Things right now are weird. Scary. Confusing. Overwhelming. Our normal routines — so often a tool for grounding and maintaining a clear head — have been ripped away from us as we’re asked to stay home for the safety of ourselves and others.
With more time to spare and a great need for new and uplifting routines, why not turn to scent?
Recent years have seen a boom in the popularity of essential oils. Websites on natural health, aromatherapy, beauty, and the likes, list off oils and their benefits. It seems like more articles on essential oils are popping up every few months, even in major publications like New York Magazine.
For the skeptics, it might at first seem like all this buzz is just the result of the trending mindfulness movement. But, while some claims have yet to be proven, science seems to stand behind oils like lavender as a tool for calming and de-stressing.
For instance, a 2005 study showed that “ambient odors of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment.” Another study in 2009 found that nursing students who used a sachet with lavender and rosemary essential oils had lower stress and anxiety during test-taking.
It might be hard to separate the effects of essential oils from the less concrete alternative healing methods with which they’re often associated — like healing crystals, reiki, or astrology. However, any missing evidence is not for lack of trying. One review from 2013 titled “Lavender and the Nervous System” explains that it’s been difficult to publish evidence that 100% confirms the therapeutic benefits of lavender for reasons such as varying administration methods and a large range of oil types, strengths, and quantities. The authors call for all future trials to provide specifications on the oils used, so there will be greater proof to support the benefits that the review discusses, such as improved sleep, and help with anxiety and depression.
All this is to say — skeptics and believers alike, it’s time to get your hands on some lavender. Now, perhaps more than ever, we may be moved to try anything once, whether we’re trying to alleviate boredom or stress. Creating your own routine with lavender could be just the thing to help you stay centered in a series of indistinguishable days at home.
Experiment with lavender and find what tickles your fancy. Try putting a few drops of essential oil on your palms and rubbing them together, then bringing your hands to your face and taking several deep breaths. You could also take three minutes to apply oil to your temples and give yourself a gentle massage. Keep a diffuser stocked with lavender oil to extend the benefits to your entire household (but remember to keep cats away from the mist).
Dried lavender can be put to use as well. Take a note from the nursing students mentioned above and make a sachet that you can keep by your side at your home office or stick under your pillow to improve your sleep.
If you can commit even to a week of incorporating lavender essential oil into your day, you may find that just the mindful act of stopping for a new routine is enough to improve your sense of well-being. In fact, any scent, oil, or perfume can easily become associated with a state of mind. Just as sitting down at your desk can signal the start of work, scent can trigger a specific headspace. After a week of meditating with lavender, you may find that a whiff of the oil can calm you.
Enjoying lavender and other oils and perfumes can also de-stress just by engaging the senses. The source of stress and anxiety can often be our own thoughts. Many mental health professionals recommend drawing attention to the five senses as a way to take a step back from worries and concerns.
We’re all feeling some degree of stress regarding this pandemic, trying to stay safe and make the best of it any way we can. If lavender and other essential oils can prove to be calming to you at this time, embrace them!
By Katrina Eresman
Possets Lavender blends can be found here.