top background

How to use aromatherapy to manage stress

Stress gets to all of us, and aromatherapy is known for helping us manage those feelings, you just need to know how to get the most out of it. Here, aromatherapist William Ogboke explains how to manage stress with essential oils…


Usually when we say ‘I’m so stressed’ it’s with a churning feeling inside and an exasperated look on one’s face. However, some types of stress can be a good thing. In many cases, it signifies that something needs to change or be channeled. The task is dealing with the commonly talked-about (not-so-appealing) negative side effects.

Aromatherapy oils are renowned for treating and mediating stress. When you say the famous phrase ‘I’m stressed’ during your consultation, as massage therapists we think ‘go deeper’, give your therapist enough specific information to really help you. Here’s how…

Have a word with yourself

The reason I say ‘with yourself’ is, it can be hard to divulge personal matters to strangers; therapist or not. Talking to yourself first may get to the root cause more easily. When you reach the therapist try to voice the concerns you have. In a few sentences highlight what it is that stresses you. If you know the origins of your stress - start with that.

In therapy work, there is an index of stress factors. Issues like moving home, changing job, ending relationships and bereavement are common occurrences that instigate the stress responses. Even if none of the above actually occurred but you feel they are imminent; mention it. Your aromatherapist can then receive an indication of where your stress comes from, helping them to blend the appropriate oils, choose the zones of your body to massage and create your personalised treatment plan.

Break down stress to tailor aromatherapy

Take into consideration the side effects under these four umbrellas; physical, mental, emotional and environmental. There are no right or wrong answers. What is more revealing is the mention of these categories.

For example, physical side effects may be that you’re very tired. Stress can keep us up at night and we cannot tap the ‘off ‘button or even slow down. The immune system takes a battering when not rested and illness can strike more easily. Furthermore, evidence shows that the increased level of cortisol and adrenaline in the body that has been built up from long-term stress blocks the immune response.

A blend of true lavender, red thyme and orange may ease you into relaxation, whilst stimulating our immune defenses. To utilise the blend all day it needs to be well balanced. Red thyme is highly stimulating so you can have one blend high in thyme throughout the day and then one higher in true lavender in the evening. Other oils to boost a tired immune system are; pine, rosemary and eucalyptus. The last two oils are high in cineole are very relieving on the muscles too so if your stress manifests tension in muscles or even headaches, then having a hint of those oils in your bespoke blend is sensible for your massage.

Mental symptoms might be worry and a lack of concentration. Worry insinuates that you care about the subject you are worrying about. So often this is twinned with the emotions. Oils to ease worry are Roman chamomile, rose and sandalwood.

Emotional symptoms could mean that you’re tearful. Tears are good and a result of emotional release. The areas of the body related to emotions are the head and abdomen. Many of us know when we cry that there can be a convulsive feeling in our stomach area; a tightening and loosening. In that area after a cry there is usually an empty/ free feeling and that’s the release of emotions that have been pent up. The floral oils and oils high in esters can also help to balance our emotions. Oils like geranium, clary sage and neroli are useful.

Be mindful of your environment and adapt aromatherapy to it

Environmental side effects could mean that you feel a little better at home and worse at work. If your work/ career are the root of your stress then as well as a massage oil, you could be looking to incorporate some aromatherapy while working, even when you’re working from home. Applying an aroma-blend to the chest or wrist on arrival to work and again after your lunch break could act as a reliable way to shift your mood and mode throughout the day.

Having a blend for work for the times you need to enforce some guerilla aromatherapy is always a good idea. If you secretly want your environment to benefit from your aroma-blend you can ‘double-dose’ or apply the blend more regularly. Oil burners and diffusers may be too intrusive in a work environment. The important thing is that it helps the communication and efficiency that gets you through the day. Peppermint, lemongrass and rosemary are good for lethargy and concentration and on dark dismal days when you feel stagnant.

Whatever your circumstances or goals there will be an aromatherapy blend to cater to your needs, so let your aromatherapist become a soldier to help you battle through the tough times.


More posts similar to this one

If you like this post, here are some similar ones that you might be interested in: