The 18-24 May is Mental Health Awareness Week and right now more than ever, with everything thing that is going on our mental health is so important.
It has been estimated that 1 in 4 adults in the UK will experience mental health issues during 2020, but that figure will probably rise due to the current covid-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on our lives. Before corona virus hit, our fast-paced lives had become one of the main reason that so many of us were struggling with our mental health. Then suddenly the majority of us were forced to stop, we had to stop working, socialising and leaving our homes. For some this time has been a blessing where we have been able to enjoy a slower pace, reconnect with our families and have been able to take the time to learn new skills or hone our talents. But for many it has been a time of isolation, loneliness, worry, boredom and frustration, and mental health problems have been exasperated.
I have often written about the virtues of essential oils combined with massage to help many physical ailments, but aromatherapy comes into its own when used to tackle mental and emotional imbalances. Out of the five senses, our sense of smell is the only one that is directly linked to the Limbic Lobe of the brain. Our brain processes scent via the olfactory system which then leads directly to the Limbic System. The Limbic system controls our emotions and stores learned memories; anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and joy all physically originate from this region. A certain fragrance can evoke memories and emotions before we are even consciously aware of it. The chemical messengers contained within the scent of essential oils trigger this primitive brain function and work to influence our emotions. Choosing different essential oil aromas and their underlying chemical compounds can bring about a powerful effect on our moods and general state of mind; our mental and emotional well-being. These are my top essential oils for helping with mental health issues-
Lavender –regarded as the ultimate essential oil for relaxing and balancing moods along with fighting stress. It is well renowned for its sedative property which can help combat insomnia and promote good sleep patterns. However keep doses low (max 3 drops in 10ml carrier) if used in excess lavender can actually act as a stimulant.
Bergamot -has a calming effect; it is effective in tackling mild depression and insomnia. It has been used in trials for dependency and compulsiveness with great success due to its cenetring and relaxing properties.
Frankincense- Many studies have found that frankincense contains molecules that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier, enabling it to carry much-needed oxygen into the brain, as well as stimulating the limbic area of the brain. It is the calming and grounding quality of Frankincense oil that proves to be beneficial in treating depression, anxiety and feelings of melancholy. It is an invaluable oil to use during meditation.
Geranium -releases negative feelings and emotions and helps to balance hormones. Geranium oil lifts the spirit and eases nervous tension and can help to release negative emotions and memories. This sweet flowery fragrance has a regulating effect on the nervous system and can help dispel depression, nervous anxiety and fear bringing about a sense of calm and wellness.
Chamomile has wonderful calming and relaxing properties that can help to reduce anxiety, dispel anger and release old emotions. It also has sedative properties which makes it valuable oil in tacking insomnia along with lavender oil.
Essential oils are traditionally used alongside massage to help tackle imbalances in mental health, but due to the current pandemic and need for us all to socially distance massage for the time being cannot be administered. There are many other ways to enjoy and benefit from the pleasures of essential oils.
Methods of use
Self-Massage- Massaging our own arms and hands, legs and feet or anywhere we can comfortably reach is not the same as receiving a massage from a professional but it can still have it benefits. Essential oils are always diluted in suitable carrier oil or lotion. Use 3 drops of essential oil to 10ml carrier. Reduce down to 1-2 drops for facial use, and for use on children.
Inhalation - Add 8-12 drops of essential oil in 2 pints of hot water. Pour water into bowl, added essential oils cover the head with a towel and inhale. Take care; do not let oils enter the eye area. Asthma suffers should not use. Not a suitable method for young children.
Vaporisation - As essential oils are inhaled with this method it is excellent for creating a mood atmosphere, using in the sick room as a disinfectant and for removing unpleasant smells. The traditional oil burners with a tea light underneath are effective when 3-5 drops of essential oil are added to water. For electric appliances designed for this use follow manufacturer’s instructions, but usually 3-5 drops is sufficient. Keep well out of reach of children.
Direct Inhalation - Pour 2-3 drops of essential oil onto a tissue and sniff or use straight from the bottle by holding it about 5cm away from the nostrils and breathing deeply. Alternatively rub one drop of essential oil into the palms of the hands, cover the nose and mouth and inhale. Stick to the tissue method for children, and 1-2 drops is sufficient.
Bathing - Fill the bath with warm water and turn off the taps. ALWAYS dilute the essential oils. Add 3-6 drops of chosen essential oils to 1 tablespoon of carrier e.g. almond oil, full fat milk, honey, any non-perfumed bubble bath. Use only 1 drop of essential oil well diluted for children.
Foot Baths - As for bathing but use 1-4 drops of essential oil and soak feet for 5/10 minutes- bliss!
Practicing Mindfulness- Mindfulness is the art of living in the moment, being aware of our surroundings, reconnecting with the simple pleasures in life. Mindfulness takes practice but can become a valuable skill for life once mastered and aromatherapy can really help with the process.
Essential oils are concentrated and should always be used with care. Follow instructions given and do not be tempted to add more drops than recommended. Unless under the guidance of an Aromatherapist essential oils should not be used neat on the skin, but dissolved in a carrier oil, full fat milk, honey or other base. They must never be taken internally.
Always check the oils you are considering using- most modern essential oils should have an expiry date so check this. Essential oils are a natural product and do not contain preservatives so anything out of date should not be used on the skin as there is a risk of skin irritation.
Once you have established that the oils are in date check where you store them. Essential oils should be kept in their original dark coloured bottles. These dark coloured bottles protect the contents from sunlight, which can have a detrimental effect on essential oils, so the bathroom window sill is definitely not the place to keep them! They also need to be kept at a fairly constant temperature normal room temperature; extremes of heat/cold can cause the oils to deteriorate very quickly. Keep out of reach of children.
Enjoy experimenting with these lovely oils to make your life just a little easier, calmer and more fragrant.
Although my aromatherapy clinic is currently closed I am available to answer any questions either by telephone, email or via my website. Please do get in touch if you need advice on which oils to use, how to use them or would like a bespoke blend made up for you. This service is free of charge there would only be costs involved if oils or blends were required and to cover postage.
For now please take care and keep safe and well and be kind to yourself.