Even the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say that stress is at the root of >95% of all health issues experienced by humans.
Does this mean you have to “get rid” of your stress? No. In fact, stress is good for you. It’s actually how you perceive your stress that is at the root of the harmful effects we talk about when you hear stress is bad for you.
If you feel constantly over-whelmed and “stressed out” here is what is going on in your physiology and how it impacts your mental health and even the shape of your brain:
- Systemic inflammation– Impacts your gut, mood, and immune system which contributes to autoimmunity and cancer, stored toxins, skin rashes, acne, joint pain, and heart disease.
- Adrenal and hormone imbalances– creating fatigue, mood issues, low sex drive, weight gain or loss, brain fog, bone loss, insulin resistance, diabetes, thyroid disease and insomnia.
- Digestive issues– constipation, diarrhea, IBS, colitis, leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, and more.
- Brain shrinkage– your pre-frontal cortex, or adult brain, shrinks and your amygdala, or primitive brain, enlarges. This creates a state of hyper-vigilance, which causes disease.
Read on to learn how the specific use of specific essential oils can support stress relief:
Essential Oils Support Stress
I don’t know about you, but when I was originally told that I needed to reduce my stress levels, I felt at a loss about how to go about it.
It was clear that my job, my kids and my busy life choices were creating a sense of overwhelm for me, but I had no idea how to shift that stress. I wasn’t about to quit my job as I needed the money to put food on the table. As stressful as parenting could be, I didn’t want to sacrifice one minute with my kids. I was honestly confused and even more overwhelmed at the thought of how to become less overwhelmed.
When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I knew I had to create a better balance within myself and that would translate to a better balance in my life. This is a key distinction most people do not understand. Healing must start from the inside.
I knew that if I could clearly understand how stress works in the body, I could then map out a clear plan for reducing the impact stress was having on me.
How Essential Oils Can Support the Body in Stress
Understanding how stress works in the body help to understand why it must be handled well.
For example, nipping the thoughts that stir a stress response in the bud can help avoid a “fight or flight” response in the nervous system. Essential oils are uniquely suited to help us address, transform and clear negative emotions and thought patterns. They don’t solve the underlying root cause, but they can help halt a fight or flight response.
Your sense of smell, which is part of our olfactory system, is one of the most powerful channels in the body. In fact, your sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 times more acute than your other senses. Research has shown that scents can travel faster to the brain than other senses like sight or sound. Perhaps for that reason, inhalation can be the most direct and effective method for using essential oils. The entire process from the initial inhalation of an essential oil to a corresponding response in the body can happen in a matter of seconds.
When you inhale the scent of an oil, the odor molecules trigger receptor sites in your mucous membrane, which then sends information on to the olfactory bulb at the base of the brain. I find it interesting that it is not actually the essential oil itself that is sent to the brain, but a neural translation of the oils. These fragrance messages are interpreted and transmitted to the limbic system of the brain, known as the “emotional brain” because it deals with emotional and psychological responses.
As you may know, the limbic system serves as the control center in the brain for emotions and feelings, along with hunger, thirst and sex drive. This helps explain how scent can influence appetite and sexual attraction. It also impacts long-term memory through your hippocampus which stores your memories. The hippocampus is the area of the brain at play during those powerful experiences of smell triggering emotions or memories.
This powerful emotional reaction in the limbic system is triggered by nerve impulses which in turn trigger other areas of the brain that are responsible for secreting hormones, neurotransmitters and regulating body functions. For example, the pituitary gland releases endorphins, which can help alleviate pain and promote a sense of well-being.
Because smells can bypass the thought center of the thalamus and connect directly to the emotional center of the brain, known as the amygdala in the limbic system, they can trigger a reaction first and a thought second.
The amygdala plays a major role in storing and releasing emotional trauma. The easiest way to stimulate this gland is through the sense of smell. In other words – the emotional brain responds better to smell than it does to words that are read, spoken or heard. Your sense of smell links directly to emotional states and behaviors often stored since childhood.
This makes essential oils especially powerful tools for enabling you to access stored or forgotten memories and suppressed emotions, like anxiety, depression, fear, worry, grief, trauma, anger and self-abuse. Once accessed, you can acknowledge and release them. The word “emotion” includes the word motion, implying that these feelings are meant to move through you and be released. Stored emotions will cause the same affect as constipation does. No one is supposed to hold onto their crap…in any form. It’s essential to take out the trash on a daily basis. Essential oils can be useful in helping you do just that.
The Stress Support Kit from Vibrant Blue Oils is a great, simple way to get started with essential oils to support stress relief.