I believe the Dalia Lama summed it perfectly when he said that a calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence. But the million dollar question is this – How exactly do you calm your mind!
I mean it is hardly an easy task with everyday stressors just waiting to engulf us, nervousness beating us down, anxieties shackling us and depression holding us in a vise grip.
Just how bad is the anti-calmness epidemic?
The fact that nearly 1/3rd of the US population suffers from some form of anxiety or depression related disorder is in my opinion a testament to the losing battle that we are fighting against our own minds, emotions, reactions and brains.
I don’t think there is a soul out there who has never felt like he/she is at the end of the tether. So, what do we do, when our minds and brains are being seared by the heat of a million thoughts, worries and “what-if” scenarios?
Dealing with the monkey mind?
The first few times, people tend to ignore these episodes, without pausing to understand that they are dealing with a pebble, which has all the makings of an avalanche.
When the panic, anxiety, nervousness, depression become all too frequent, some turn to calming techniques like meditation, mindfulness, etc. while other seek professional help.
Now, I will be the first to admit that both meditation and mindfulness are incredibly effective when it comes to handling stress and negative emotions and reactions. But, the problem with these approaches is that they are no magic pills! They need time to yield results, ditto for CBT.
Do you want to be the pill happy and zoned out person?
People who want faster reprieve are typically put on pills. Now, I accept that in serious cases anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication is indeed required.
But, come on, nobody can deny the rampant misuse of these pills nor can you ignore the fact that they are being indiscriminately used for a lot of mental health concerns that can be treated in other ways.
Now, consider their side effects and you will agree with me when I say that using these medications is like burning down the house to smoke out the rats. But, what happens when your racing thoughts and your turbulent mind threatens to overtake your life and your very being?
This is when you are in dire need of instant relief and I mean its relief that is needed yesterday. So, is there anything out there that can help immediately?
Say hello to essential oils my friends!
Before you mouth the words, “There you go again Olivia”, give me a chance to explain why I believe that nothing out there can hold a candle to essential oils when it comes to calming your mind, body and I may even add soul to that list.
When you think of essential oil blends, all you see are a few drops of different oils mixed together and used in a diffuser. They smell amazing and you may even be compelled to buy the words that talk about their antimicrobial properties.
But unless you have personally experienced the impact of these oils on your brain and mind, you may not be able to accept their ability to alter your emotions and behavior. Hence, I am going to back my words up with science.
The volatile molecules in essential oils work precisely where they should: Here is the first bit of information – Of all the aromatic molecules in those essential oils, only about 5% are used by the brain for the recognition of the odor. So, what happens to the remaining 95% of the molecules that reach the olfactory bulb high up in your nose?
Now, this is the most important bit – These 95% go towards impacting the limbic center of the brain. This region of your brain controls behavior, emotions, perceptions and vital bodily functions like blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration and more.
These little boys get to work immediately: It takes a mere 5 minutes for the phytocompounds in essential oils to reach your blood stream when they are used topically. So, imagine how soon these bioactives can reach your system when they are inhaled. Actually, I would go so far as to say that it takes a mere few minutes for these volatile extracts to start acting on your brain and mind.
The impact is significant because it is all chemical: The changes that these compounds cause in the brain are pharmacological, meaning chemical in nature. Yes, those humble essential oils can and do actually alter your brain chemistry.
Without getting to scientific on you, I am going to say that the mechanism of action of the active components of essential oils is very similar to that of modern day anti-depressive and anti-anxiety meds.
Although the exact effect of the bioactive chemicals in essential oils is not entirely understood, researchers have determined that these compounds impact the neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood, behavior, sleep and more. These include:
- GABA: To put it very simply, GABA or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid is a neurotransmitter that calms the central nervous system. Anxiolytic drugs like benzodiazepines harness this ability of GABA by enhancing its effect at the GABA receptor site.
- Serotonin (5HT): Also known as the happy brain chemical, serotonin plays a multitude of roles in the human body. But, for the sake of this article, we just need to know that this neurotransmitter has a huge impact on mood, sleep cycle, feelings of wellbeing and happiness, appetite, sexual function and more.
- Dopamine: This brain chemical acts directly on the reward center of the brain. In other words, it is the pleasure producing chemical. From sugar to cocaine and from sex to several likes on Facebook, all give your noggin a shot of dopamine. This brain chemical plays a crucial role in mood, memory and focus.
Essential oils calm more than just the mind!
The fact that essential oils impact the levels of both cortisol and adrenalin in the body means that their effects are not just limited to the brain but also reach the other vital organs in the body that are directly affected by stress; for instance, your ticker. Lower levels of adrenalin and cortisol equate to stable and lower heart rate as well as blood pressure.
In fact, this effect of essential oils has been well studied even on human subjects who are about to undergo an invasive medical procedure and as such bound to be under stress. Actually, by keeping a check on the secretion of these two hormones, essential oils not only bring about calmness today but also reduce the risk of developing stress related disorders tomorrow.
You have been warned folks!
One of the reasons essential oils have gained mainstream attention and to some extent even acceptance as possible alternative and adjunct treatments for anxiety, panic, nervous and panic disorders is because these extracts help without adding to the side effects of modern medication.
Apart from the very real risk of addiction, there are also other safety concerns associated with the use of both anxiolytic and anti-depressive drugs, such as:
- Slower motor functions
- Memory loss
- Cognitive impairment
- Speech slurring
- Impaired judgment and thinking
- Vision problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
And, these are just the “not so” serious side effects of such medication. Often, they lead to paradoxical effects such as:
- Suicidal thoughts and behavior
- Risky behavior
- Extreme agitation and aggression
Unfortunately, seniors, children and individuals with a personal or family history of psychiatric disorders are most at risk of suffering from these paradoxical effects. Moreover, these drugs lead to near fatal reactions when combined with antihistamines, alcohol and other drug classes.
The worst part is that users often report losing themselves to these drugs and feeling like they are not themselves anymore. But, it does not end there! Once you are on these pills, it can be extremely hard to wean yourself off of them.
So, your safest bet would be to stay away from them, particularly if you have never used these types of medication before. If you are already using anti-depressants or anxiolytic drugs, do not and I mean DO NOT just stop them cold turkey!
In fact, if you are using these pills, talk to your doctor about aromatherapy before using essential oils in any form. Even if aromatherapy proves to be significantly beneficial, talk to your doctor before reducing the dosage or your medicines. That said, let us start talking about oils and recipes.
Best Essential Oils For Calmness
Apart from bringing back memories of sunny summers and delicious lemonade, this citrus essential oil also helps to quell fear, depression, grief, anxiety and nervousness. Both lemon essential oil and the limonene in it have been studied for their anxiolytic effects.
The oil offers an almost instant uplifting effect, which makes it perfect for days when your emotions are kicking you down.
This is another classic essential oil that has been used in a myriad of ways for centuries. When negative thoughts have a stronghold on you, the grounding and calming fragrance of this essential oil will help to center your mind, improve focus and chase away irritability.
Although the most expensive in this list, the benefits of this essential oil are so fantabulous that they justify the price tag.
Not only can rose oil kick feelings of depression, anxiety and nervousness to the curb but also it helps to annul the side effects of the some of the drugs used to treat these issues.
When you need to wade through the murky waters of jealousy, worry, selfishness and fear and connect with your higher self, this is the oil you should turn to.
One of the few natural products that have earned itself clinical approval as a treatment for nervous and anxiety related disorders, bergamot essential oil can instantly balance your mood.
The uplifting quality of the citrusy aroma of this essential oil helps to deal with sadness, depression, confusion, stress and overall emotional turmoil.
5. Clary sage
Of all essential oils, this one is often considered the most effective against nervousness and anxiety.
Whether the emotional disturbances are brought on by a stressful situation, a sudden and/or tragic loss or hormonal changes, clary sage essential oil can beat away the blues and other negative emotions.
If your constant worrying is crippling you and your inability to control your anxiety and aggression are taking a toll on your life, this oil will offer almost immediate and conspicuous results.
6. Roman Chamomile
There is a reason why chamomile tea is considered the “go-to” remedy for all things stress related. The volatile oil extracted from the flowers and the plant is known to eliminate all negative emotions.
From recklessness to impulsiveness and from aggression to anxiety, this oil treats them all. So, if your hot headedness has taken a bite out of you, others and your life in general, this oil will offer the much needed calm.
Who does not know about the healing and calming properties of this oil? In fact, it is known to soothe just about everything it touches including your mind, your body and your brain.
The ability of lavender essential oil to impact the parasympathetic nervous system means that it can help you to overcome everything from mood swings to panic and from nervousness to anger. All in all, this is a balancing oil that restores and regulates the equilibrium of the body and the brain.
The name of this oil is indicative of not only its healing properties but also its ability to calm the mind. Legend has it that the gift of this herb to human kind is attributed to angelic intervention, hence the moniker.
The plant has been used for centuries for the treatment of a range of physical and mental maladies. More recently, a study conducted to understand how the essential oil of angelica compared to diazepam, revealed that the natural extract exerts equivalent anxiolytic effect as the drug but without the side effects of the latter.
For decades, the grass like leaves of this plant woven into a curtain would adorn Indian homes in summer to keep the physical and mental heat of the season out. The volatile oils extracted from the roots of the plant offer the very same benefits just multiplied several times.
The grounding and earthy aroma of vetiver essential oil helps to reduce nervous tension, anxiety, panic and incessant worrying. Another essential oil with anxiolytic properties that are at par with those of diazepam, vetiver oil helps against panic attacks, depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress.
Using Essential Oils For Calmness
How and where you use the essential oils for calming will have as much impact on the results you get as the quantity, type and purity of the oil. For example:
- When you need relief on the double, nebulization, direct inhalation or even steam inhalation will help immensely. These approaches work well when you are already in the grips of stress, anxiety, nervousness and panic.
- When you want to take preventative action, use an atomic or evaporative diffuser (reed/terracotta pendant) or massage therapy or essential oil perfume blends to be in control of your thoughts and emotions.
- When using essential oil blends in conjunction with other forms of treatment, use them in the form of candles, with a heat or atomic diffuser.
- When you need to unwind and are particular about maintaining your mental and emotional balance, use essential oil blends in your bath or on the anxiety and panic hotspots of the body.
Top 7 Essential Oil Recipes / Blends For Calmness!
1. Make anxiety bite the dust with this essential oil blend for inhaler
Whether you have had a tough day or are expecting one ahead, use this recipe to calm your anxious mind and to keep your emotions regulated. You will need:
- 9 drops lavender
- 5 drops angelica
- 7 drops bergamot
- ½ tsp any carrier oil
Mix all the oils together and soak the absorbent wick of the inhaler in the oils till all the lipids have been soaked up. Insert the saturated wick into the inhaler. A few whiffs of this blend when your anxiety is overwhelming you will almost instantly calm things down.
2. Two cups of tranquility
This is a two pronged approach to calmness when you need to wind down on the double. It will infuse the whole of you with a sense of tranquility as it works from the inside and the outside. You will need:
- 1 tsp dried chamomile flowers
- ½ tsp dried sage
- 1 drops vetiver
- 2 drops lavender
Brew yourself some tea with the chamomile flowers and the sage leaves. You will need about 1 ½ cup of the beverage, so starting with 2 cups of water will get you there comfortably even if you steep the botanicals and let the concoction reduce some.
Pour the beverage into 2 cups; one full cup, which is for you to relish as you relax, and one half cup to which you should add the essential oils. Do, this while the beverage is steaming. No, you are not going to drink this but inhale the fragrant steam deeply for about 2 minutes, with a break after 2-3 breaths.
This is the fastest way to get those aromatic molecules into your system and the strongest. So, you will need breaks in between from the steam breathing. For this, set the cup down and breathe normally but deeply and then repeat. Also, remember to hold the cup a good 4-6 inches away from your nose and there is no need to cover your head or face as you normally would for steam inhalation.
As the essential oil infused brew cools down, so will the tea in the other cup. Set the essential oil brew aside and enjoy the relaxing concoction. By the time you down the tea, you will feel calm and centered.
3. The foot soak blend that draws out tensions and anxieties
This blend works well when you have had an exceptionally long, tiring and trying day and need to relax. You will need:
- ½ tsp milk/ light carrier oil (like coconut)
- 3 drops each of lemon and frankincense essential oils
- 5 drops lavender
- 1 heaped tbsp Himalayan pink salt (optional)
- A foot soak tub filled with warm water (bearably hot)
Mix the essential oils with milk and set aside. If using Himalayan pink salt, add this to the warm water in the tub and mix till the crystals dissolve. Pour in the essential oil and milk blend and agitate the water to disperse the mixture in the water. Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes or till the water cools.
4. The calmness through hand and feet blend
This is another recipe that is well suited for a bit of personal pampering and TLC after a hard day. It is easy to make and exceptionally effective if you can get somebody to give you a soothing hand (palms included) and foot rub with it. You will need:
- 30 ml carrier oil of your choice
- 5 drops clary sage
- 4 drops each lavender and chamomile
- 2 drops rose
Mix the oils and store in a glass bottle of dark color, away from direct heat, moisture and sunlight. When need be, use it as you would any lotion, but instead of a whole body massage, concentrate on the stress relieving reflexology points on your hands and your feet (the web in between the fingers and the toes).
5. Soak your anxiety and depression away blend
This blend is so relaxing and calming that you will find it hard to keep your eyes open after a 15-20 minute soak. Use this bathtub blend at night or when you have some “me” time. You will need:
- 10 drops clary sage
- 8 drops each of vetiver and angelica
- 3 drops ylang ylang
- 2 cups Epsom salt
- 1 tsp milk (dairy or plant)
Mix the milk with the essential oils and put the mixture aside. Add the magnesium rich Epsom salts to warm bath water and then mix in the milk-oil blend. Agitate the water till you cannot see lipid droplets floating on top. Enjoy the soothing soak for 15-20 minutes.
6. Drift off to a calm sleep pillow spray
When you cannot muster the energy for a soak or a massage but do need to calm your racing thoughts, this pillow spray blend will offer quick reprieve from both anxiety and nervousness. It also works well as a general “fall asleep quick” pillow spray. You will need:
- 20 ml distilled water
- 5 drops chamomile
- 3 drops each of clary sage and vetiver and lavender
- Spray bottle
Add the oil and the distilled water to a dark colored glass bottle with a spritzer top. Shake well and mist your pillows lightly before bed time.
7. Diffuser blend to shoo away anxiety
This blend works as both cure and prevention for anxiety and negative thoughts. Use it when you are expecting a nerve racking day or event. You will need:
- 5 drops each of jasmine and chamomile essential oils
- 3 drops each of vetiver and clary sage
- 2 drops ylang ylang
Blend the oils and store in a dark, glass bottle. Use 2-6 drops of the blend in your diffuser. The mixture works well with all types of diffusers but I highly recommend an ultrasonic diffuser for this recipe simply because you can get longer exposure time with it.
Home Remedies And Lifestyle Changes For Calmness
1. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind and brain:
Think about it this way – If your mind is ailing, eventually your body will respond to its troubles by going out of whack. Then, what makes you think that you can keep your mind healthy when your body ails?
I don’t even have to tell you that excess sugar, refined carbs and unhealthy fats take a huge toll on your body. Hence, it is obvious that these food choices will impact your brain and mind.
So, stocking your refrigerator with fresh fruits and veggies and healthy foods is truly akin to stocking your brain with positive thoughts and calmness.
2. Deficiencies cause emotional disturbances:
Vitamin D, B12, zinc and magnesium deficiencies are often found to be the cause of panic and anxiety attacks.
So, make sure that you don’t lack these necessary nutrients in your body. Also, supplementing with Omega 3 fatty acids and l-lysine helps to lower the levels of cortisol in the body and keeps anxiety away.
3. Let those sun rays burn down your stress and worries:
Did you know that walking is the new wonder drug? Couple it with some sunshine and you have the panacea to almost all that ails the human mind.
Sun exposure will give you highly bio-available vitamin D while walking will boost the levels of endorphins in your body, which will make you feel good.
If you can’t get time out in the sun, a vigorous workout in the gym will also do. Simply put, get up and get moving if you want to move the negative emotions out of your system.
All it takes is 15 minutes of walking in the sun, 20 minutes of hiking through a forest or 25 minutes at the gym to work out all your stress, panic and anxiety.
4. Meditate the stress away:
Everything they have been told about meditation being the ultimate stress relieving technique is 100% true.
But, it is hard and the level of focus required to experience almost instant benefits comes with some practice. However, once you get the hang of it, you will be able to zen your way through the most mentally taxing situations.
5. Journaling your way to calmness:
This is another approach that I have personally tried and I vouch by its efficacy.
At first, it may seem childish, but eventually, you will realize that you get extraordinary benefits by acknowledging your own emotions and their causes. The best part is that your journal gives you the space to vent without being judged. So, go for it!
6. Foods that fight for calmness:
Oats, avocados, blue berries, magnesium and tryptophan rich whole grains, vitamin C rich citrus and other fruits, dark leafy greens will all give you dopamine and serotonin boosting nutrients.
On the other hand, caffeine and sugar will give you a temporary high but the crash that comes after will, without a doubt, lead to anxiety and panic. So, keep a check on how much coffee and sugar gets into your body.
In this day and age of constant connectivity and manic schedules, the ability to keep your calm is literally a super power, one that allows you to understand and react to situations better than anyone else around.
But even the Great Buddha would find it hard to hold on to his calm in these trying times, so we stand little chance of maintaining our cool by relying just on our innate abilities. But, the equation changes once essential oils come into the picture.
So, smell your way to serenity! And on that note, here is wishing all you folks a lifetime full of pleasant aromas, pleasant thoughts and a pleasantly calm mind!