Aromatherapy for Effective Stress Management

Stress is part of normal life for everyone today, and there seems to be no escape from it. Bizarrely, research has shown that some stress is actually beneficial because we all need a certain amount of stress to stimulate us and add excitement to our lives. On the other hand, too much stress can have a seriously damaging effect on our physical and emotional well being if it continues for too long.

According to the American Psychological Association, stress is at the root of a wide range of physical conditions, many of them serious or even life-threatening. It is becoming more and more evident that stress is the primary cause of illness for many people. Although combating its effects through effective stress management can improve your health, tackling stress at the earliest sign is by far the best way to avoid illness.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s normal reaction to a stimulus that frightens or excites, and a response to this stimulus is triggered in the brain which produces chemical and physical changes throughout the body. During times of intense stress, adrenalin and cortisol hormones are pumped around our body in large quantities to enable us to either fight off the danger or run away from it. The heart beats faster, breathing quickens, our muscles tense, and our senses go on red alert. This is what is known as the ‘fight or flight’ reflex.

Unfortunately, most of the problems that we face in modern life do not require this type of response, so because we can’t fight or run away these hormones remain in our system doing what they were designed to do. Blood vessels nearest the skin constrict in order to reduce bleeding should we be injured, our blood sugar level soars to speed up reaction time and boost our energy levels, and our heartbeat races rapidly. Meanwhile, the digestive and reproductive systems go onto standby, growth hormones are switched off, and the immune system’s response is much slower.

The effects of stress

The result is that we spend the next hour or so in a state of physical tension with an overworked heart, rapid breathing, upset tummy, headache, backache or sweating, – all due to unnecessary amounts of adrenalin and cortisol still circulating in our system. A sudden and obvious cause of stress creates what is known as acute stress. Sometimes, before we have completely recovered from one stressful situation another problem arises, and the fight or flight response kicks in all over again. If this pattern repeats often enough it can lead to chronic stress.

The effects of such long-term stress can be varied and extremely serious leading to depression, digestive disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes and asthma, chronic muscle pains, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and even cancer. The overworked circulatory system or unresponsive digestive, reproductive and immune systems can also lead to hardening of arteries, and the onset or worsening of rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, acne, and lung disorders.

Chronic stress also causes frequent bouts of illnesses such as colds or viral infections, backache, irregular heartbeat, irritability, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, loss of appetite or even binge eating. Most worryingly, backache, irritable bowel syndrome or headaches are often the result of stress and are not actually symptoms a direct physical illness. Therefore no amount of pill-popping is really going to provide a long term solution since it only masks the symptoms and fails to address the real root of the problem.

How to beat the ravages of stress

So how can aromatherapy help to combat stress? In the same way that stress causes an unnecessary increase in adrenalin and cortisol, certain essential oils have the ability to block the neural connections that trigger this action. Other essential oils stimulate the release of various neurochemicals and hormones such as serotonin that slow the heart rate, regulate blood pressure, and stimulate the immune system, thereby reversing the effect of stress. Therefore, essential oils can ease both the acute and chronic stages of stress.

Aromatherapy massage can be particularly effective in combating stress since you get both the calming, relaxing therapeutic properties of the essential oils, and the benefits of the massage itself. The therapeutic action of the essential oils in combination with the revitalising effects of massage and relaxing music makes an unbeatable combination for fighting stress.

Soak your stress away

If you are unable to have a massage simply use your essential oils in a nice warm bath. Choose your essential oils from those listed in at the bottom of this article and put up to 6 drops in total in the bath, turn on some relaxing music, and feel the stress and tension simply melt away as you soak in the tub. If you prefer, you can always vaporize your essential oils in a diffuser.

Whatever method you choose, the minute molecules of essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream via the lungs, sending a signal directly to the Limbic System in the brain which controls emotions and memory. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland are then stimulated to produce neurochemicals such as serotonin plus the hormones that balance and regulate various systems within the body, such as the endocrine, immune, and nervous system.

Aromatherapy is without doubt one of the very best natural treatments for stress because it assists the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself holistically, rather than just treating the symptom or disease. However, don’t forget to look for the root cause of your stress and put a plan into action to deal with it directly, since prevention is infinitely better than cure.

Article Source:

Posted by Jill Hawker on 2/24/2014 to General Info