So here's the thing. Anxiety can be a wall. A huge towering block of a wall that stops you moving forward in your life. The more your mind races, trying to come up with solutions on how to clamber over or take down the wall, the higher the wall seems to become. Essential oils can help during those moments - they can make the looming wall seem less daunting. They can help calm your racing mind and hold your hand as you attempt the slow climb.
Anxiety is unfortunately a hard wired default in our brains; a survival instinct from eons ago, there to protect us from danger and move us into a safer place. Our brains default to the negative in many scenarios - because fear is a survival instinct that kept our ancestors alive. But what our brain doesn't sometimes do so well, is appreciate that our fear and anxiety is often exaggerated and not needed.
Our brains can become trapped in a cycle of defaulting to the fear zone - that breathless, tight chested, "all is not well" zone - even when the 'fear' is nothing more than an unconscious realisation that you needed to get a wash on, and you've gone out and forgotten to do it. "Arghh! Stress! I've forgotten to do something! Which must mean that I'm overwhelmed! And that thought makes me feel tense in my chest! Which signifies danger right?" Brains can literally go from 0-100 on the anxiety scale in a split second, and once this unconscious habit becomes the norm, anxiety literally can be triggered by something as seemingly unimportant as forgetting to put a load of washing on. That doesn't mean you're an idiot. Or crazy. It just means that in THAT moment your brain is listening to your bodily feedback (tense chest = danger) and responding appropriately.
It's the most difficult loop to exist within, and a hard one to look into and escape from. Because honestly who wants to look at their anxiety head-on in order to try and 'fix' it, as in the short term that investigative head-on analysis will potentially cause more feelings of intense anxiety? As humans, when we feel our chests tighten and our pulse race, we know that something is wrong. And we just want it to stop, not sit and examine our situation and thoughts in a calm manner, when the last thing we feel IN THAT MOMENT is calm. In that moment all we are able to do is feel jangled, be aware of the wall in front of us, and be aware of it steadily growing. Meditation, self awareness, calmness, all of these things go out of the window. In those acute moments of anxiety, having the control of mind to feel PRESENT, MINDFUL and CALM are often not even options.
At these crisis points an external help is sometimes needed, rather than mindful introspection. There are classic 'external' distraction techniques that I've seen recommended for anxious moments, like looking up and counting clouds, counting in your head, reading something on the back of a packet, focusing on a distant part of your body (like your foot) and noticing the press of the floor against it. But even these require a certain level of conscious calm that sometimes, if you're in the throws of an anxiety or panic attack, can't be achieved.
And this is where essential oils come in. They don't require your conscious or unconscious mind to DO anything. There is no responsibility on you, or requirement of you, at all. You inhale them, they link between your olfactory bulb (the part of the brain that contains the nerve receptors responsible for smell) and your amygdala (the part of your brain responsible for emotional response include fear and panic) and you slowly begin to calm
It really is as simple as that. As with many areas of brain study, no one knows quite how the relationship between smell and fear / anxiety works. But simply put, there have plenty of studies done that show that stress hormones increase or decrease according to certain smell triggers. The theory is that our sense of smell was once regularly used to alert us to danger (burning for example) and conversely was also used to tell us when things were good (in relation to food for example)
The use of essential oils for anxiety taps into this basic yet complicated relationship between smell and emotion - a relationship which carries emotional and mood healing within it's core and that triggers an instinctive and base level of calm within us when needed.
So when anxiety or panic hit, a simple inhalation of oil somehow calms down the frantic and panicked brain and allows us to enter a state of mind where we can rationally begin to think again. This is why I LOVE essential oil pulse point roll-ons so much - you can carry and inhale them anywhere and everywhere.
Some of the best oils for calming and soothing panic are the ones that truly ground us - they are earthy, often of the earth (like ginger for example) and they stop the whirling head thoughts in their tracks. They bring us back into our solid bodies, and decrease the shouting clamour of our wired and anxious brains.
My Favourite Grounding Essential Oils for countering racing thoughts are:
- Ho Wood
Essential Oil Recipe for grounding/dealing with Panic
Makes a 5ml bottle. Inhale a couple of drops from a tissue, have a hot bath with a few drops added, add to a burner and infuse the room when feeling wobbly etc.
- 20 drops of ginger (1ml)
- 10 drops of ho wood (0.5ml)
- 40 drops of petitgrain (2ml)
- 10 drops of patchouli (0.5ml)
- 20 drops of cedarwood (1ml)
If the idea of blending your own essential oils is too daunting then my Tranquility range was devised to help during times of anxiety. It contains Petitgrain, Ginger, Cedarwood and Patchouli. It's an earthy blend perfect for racing minds.
If you've had an anxious episode or panic attack and come out the other side, you need to nurture yourself and care for those bruised emotional and physical feelings that anxiety, fear and panic can behind. To bring back inner strength, self care, self love and balance my go-to oils are:
A bath with a few drops of these oils in is the perfect way to begin some self care after you've been flooded with stress and anxiety hormones.
I tend to use my Cherish blend (Rose, Rose Geranium, Cedarwood) for these kind of moments.
And finally, if you do struggle with anxiety, please don't feel isolated, incapable or alone. Millions of us have anxious thoughts, moments of panic, racing minds, feelings of overwhelm, feelings of inadequacy. You deserve to feel better. And you are not alone. Nor are you unworthy.