I went on a low-dose antidepressant in 2003, after being diagnosed with a depressive disorder. After 6 years, with my doctor’s approval and supervision, I began to wean off of it. Because my dose had gotten so low, and I had learned how to better manage my panic attacks, I was wanting to start looking for natural ways to help alleviate my anxiety, if possible.
(*Before I go further – Please Note: if you are on medications for anxiety, please do not stop taking them without consulting your doctor. Not only are there side effects to doing it improperly, this may not be a recommended course of action for you. Essential oils are not a replacement for medications, but are a part of a whole.)
Through my research (and experience), I knew that certain foods and stimuli could increase my anxiety, and I had come to realize that if this were true, then there might be things that could have the opposite effect. In other words: things that would help relax me.
This lead me to read up on essential oils. Our sense of smell is connected to our brain, thanks to the limbic system, which is involved in motivational and emotional functions, including those that involve memory triggers. This is why smelling Love’s Baby Soft can transport me back to a moment from 1980, or smelling nachos from 7-11 can still cause my stomach to turn, 25 years after a bad encounter with them. But essential oils are not just for smelling – they can be applied to the skin and taken internally (*not all oils should be ingested, so please reserve this option for only after much study, research and consultation with experts). What I have learned is fascinating, and it is amazing to me what a calming effect these oils can have on the mind and body.
So try out some of the following and keep them nearby for the moments you start feeling anxiety and stressed. (bonus: they are easy to tuck into a purse or backpack)
Essential Oils for Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Below are some of the most common oils used for anxiety, stress, fear and panic attacks. Some are relaxing, and help alleviate stress, while others are uplifting, and energizing.
Cedarwood – grounding
Sandalwood – grounding, calming, reduces anxiety
Jasmine (technically not an essential oil, due to the difference needed in distilling it, but the end result is the same as an essential oil) – lifts mood and eases stress
Lavender – calming, aids in relaxation
Lemon – uplifting
Ylang ylang – uplifting and calming
Frankincense – calming and eases stress
Rose – uplifting and eases stress
Rosemary – relaxing and eases stress and anxiety
Bergamot – uplifting, and helps reduce stress
Geranium – calming and relaxing
Grapefruit – uplifting, eases stress, calming
Orange uplifting, reduces anxiety and stress (likely to be a skin irritant, if applied undiluted and directly)
Black Pepper reduces anxiety
Patchouli – uplifting, reduces anxiety
Many essential oil companies have their own blends – several oils combined together into one bottle – that are worth looking into and considering as well.
How to Use Them
Inhale them directly from a diffuser, or rub a bit into your hands and inhale. Another effective method is to rub a couple of drops into the bottoms of your feet and massage in. Add a couple of drops to a carrier oil (to dilute) and then have massaged on your back. Add 8-10 drops to a warm bath.
A few things to note:
– I’ve read enough to know that not all essential oils are created equally, and, like anything else, everyone has their favorite brands. Therefore, I am not recommending any here, as I don’t want this to have the feel of, or appear to be, a sales-pitch for anyone. That being said, please do research (I’ve provided a couple of links below) before you purchase and oils, so that you can make the best decision for you and your needs.
– Essential oils degrade in light, so only purchase oils stored in dark bottles, and store them in a cool, dark place.
– Some oils can be too strong if not diluted and applied directly to the skin, or can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. What is gentle to someone’s skin, might not be for someone else. Always do a skin test first.
More on essential oils
21 Things You Should Know About Using Essential Oils
Essential Oils 101 Proper Use and Care of Essential Oils (includes info on skin sensitivities)
The Aromatherapy Bible Are Essential Oils Safe? (includes info on safety with children and pregnant women)
Essential Oil Care for Children and Babies
How Do Essential Oils Work? (includes info on usage and cautions on ingesting)
The Definitive Essential Oils Guide (very thorough listing of resources)