There are a variety of techniques that can be used to manage stress and anxiety. Deep, slow breathing. Visualizations. But did you know that one of the most powerful ways to cope with anxiety and stress involves your nose?
Fragrances are incredibly powerful for bringing the brain into a calmer state.
The Power of Fragrance
The technique of using smells to interact with the brain is known as aromatherapy. Scents can energize, they can uplift, they can evoke spirituality, and they can bring calm.
We’re interested in the bringing calm aspect.
There are some aromas which are traditional in bringing calm. These are:
Lavender – this has been used as a calming scent for thousands of years. Even the soft color of the flower – also known as lavender – is often used in calming situations.
Chamomile – Another traditional soothing scent, a popular non-caffeine herbal tea for drinking is chamomile. That way you get both the scent as you drink it as well as the ingestion of it.
Bergamot – This is actually a small citrus fruit, and the scent comes from the rind. Usually citrus scents are thought of as energizing, but this one has a subtler, more soothing aspect to it.
Ylang Ylang – a beautiful tropical flower which brings with it the relaxation of lying on a deserted beach as the waves slowly roll along the shore.
The fun part of aromatherapy is that every one of us is different. Every scent is different. So one person might adore lavender while another might hate it. That’s OK, because that second person might adore chamomile. We each discover for ourselves what scents we find appealing.
How To Create The Scent
There are all sorts of ways to create scents to soothe. Candles are one way, but if you have pets around or aren’t sitting in one place, they aren’t a great option. A candle should never be left unattended.
Other alternatives include incense, diffusers, and scented cards like the ones you hang in cars.
In the room with the cat litter I have a timed diffuser. That way when I go in to clean the litter I can hit the button for thirty minutes. The room gets a pleasant scent in a safe way.
In my office, sometimes I’ll light a candle. But I keep a small bottle of “Stress Relief” on my desk. It has a mixture of all the traditional calming scents – lavender, chamomile, bergamot, and ylang ylang. I can just unscrew the lid and take a long, deep inhale. It’s a wonderful scent and relaxes me instantly.
Part of the benefit of building this relationship with a scent is that if you’re somewhere stressful, just imagining the scent can calm you. You don’t even need it with you. Just imagining you are breathing in deeply of that calming scent triggers the same areas of the brain.
So think about adding some aromatherapy into your life. Make use of a sense you might otherwise not think much about.
Image of stress relief bottle taken by me Lisa Shea of my own bottle.