing freshness, and also uplifting your mood with essential oils.
I made mine in a 2oz glass bottle with a spray cap. Here is the number of drops I used:
- Vetiver – 2 drops
- Black spruce – 8 drops
- Petitgrain – 12 drops
- Ylang Ylang – 8 drops
It is a total of 30 drops, hence a 2.5% dilution. I never go above this dilution for a mist, as in the absence of a carrier oil, essential oils are technically not diluted. I also use the spray near my face, so 2.5% is the maximum.
Besides, when blending for emotions, low dilutions are preferable: it is your sense of smell that will do the work, so as long as you can smell the synergy, it is enough. Remember that it doesn’t have to smell strong to have a positive effect on your mood!
And, don’t forget to shake the bottle each time before spraying.
Using essential oils for acute stress is even more beneficial when coupled with a relaxation technique. Here are a few ideas:
Breathing: Belly breathing or alternate nostril breathing. Slow, deep breathing helps our hypothalamus (part of our emotional brain or limbic system) to send a relaxation response to our body.
Visualization: Turn the worst case scenario into the best case scenario. The results can be amazing; even if some drawbacks still happen, I find myself embracing them rather than fretting.
Meditation: Even five minutes is really helpful. It deepens the breath, slows down your thoughts, and switches your brain waves. The list of benefits is endless!
Energy work: As a reiki master, working with energies is what I enjoy the most. I feel that it rewires my brain into positive thinking, empathy and resilience.
I think that happiness is a life skill. It can be practiced! At first, it might feel like forcing good thoughts into your brain, but eventually, it becomes second nature.
Relaxation techniques and essential oils are incredibly helpful to turn acute stress into something positive – excitement, a challenge, a lesson, an adventure!