Smelling Holiday Cheer
The holidays are here and along with them comes more stress.
Although the celebrations spur excitement and joy for many, more shopping, additional gatherings, and extra preparations can also trigger feelings of overwhelm.
On top of the challenges of the season, we are also dealing with poignant world circumstances that are contributing to our upheaval. These global events, combined with life’s everyday hassles, have left the mental resiliency reserves of the population at an unprecedented low.
This compounded stress can wreak havoc on the brain and body. Thankfully, these negative effects can be subdued by mind-body techniques, lifestyle practices, and aromatherapy.
In this post, I will continue to offer you integrative support to aid you through challenging times, and in life in general.
I will discuss how essential oils can soothe the mind and harmonize the body when the intensity of various circumstances rises. Then, I will highlight three single essential oils and two oil blends to calm holiday chaos.
9 Ways Essential Oils Calm the Brain and Body During Stress and Holiday Havoc
In my previous holiday stress post, I began my discussion on how essential oils can be used to promote emotional wellbeing when challenges arise. The combination of their aroma and chemical composition allows them to hijack the negative cascade of stress at the source, the level of the mind. As they do this, their biological properties work in coordination to rebalance the nervous system and hormonal milieu.
Specifically, various essential oils have been found to:
- reduce cortisol, the stress hormone
- modulate brain signals (neurotransmitters)
- shift our brainwaves
- calm our emotions
- enhance cognition
- support cellular physiology
- work directly on our emotional brain, causing an immediate shift in our perception
- evoke memories and change our mood through their aroma
- interact with odor receptors throughout our whole body, influencing our biochemical pathways and physical state
For this reason, they are one of my favorite ways to support clients struggling with overwhelm and/or those with psychiatric disorders and behavioral issues.
I already discussed my favorite gratitude oil blend in my previous holiday post, so below I will discuss some of my other adored oils and exactly how they can benefit us.
Essential Oils to Support the Stress Response and Enhance Mood
3 Essential Oils for Lowering Stress and High Cortisol
Ongoing stress can raise stress neurotransmitters and lead to an imbalance in cortisol levels. We need just the right amount of this vital hormone, as cortisol is important for regulating many body processes. These include inflammation, energy utilization, blood sugar, blood pressure, the sleep and wake cycle, emotions, and sex hormone levels.
Unrelenting demands initially raise cortisol levels, so stopping our bodies from tipping it too high for too long is important. Three of my favorite oils to balance this response are below.
1. Clary Sage Oil
One small study with 22 menopausal women in their 50’s examined how inhalation of clary sage oil could impact neurotransmitter concentrations, cortisol, and thyroid stimulating hormone. The researchers found that inhalation of this oil decreased cortisol and increased 5-hydroxytrptamine (the monoamine, serotonin), leading to an elevated mood and calmer state.
In my practice, I’ve seen these helpful results when using a combination of clary sage oil and geranium oil. Postmenopausal women have reported that this mixture has assisted them with balancing their stress, mood, and in modulating estrogen. I’ve also found this duo to be helpful to soothe the mind and assist younger women with low estrogen levels.
2. Lavender Oil
Lavender is known as the “universal oil” for good reason. It has been shown to benefit the brain, support emotional health, enhance sleep, improve resiliency, and alleviate anxiety. In fact, it has such convincing evidence for its use for anxiety, Germany has formulated it as a prescription medication for this indication.
One 2016 single-blind clinical trial, tested how two tiny drops of lavender oil would impact anxiety and blood cortisol levels. The aroma was inhaled by 90 candidates for open-heart surgery for 20 minutes. Distilled water was used as a control to compare results. Along with an adapted questionnaire, blood samples of cortisol were taken and compared between groups. The results indicated a significant reduction in anxiety scores and a higher difference in cortisol decline in the lavender group.
More research on lavender’s impact on mental and overall health can be found here.
3. Bergamot Oil
Bergamot essential oil (BEO) is another popular essential oil I use to aid in calming the minds of my naturopathic clients. Clinical studies have supported its overall positive role in reducing stress, alleviating cardiovascular excitement, improving nervous system tone (as measured by heart rate variability), and decreasing anxiety symptoms. (A table from a review on BEO that outlines seven studies on these topics can be found here.)
A small study exploring bergamot oil use with 41 females is one of my favorite trials on this oil. It validates how inhalation of bergamot oil for 10 minutes improved heart rate variability, cortisol levels, mood, and fatigue. (Click here for the full study.)
I will often recommend diffusing bergamot at night, in combination with lavender, for my athletes who are looking for faster recovery of their nervous system. It is also helpful for my clients who are “tired and wired” and can’t sleep.
Two Oil Blends for Decreasing Stress, Supporting Physical Resiliency, and Elevating the Mood
4. Stress Relief Blend
Stress Relief blend is appropriately named for its ability to calm the mind and body and combat the negative ramifications of stress on the heart. Below is a list of the essential oils it contains and their characteristic properties within this blend.
- Lime – a citrus oil for elevating the mood.
- Cedarwood – a comforting oil that supports sleep and neurological health.
- Lavender – an essential oil documented to relieve anxiety and combat the detrimental effects of excessive stress.
- Copaiba – a strange-sounding oil that interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a system that regulates major functions of the body. Copaiba is relaxing to the mind, and benefits the brain, skeletal system, and other organ systems.
- Ocotea – Ocotea quixos is known as “American cinnamon.” It is an oil that has a warm, soothing scent. It has many properties based on its diversity of chemical compounds. It contains cinnamaldehyde, which has some evidence for supporting blood sugar. This can be very helpful during overwhelming times, as blood sugar is impacted by stressful triggers and can affect blood flow.
- Vanilla – this is not a true essential oil, but an extract or oleoresin. It has preliminary evidence for elevating the mood. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (I personally look for ethically sourced, pure vanilla oleoresin for the best quality.)
5. Joyful Blend
This blend of essential oils uplifts the mood and can lighten the spirit. It was one of the key mixtures I used in my case study published in Townsend Letter for Annie’s anxiety symptoms.
This combination of essential oils benefits the nervous, digestive, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems. It also is powerful for alleviating stress. I use it with my naturopathic medicine clients to enhance their feelings of self-love, self-care, and to promote more human connection in their lives.
The Joyful Blend includes the following oils with many positive effects:
- Bergamot peel oil (Furocoumarin-free) to help calm the brain and support the mind-body.
- Ylang ylang flower for balancing the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
- Rose Geranium flower oil which offers hormonal and mood balancing properties.
- Lemon peel oil provides a refreshing scent that invigorates.
- Coriander seed oil which enhances digestion and the mind-gut connection.
- Tangerine peel oil to promote happiness and focus.
- Jasmine oil to balance the brain’s electrophysiology and calm stress.
- Roman chamomile flower oil which relaxes the mind and supports overall health.
- Palmarosa oil offers general overall wellness enhancement.
- Rose flower oil inspires romance, connection, joy, and healthy hormones.
My favorite way to use essential oils for stress and mood is via inhalation combined with topical application.*
Placing a few drops in a diffuser, sniffing directly from the bottle, or rubbing a few drops diluted on the wrist and dabbing these oils on the perfume points can be helpful to soothe holiday stress. This will also support overall brain and body wellness.
*Note: bergamot oil can be photosensitive (table 3 and 4), so no sunbathing with bergamot oil slathered on you during your holiday beach vacation. You’ll end up with some very uneven skin tones!
Summary: Using Essential Oils to Decrease Stress and Heighten Holiday Happiness
The stress of the holidays can lower our spirits and lead us into physical and emotional havoc. Thankfully, we have tools to combat these unwanted effects to help keep our moods heightened and to calm our brains and bodies.
In this post, I listed three of my favorite single oils (clary sage, lavender, and bergamot) and two essential oil blends (Stress Relief and Joyful Blends) to shield the negative mind-body impacts of stress attacks.
I also have additional resources for you in my resource section.
I hope you are finding this information helpful so that you may enjoy your holidays with less worry and more joy.
Stay tuned for more integrative tips to further enhance your wellness and resiliency through the holidays and into the new year.
Naturopathic Medicine and Holistic Resources for Hormonal, Digestive, and Mood Support
Free resources and more education on essential oils and mind-body wellness are available to you here.
An Integrative Mental Health and Stress Resource Guide.
Tools for coping with isolation and separation.
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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.