Stress: the proverbial tiger at the doorstep. Untreated chronic stress leads to numerous health issues. So what is the best way to relieve stress in the body? The answer may be closer than you ever imagined. Multiple studies are showing that lifestyle choices coupled with pure essential oils can greatly reduce the effects of stress on the body.
The Tiger of Stress
By now the story of the stress tiger is common. As the story goes, for over 90 percent of human history, our bodies have developed a finely tuned fight or flight response mechanism. It was necessary in our early evolution, when it was common to run into a wild tiger whilst frolicking in the fields. When this happened, the body’s fight or flight response kicked in.
When facing a high stress situation such as a full grown tiger, many things happen all at once. The muscles tighten to guard the body from injury and pain. The heart begins to beat rapidly as adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream; and the breath becomes deeper and more frequent to increase oxygen supply. The digestive system is altered; allowing energy to be focused in the extremities for the oncoming fight or flight response. The endocrine system responds to stress by releasing cortisol and epinephrine; and sensing this, the liver rushes glucose to the bloodstream. All of this makes for an efficient emergency response; allowing you to escape from the tiger or face it head on. When the tiger leaves, the body returns to normal.
The problem comes when the stressful situation never leaves; when the tiger follows you home, sits in traffic with you, licks his lips at your lunch table, and listens to you getting belittled by your boss (who has their own tiger in tow). Over a long time, these stressors can take a toll on the body.
Chronic stress shows connection to illnesses such as:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic pain
- Weakened immune function
- Heart disease
If action is not taken to minimize the effects of stress on the body, one or more of the symptoms above may appear.
The Tiger Is in Your Mind
While many people consider stress to be something which happens to you, new evidence is saying this may not be entirely true. More important than the stressful world surrounding us is the response we have to it. Researchers recently looked to see how much the mindset determines the stress response in humans. Separating participants into two groups; they showed one group video clips which explained how inspirational stress is, while showing the other group video clips of how terrible stress is. When their stress response was then tested, which group performed better? The stress-as-inspiration group, of course.
This is extremely important to understand; as it indicates that your response to stress determines the effects it will have in your body.
When stress is seen as something negative, the tendency is to avoid it, mitigate it, or indulge in various recreational habits which “take the edge off”. This can be a downward spiral; leading to procrastination, missed deadlines, and the anxiety caused by having too much stress. And what is the result of these things? More stress. And so it goes, ad infinitum until we choose to stop the cycle.
Viewed positively, stress can be seen as a motivator; allowing it to fuel the completion of difficult projects, and pushing us past our plateaus and limitations. Doing so results in what psychologists call stress inoculation. The body becomes adjusted to stress, so when similar situations occur the stress reaction is reduced or eliminated.
Of course there are cases of chronic stress that can be harmful: facing a life or death situation, getting into a serious accident, losing a loved one, etc. The day to day stresses, however, can easily be handled with a positive mindset and some simple lifestyle choices
Natural Stress Relief
There is not a single modern medicine which treats stress as well as natural remedies. Not only are they often less effective; chemical medications come with a long list of stress causing side effects. Luckily, natural solutions can help the body and mind adapt to stress, therefore reducing the effects of chronic stressors.
There are many natural stress relief solutions, including:
- Exercise – Everyone’s favorite word, exercise may be the single greatest habit for anyone to develop. A simple 10 minute aerobic exercise releases powerful stress-busting hormones into the body.
- Relaxation techniques – meditation and yoga are both gaining ground in this area. Both practices of mindfulness bring the balance of the mind back to the present moment, and have been shown to reduce signs of stress and anxiety.
- Soothing Sounds – listening to the sound of waves crashing on the shore or pleasant music can actually help the body reset from a long day.
- Watching cute cat videos – Researchers have looked into the phenomenon of watching feline antics online; finding that watching cat videos actually helps regulates the mood. Everything in moderation, of course.
Essential Oils to Relieve Stress
Positive mindset in effect, cat videos on repeat; you are ready to get rid of the effects of stress for good. A simple yet powerful habit to develop in the stress management routine is the use of pure essential oils. There is a long list of relaxing essential oils which help to relieve stress. Here we will highlight some of the most beneficial. As stress and anxiety often go hand in hand, some essential oils for anxiety will also reduce stress symptoms.
1. May Chang Essential Oil
With a familiar citrusy scent, may chang essential oil immediately conjures images of a spicy lemon. There are many benefits of inhaling this wonderful oil, one of which being a significant reduction in stress symptoms. Researchers noted that subjects treated with litsea cubeba essential oil showed not only marked reductions in stress symptoms, but also displayed calmer, sedated behaviors. Open a bottle of may chang essential oil today; it may be your new favorite.
2. Valerian Essential Oil
The aroma of valerian can be a bit off-putting, as it is quite musky and has a slightly balsamic note to it. The plant has been used for centuries for its sedative abilities, and valerian essential oil possesses many of the same qualities. In fact, researchers recently pointed out the fact that valerian essential oil has the same stress reducing effect caused by many psychoactive drugs. This is amazing news for anyone looking to reduce their intake of chemical medicines for stress.
3. Orange Essential Oil
The dentist’s office is the boogey man for grownups and children alike. The only difference is – it’s real. A recent study found that the aromatic compounds in orange essential oil help reduce stress and anxiety in patients. If it works in the dentist office, it will work anywhere. Use orange essential oil in a diffuser, a personal steam inhaler, or inhale the aroma directly from the bottle. It also doesn’t hurt that it has a pleasant aroma that you can let fill your house.
4. Cedarwood Essential Oil
The oil from the cedar tree has long been used in carpentry to repel begs like termites and moths. Bugs hate the spicy-sweet, woody scent that many humans love. That same oil also has sedative effects when inhaled. Researchers have shown that when used in an aromatherapy inhaler, cedarwood essential oil can help calm the body and relax the mind. The oil is especially useful if you are trying to get some sleep, and makes a great addition to a blend of essential oils for insomnia.
5. Vetiver Essential Oil
The woody, musky notes of vetiver essential oil makes it a very popular ingredient in men’s cologne. There may be some psychological reasoning to this as well, as studies have shown that vetiver oil reduces stress in much the same way that the chemical medication diazepam does. Whether or not the fragrance industry knows this and uses it to create feelings of tranquility associated with their products is yet to be proven.
6. Chamomile Essential Oil
Long revered for its relaxing effects, chamomile essential oil itself has a sweet, herbaceous scent. When used in aromatherapy, chamomile essential oil has repeatedly shown beneficial sedating effects. In a study focusing on college students; researchers found that students treated with aromatherapy sessions using chamomile essential oil were far less stressed than the control group, who actually showed signs of increased stress.
7. Lavender Essential Oil
Keeping with the educational theme, we turn to the queen of aromatherapy: lavender essential oil. There is a reason it is so popular; there are numerous benefits of lavender essential oil which have taken centuries to fully understand. One such benefit is the ability of the oil to reduce stress levels in response to tests. Focusing on nurses this time, a team of researchers found that test taking stress is reduced by lavender essential oil.
8. Rosemary Essential Oil
This same study also shined a light on the ability of rosemary essential oil to reduce stress among nursing graduates. Reducing the stresses associated with test taking enables students to perform at their best. Try adding a few drops of rosemary essential oil to your favorite sweater before your next test. Others may thank you for their top marks. It also has an extremely pleasant aroma that works well in a diffuser, or you can inhale the aroma directly from the bottle if you’re on the go.
9. Geranium Essential Oil
Childbirth can be a glorious thing. To make sure of it, consider using geranium essential oil to reduce the stress caused by labor. A study highlighted the ability of aromatic compounds in geranium essential oil to reduce anxiety and stress in women who were in the first stages of labor. Researchers noted that the oil can make a good non-invasive anti-anxiety aid during childbirth.
10. Frankincense Essential Oil
Found in Egyptian tombs and mentioned in many ancient texts, Frankincense essential oil is one of the oldest there is. The rich oil has a high amount of sesquiterpenes, which act to benefit the body in countless ways. A study from 2008 found that one of the compounds in of pure frankincense oil has properties that lower stress and depressive behaviors.
11. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
The topical application of ylang ylang essential oil can have some wonderful effects on the body. In a recent study, participants who were treated with ylang ylang essential oil showed a number of signs of great relaxation. Compared to the control group, the ylang ylang group’s heart rate slowed, as well as their breathing rate and blood pressure. Participants were also more likely to rate themselves as calm and relaxed.
As scent is so closely tied to the brain, there is really no limit to the scents which personally bring you peace. As such, any essential oil that helps calm you down has a marked stress reducing effect. If there is one you use that isn’t on the list, add it!
When using pure essential oils, it is important to remember that they are powerful, and should be used with care. The antioxidant levels in many essential oils are very high, and can cause serious skin irritation. For that reason, pure oil should always be diluted; and pay attention to any reactions your body may have to them when applied on the skin. Children and pregnant women should use any essential oil under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner. Stress relieving essential oils aren’t meant to undermine the guidance of an experienced practitioner; but rather to supplement healthy treatment options.
The most important thing to consider when purchasing essential oil is the purity of the products themselves. Always look for pure essential oils. Pure oils are not only the most beneficial – they are the safest.
Is there a stress relieving essential oil we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below.