Anxiety and Aromatherapy - Neal's Yard Esta Aroma Diffuser.
If you've listened to my podcast, and I hope you've tuned in at least once, then you may have heard me talk about anxiety. I think I've always been somewhat anxious of character, but a couple of years ago those all-too-familiar feelings of nerves and what I thought was stress began to bleed over into panic attacks. What started out as a series of attacks where I'd feel overwhelmed, break into a sweat and feel agitated and tearful turned into crippling attacks where I couldn't leave the house.
I genuinely didn't know what was happening. I went to my GP to say I was convinced something was wrong, but after numerous blood tests there was no evidence of a physical issue I could work on. After a series of events I shan't bore you with, I was told I had severe anxiety, brought on by stress, and it was a huge relief - at least I had something I could work on.
I had already started trying to meditate via the app Headspace and had swapped adrenaline-fuelled HIIT workouts for yoga at TriYoga to keep my stress levels down and thus minimise the chance of attacks. I was spraying obscene amounts This Works Sleep Spray on my pillows at bedtime to try to prevent the 2am wake-up associated with stress-related anxiety and an over-production of cortisol, but wanted to make more lifestyle changes so I didn't get sucked into the anxiety vortex yet again.
I'm not suggesting it as a sole cure for anxiety, but I started reading up on aromatherapy. The way it's believed to work is that their inhalation stimulates the part of the brain connected to our sense of smell, the olfactory system, which send signals to the limbic system of the brain that controls our emotions. The oils' effect on the limbic system causes chemicals to be released that make a person feel relaxed, calm or invigorated - depending on what type of oil you choose.
After researching the topic I invested in the Esta Aroma Diffuser, £50. It's really simple to use, you just fill up the reservoir with water and add a few drops of essential oil, and it gently fills your home with the oils' benefits. The diffuser has two switches, one for continuous diffusing and one that alternates 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. You can also choose between two light settings - great if you want to use it as a night light - or can be switched off completely while in use.
The crucial element of all this is the oils you choose to put in the diffuser. Initially I went with Women's Balance described on the website as: 'A balancing blend of relaxing patchouli, uplifting geranium, nurturing rose and rejuvenating frankincense. The blend works together to relax, calm and restore balance to your body and mind. The rose and geranium also help to take the edge off your emotions giving you inner clarity. It’s particularly useful during hormonal changes, helping to restore any imbalances you may be feeling both emotionally and physically.' I found that having this in the diffuser while I meditated really helped.
I certainly wouldn't want to give the impression that a couple of yoga classes and some essential oils can cure anxiety, but as part of a plan to support minimising stress levels I think there's value in it. I also wouldn't want to suggest that over-coming anxiety is in any way linear - there are peaks and troughs as you navigate your way out of, and learn to manage, your stress levels.
If you are struggling with anxiety then please know that you're not alone. We're living in a world of sensory overload and heightened emotions aren't really much of a surprise with things like mobile devices pinging every few seconds. Put yourself first, avoid any situations that you know will tip you over the edge and just take it easy...
The benefits of essential oils are well-known and if you want to research more for other ailments the Neal's Yard Remedies Essential Oils Book, £16.99, is a great resource.