Now more than ever we’re experiencing stress and uncertainty, which can manifest in a multitude of unexpected symptoms. You don’t need to have experienced anxiety in the past for it to bubble up now. In fact, small changes to our everyday routine can trigger anxiety symptoms, let alone widespread disruptions to life as we know it. What’s most important to remember is that feelings of pressure and anxiety due to these changes are completely normal. We are biologically wired to continually assess our surroundings for threats. Our ‘always-on’ modern life-styles don’t do us any favours, often feeding the beast.
Not sure if it’s anxiety you’re experiencing? While physical manifestations might first come to mind, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. Feeling flat or unmotivated, avoiding situations and (physically distanced) contact with others, irritability, sleeplessness, obsessive thoughts and excessive worry, can all be symptoms of anxiety.
Whilst all senses are heightened and stress response is peaking, it’s easy for some unwelcome patterns to form. Emotional eating, binge watching TV and other addictions often masquerade as providing comfort, when in fact they feed the anxiety. Although easier said than done, being aware of your triggering behaviours and replacing them with mindful practices can help settle feelings of anxiety and in some instances quickly help you find your inner calm.
Here are our go-to practices to help ease anxiety and improve sleep (combining essential oils of course!). Depending on how much time you have and what works for you, feel free to get creative and combine a couple of these practices. Oh, and a reminder for all the A-type personalities (that includes us), the below is not a to-do list that you need to tick off!
2 Min Practice – Catch your breath
Taking a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing can have an instant effect on grounding the mind and body to reduce stress. Breathing techniques is one of those life-skills that’s not only great to equip yourself with, but also to teach younger children. Our fave is the box breathing technique which helps regulate breath and bring you into the present by visualising a box shape to help count your breaths.
Start by sitting upright in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, relaxing your shoulders, unclenching your jaw.
- Slowly breathe out for 4 counts to exhale all the oxygen in your lungs imaging the first line of a square being drawn.
- Slowly inhale for four breaths, imagining the second line of a square being drawn.
- Hold your breath for four counts, imagining the third line of a square being drawn.
- Slowly exhale for four breaths, imagining the fourth line of a square being drawn and completing the shape.
- Hold your breath for four counts, before repeating steps 2-4 for 2 mins.
It’s practical, it’s quick, and you can do it anytime, anywhere you need. We love to pair this practice with the In Essence ie: Stress roll on, which is just as convenient. The ie: Stress roll on contains a comforting blend of Orange, Mandarin, Geranium, Patchouli and Bergamot 100% pure essential oils traditionally used in aromatherapy for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress and sleeplessness (see it here). Simply apply a small amount to the wrists and back of the neck.
10 Min Practice- Aromatic kindfulness
Take mindfulness and add a dose of kindness. What do you get? Kindfulness. This concept comes from Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm’s book, Kindfulness (do yourself a favour and give it a read) which illustrates how compassion to oneself and the world around us can open the door to healing. We like to combine our senses with kindfulness and write it down.
- Take any aromatic plant, fruit or herb you find pleasing (you can even use a bottle of your favourite essential oil if you don’t have a plant on-hand).
- Close your eyes and hold the plant/oil/fruit drawing your consciousness to how it feels in your hands, bringing it up to your nose to deeply inhale a few times, observing its aromatic fragrance.
- Once you have fully absorbed and appreciated the plant/oil/fruit’s beauty, write down a description of the scent (was it fresh, zesty, deep, woody?)
- Secondly, write down how it made you feel (uplifted, energised, grounded, comforted?)
- Last, write down what makes you feel grateful for the plant/oil/fruit.
By having a dedicated notebook and practicing aromatic kindfulness regularly, you will end up with a beautiful journal filled with an appreciation of nature, which you can revisit and reflect on when you’re finding it difficult to get into a positive mindset. You’ll also find by doing this regularly you will naturally start to seek out beauty in nature to collect and write about.
30 Min Practice – Soak the day away
There’s something about sitting in a steamy tub that makes you feel like time is standing still and you can finally catch a breath. It begins from the moment you close the bathroom door, shutting out the rest of the world. Soaking your worries and anxieties and imaging them melting away into the water can be a powerful tool to relieve tension and soften all the muscles in your body.
While you might think this is strictly an evening practice to wash away the day, what’s stopping you from taking a midday dip? If you’ve had a stressful morning, don’t hesitate to run a bath for a lunch time soak. And if you can’t quite find the time for a bath or, don’t have a tub, a hot steamy shower can be just as effective.
Now to the part where we include a touch of aromatherapy. To add essential oils to a bath combine 6 drops in total of your favourite non-sensitising essentials oils (avoid Citrus, Lemongrass, Ylang Ylang, Cinnamon Bark, Peppermint etc.) to 1 tablespoon of Sweet Almond oil and add to the bath tub, agitating the water vigorously to disperse. If you have sensitive skin, do a patch test on your arm first.
If you’re taking the shower option, simply add 1-2 drops on the base of the shower in a corner furthest away from the water (be careful not to add the essential oil where you will stand as it can become slippery). The essential oil particles will rise up with the steam, filling the whole bathroom with your chosen aroma.
Here’s our favourite stress-less bath blend recipe:
1 Tbs Sweet Almond Oil
3 drops Rose Otto in Jojoba
2 drops Lavender
1 drop Australian Sandalwood
45+ Min Practice- Mindful Movement
Gentle movement is a great way to disconnect and reset, particularly if you find meditation and being completely still a challenge. It gets the blood flowing, expels stale energy and releases endorphins which relieve pain and boost pleasure. If you’re looking to establish a mindful routine to ease your way into the day or wind down into the evening, here are some great options:
- Go for a walk. It’s easy, it’s free and helps clear the head and fill the lungs with fresh air.
- Take a yoga class. There are heaps of online options too if you can’t make it to a studio. Opt for gentle, slower types of yoga that allow you to take your take time and stretch such as Hatha, Slow Flow or Yin.
- Turn on some tunes and dance! Allow yourself to become lost in the music, do what feels right for your body and just go with the flow. This one is also a great option if you have little ones around and can’t get away to do the above two.
It’s easy to incorporate essential oils with any of the above. If you’re going for a walk the stress roll-on we mentioned earlier is a great option. However, if you’re indoors, pop 6-9 drops of your favourite essential oil blend into the diffuser and let go. Here are our top stress-relieving blends:
We hope we’ve been able to give you some new or varied techniques that you can add to your toolkit! Remember it’s all about balance and not about getting it right 100% of the time. Start small and create a regular routine that you enjoy and are likely to stick to. If you drop off with your mindful practice- that’s totally ok (we all do it!). Rather than beating yourself up over it, be kind to yourself and jump into a steamy bath with your fave blend and a good book!
The above is not intended to replace medical advice. If you are experiencing anxiety and depression, please speak to a health care professional. Other great resources are Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/ and Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/.
Brahm, Ajahn. Kindfulness. (2016)