How to combat stress and anxiety with essential oil

How to Combat Anxiety and Stress with Essential Oils

Anxiety and stress are significant health problems around the world, and they’re the most common mental health problems for people in the United States. Roughly 40 million adults in the United States suffer from stress or anxiety disorders, and these disorders can range from mild to debilitating. (1)

Many people go without treatment because there are known side effects. However, essential oils for mental health are gaining popularity very quickly. People are finding out that you can use essential oils for anxiety and panic attacks, and they’re turning to this natural remedy to help ease their symptoms and live healthy lives.

What are anxiety and stress and what causes them? Are there any long-term effects for people who go untreated? If you’re wondering about these questions and how you can combat anxiety and stress with essential oils, you’re in the right place. We’ll answer all of this and much more by the end of this article.

Anxiety and stress are significant health problems around the world

Table of Contents

What Are Anxiety and Stress

Defining Anxiety

Do you find yourself worrying or fearing for things that may happen? Are these thoughts constant? If you have these thoughts, you may have generalized anxiety or an anxiety disorder. (2) While normal and periodic feelings or worry or anxiety are normal, being fearful or worrying to the point that it interferes with your everyday life isn’t normal.

If you’re afraid to leave your home for extended periods of time because you think and worry about a past traumatic event or you’re worried that you won’t be able to handle the crowds of people you meet, this is anxiety. When it starts to interfere with your everyday life, you have a problem. If this is the case, you may want to learn how to use essential oils for anxiety.

Defining Stress

Stress is another common medical problem that typically goes hand in hand with anxiety. Simply put, stress is the way your body responds to different types of demands. (3) Your body releases chemicals in response to a stressful situation. These chemicals can give you an instant but temporary strength and energy boost.

Some people thrive in high-stress environments because it matches their competitive personalities. However, if people aren’t able to manage their stress levels well and get overwhelmed, it can trigger anxiety. (4) This is the main reason why anxiety disorders and stress are commonly associated, and people with anxiety usually have a lot of stress in their lives.

The Difference Between Anxiety and Stress

Since anxiety and stress are commonly found together, it’s easy to confuse the two. However, they are two very different things, and it’s important that you understand how they differ. (5)

Common symptoms of stress

As we mentioned, stress is your body’s reaction to a demand. It can be positive in nature or negative, and it’s usually a short-lived experience. It’s a response to both mental and physical threats. (6) Common symptoms of stress include:

  • Disturbed Sleep
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Rapid Heart Rate
  • Poor Concentration

Common symptoms of anxiety

On the other side, you have anxiety. Anxiety is classified as a mental health disorder, and it can be unfortunately triggered by a stress reaction. Unlike stress, anxiety doesn’t go away. It’s not a short-lived experience, and you usually need some form of medication or remedy to help manage the symptoms. (7) Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feeling On Edge
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Controlling Feelings of Worry
  • Feelings of Being Out of Control
  • Shaking

What Causes Stress and Anxiety?

There are several causes for stress and anxiety in your life, and it’s generally a good thing when you are able to manage both of them. However, if you are not able to handle them without feeling overwhelmed, you may start to avoid these common stress and anxiety causes.

Common Anxiety Causes

Anxiety triggers will vary from person to person, and what causes the feeling of anxiety in one person may not cause it in another. Researchers also believe that anxiety runs in families and people who have a family history of having an anxiety disorder are at a greater risk for developing anxiety themselves. (8) However, several common causes for anxiety include:

  • Brain Chemistry

    Several studies show that people who have anxiety usually have a chemical imbalance in their orbital frontal area of your cortex. This is the area in your brain that is responsible for motor function, spontaneity, judgment, and impulse control. (9)

  • Environmental Exposures

    Researchers believe that environmental exposures before you’re born on still in the womb can potentially cause anxiety disorders. This includes drugs, alcohol, toxins, or other inflammatory conditions. (10)

  • Genetics

    As we touched on earlier, your genetics can also play a role in how predisposed you are to developing an anxiety disorder. If you have a strong family history of anxiety and anxiety disorders, you’re at a higher risk for developing them. Also, certain genes are thought to have links to anxiety as well. (11)

Analyzing Anxiety Disorders in Adults. Source: Michigandaily.com

Common Stress Causes

As with anxiety, what causes stress for one person may not cause it for another person. Some people thrive in high-stress environments while other people aren’t able to handle it. Stress is your body’s “fight or flight” response, and your body will flood your system with chemicals in response to it. (12) Although the causes are different for everyone, a few general stress causes are:

Stress in America. Source: Apa.org

  • Environmental Factors

    If you live or work in a highly competitive environment, you may feel a lot of stress. Having multiple job deadlines, competitive co-workers, relationship issues, or family problems can all cause your body to trigger a stress response. (13)

  • Personality

    Are you a more laid back person who is content to go with the flow? Perhaps you’re more intense, and you do very well in high-stress situations. Your personality will play a big role in how you do or don’t handle stress. It can get easier over time, but it takes a repeated exposure. (14)

  • Sudden life Changes

    Life changes like an unexpected death, changing careers, or a big move can all trigger stress. For some people, the thought of changing careers or moving can be a terrifying thought that triggers a stress reaction. A sudden or unexpected death can also wreak havoc on a person. (15)

The Long-Term Risks of Anxiety and Stress

Unfortunately, no matter if you’re suffering from anxiety or stress, there are long-term consequences associated with them. The consequences can be both physical and mental. Since stress and anxiety are so closely linked, the longer term consequences are similar, and it doesn’t matter which one you routinely struggle with.

Mental Consequences

Anxiety and stress can wreak havoc on your mental health, and it tends to get worse the longer you go without treating it.

  • Personality Changes

    Personality Changes

    Unfortunately, long-term exposure to stress and anxiety can cause personality shifts or changes. This includes things like hostility, irritability, a decrease in the concern levels for punctuality or appearance, excessive defensiveness, social withdrawal, impulsivity, and heightened levels of anger. (16)

  • Decreased Cognitive Function

    Decreased Cognitive Function

    Your hippocampus and your frontal lobes are the two areas in your brain that are hit the hardest by high levels of stress and anxiety. Stress hormones can cause a decrease in the levels of neurons in these regions. In turn, you can have trouble concentrating or remembering things as you get more and more exposure to stress and anxiety. (17)

  • Mental Illness

    Mental Illness

    Mental illness and anxiety or stress have strong links. If you experience anxiety and stress, you’re at a higher risk for developing depression or wild mood swings that are typically associated with bipolar disorder. Mental illnesses can be exacerbated by anxiety and stress, and it can make your symptoms much worse as time goes on. (18)

Physical Consequences

There are also physical consequences that come with long exposure to anxiety and stress.

Cardiovascular

Long-term exposure to anxiety and stress can lead to problems for your cardiovascular system. The chemicals that your body releases in response to these conditions causes your heart rate to speed up, and it puts more stress on your entire cardiovascular system. (19) This can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and artery inflammation.

Musculoskeletal

When you’re under a lot of stress and anxiety, your muscles tend to tense up. It’s a natural way for your body to guard itself against pain or injury. When your body is under constant stress or anxiety, your muscles are constantly tensed. (20) This can lead to cramping and fatigue. At worst, this can also lead to muscle atrophy from disuse.

Other Long-Term Anxiety and Stress Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Ulcers
  • Acid Reflux or Heartburn
  • Decreased Testosterone Levels
  • Early Onset Menopause
  • Obesity or Eating Disorders
  • Skin and Hair Problems
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Hormone Imbalances

How Essential Oils Can Help Combat Anxiety and Stress

When it comes to essential oils for mental health and physical health, you want to make sure you understand how they can help you. This can give you a new appreciation for them, and it can also encourage you to try more essential oils until you find the combination or oil that works best for your symptoms.

Stimulates Nerve Receptors

When you smell essential oils, researchers believe that this act stimulates receptors in your nose. (21) These receptors are directly linked to your nervous system. When these neurons detect scents, they send a signal to your brain. Your brain will interpret this smell, and it can send signals to your nervous system. This can have a calming effect that is capable of reducing your anxiety or stress symptoms.

Chemical Reactions

Did you know that some essential oils can have a positive effect on your chemical levels in your body? (22) This is especially important when you figure out that your body releases chemicals in response to stress, and this can trigger your anxiety levels to rise. Certain oils may be able to help regulate the number of stress chemicals in your body, and this can reduce your anxious feelings.

Regulates the Limbic System

Your Limbic system is also commonly known as your emotional brain for the role it plays in emotions. It’s also a direct connection to the parts of your brain that control hormone balance, blood pressure, heart rate, memory, stress levels, and breathing. Essential oils can help promote a feeling of balance and well being when you inhale them or use them topically. (23) Aromatherapy has shown to be the most effective avenue.

How to Use Essential Oils to Decrease Anxiety and Stress

When it comes to a calming essential oil blend, there are several ways you can use it to decrease your anxiety or stress levels. Some people like to use more than one method, but other people find the one way that works for them, and they use it exclusively. How you use it will depend on your personal preferences.

We’ve put together a blend of essential oils for anxiety and panic attacks, and you can use it in a variety of ways.

Blend all of these oils with your water or with your carrier oil and store it in a dark glass bottle or tin. You can store this blend in a cool and dry place until you’re ready to use it, and you can use it in several ways that we’ve outlined below.

Calming Essential Oil Blend Recipe

  • 4 Drops of Bergamot Essential Oil
  • 10 Drops of Patchouli Essential Oil
  • 8 Drops of Lavender Essential Oil
  • 12 Drops of Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil
  • 6 Drops of Clary Sage Essential Oil
  • 2 Fluid Ounces of Carrier Oil

Bath Oil

You can quickly and easily turn your bath into a spa experience that can calm your nerves. All you have to do is run your warm bathwater like you typically would. Before you get in, add 18 to 20 drops of your calming oil blend and swirl the water around. Get it and soak for 20 minutes or so. The oil’s scent will rise with the bathwater steam, and it may absorb through your skin as well.

Diffuser

One of the most popular ways to utilize essential oils or essential oil blends is through aromatherapy by using a diffuser. Before you add your oil blend to your diffuser, roll it between your hands a few time to blend the oils. You can add five or six drops of your blend to your diffuser and let it fill your room. This is especially effective if you do it in your bedroom half of an hour before you go to bed.

Inhaler or Smelling Salts

If you have an old inhaler lying around, soak a cotton ball in your oil blend. Stick this cotton ball in your inhaler tube and label it. You’ll be able to spray a small amount any time you feel stressed. It’s great because it won’t disrupt the people around you. Another option is smelling salts. Get a small vial and fill it with Epsom salt. Pour a few drops of your oil blend in, seal it, and put it in your coat or purse.

How To Make Shower Steamers. Source: This Southern Girl Can

Shower Steamer

You can make your own shower steamer with your oil blend by following this step by step video. Once you make your shower steamers, you simply pop one into the corner of your shower when you want to relax. The heat, water, and steam from the shower will start to dissolve the steamer. As it dissolves, it’ll release the calming scents. You’ll start to relax when you combine this with the warm water from your shower.

Massage Oil

Finally, you can also use this oil blend as a calming massage oil. Get two ounces of your favorite carrier oil and add four or five drops of your blend to it. It’s now diluted enough to be safe to apply topically. Work it into your skin, and you want to concentrate on your pressure points like your feet, behind your knees, and your temples to enhance your relaxation factor.

What are the Best Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety Relief?

We’re going to go over eight of the best essential oils for stress and anxiety relief. They’ll include essential oils for depression and essential oils for anger as well.

Bergamot

First up on our list of essential oils for depression, stress, and anxiety is Bergamot. Bergamot has a strong and clean citrus scent that creates a positive calming effect on your nervous system. One 2015 study showed that this oil can help improve your mood and decrease your anxiety in both human and animal studies. (24)

Bergamot essential oil also has high levels of antioxidants associated with it. This means that it can help to protect your cells from damage due to high levels of stress. (25) This can take away a lot of the fatigue you feel with chronic stress and anxiety.

Lavender

Arguably one of the most popular essential oils on the list, lavender essential oil has a long history when it comes to helping with anxiety and stress. One study showed that lavender oil had a calming and balancing effect on your body’s Limbic system. (26)

It has a very light floral scent that blends very well with other essential oils for depression and stress. Another study showed that lavender has positive impacts on your mood, and it calmed patients who were agitated due to dementia. (27) It can also help to stop wild mood swings or fluctuations.

Patchouli

Patchouli oil has a very warm, musky, and earthy tone that works well to calm anxiety and reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms. It blends very well with lavender, and it has shown to have a positive impact on depression, anxiety, and stress levels for people who have moderate to severe cases. (28)

A second study showed that this essential oil is a great way to calm surgical patients down before and after their procedures. (29) It works to calm your nervous system, and this calm spreads to the other systems in your body. In turn, this promotes healing.

Ylang-Ylang

Ylang-ylang oil works by encouraging your nervous system to calm down. One study took healthy men that had increased heart rates and blood pressure due to stress or anxiety and introduced them to this oil. (30) It showed that this oil successfully lowered their heart rates and blood pressure levels to safe ranges.

It also has the ability to interact with your olfactory system, and this can give almost immediate positive results on your mood and energy levels. (31) This makes ylang-ylang an effective and natural antidepressant, and it also works very well for boosting your confidence levels.

Clary Sage

Clary Sage has a very woody and herbal smell, and it’s a popular aphrodisiac due to its calming abilities. It can promote a euphoric feeling as well, and this makes it a popular choice for combating depression or racing thoughts due to generalized anxiety. (32)

Clary Sage is also very good for helping to control cortisol or stress hormone levels in women. One study showed that is an effective and natural way to reduce and control the levels of this hormone in your body. (33) It’s also a natural relaxant that can help to ease your muscle tension.

Chamomile

When it comes to essential oils for anger, it’s hard to beat chamomile. This herb has a long history of medicinal use as a calming agent because of its sedative properties, and chamomile tea is a very popular remedy for nerves or anxiety. (34)

One study showed promising results for anxiety sufferers. (35) They found that inhaling the scent of this oil could help to reduce the severity of the participant’s anxiety symptoms. It also has a positive effect on your mood levels. This oil can help to gradually and naturally balance your moods and decrease your anger or depression symptoms.

Jasmine

Jasmine oil has a very light floral scent, and it can help to promote the feelings of well being and romance when you inhale it. (36) This oil blends very well with a variety of woody and floral oils, and it’s popular for both its physical and mental calming capabilities.

Jasmine also has mild sedative effects. (37) It’s a popular way to promote sleepiness in people who have insomnia or racing thoughts that disrupt their normal sleep patterns. Medical professionals have looked into substituting this oil for Valium due to these calming properties.

Holy Basil

If you like essential oils with a minty or spicy aroma, you may like Holy Basil. You may have heard this essential oil called Tulsi as well. One study showed that this oil can increase neurological and cognitive function. (38) This can help to improve your memory and attention span.

Another study showed that this essential oil has a positive effect on physical and mental stress. (39) It can help to reduce your stress and anxiety symptoms when you use it. Additionally, this oil is also great for helping repair cellular damage due to stress.

Five Essential Oil Recipes to Combat Stress and Anxiety

  • Recipe One: Calm and Focus

    First up on our list is the Calm and Focus essential oil blend. It contains a blend of floral and citrus scents that can cut through your anxiety and stress and help you relax. You can mix the oils with two ounces of carrier oil to make a topical massage oil, or you can add them to a diffuser. To make Calm and Focus, you mix:

    Ingredients

    • 3 Drops Rosemary Oil
    • 2 Drops Lavender Oil
    • 2 Drops Wild Orange Oil
    • 1 Drop Peppermint Oil

  • Recipe Two: Overwhelm and Reset

    This relaxing essential oil blend fuses geranium, clary sage, ylang-ylang, and patchouli oils together for an earthy blend. Mixing all of these oils together gives you a warm aroma that lingers around your home. It goes to work directly on your central nervous system and calms the symptoms of stress and anxiety. You can run it in your bedroom an hour before you go to bed to help you drift off to sleep.

    Ingredients

    • 2 Drops Geranium Oil
    • 2 Drops Clary Sage Oil
    • 1 Drop Patchouli Oil
    • 1 Drop Ylang-Ylang Oil

  • Recipe Three: Calm Me Down

    Does stress keep you up at night? If it does, you’re not alone. Between 50 and 70 million people in the United States have a sleeping disorder or difficulty falling asleep. (40) Taking a relaxing bath with an essential oil blend is an excellent way to let your stress melt away. You can also add it to a small vial of Epsom salts and take it with you in your purse or pocket.

    Ingredients

    • 10 Drops Frankincense Oil
    • 5 Drops Rosemary Oil
    • 5 Drops Wild Orange Oil

  • Recipe Four: Destress and Relax

    Citrus oil is an instant mood enhancer that makes you feel happy, and it’s a clean scent. It makes sense that it can help lower your stress levels and combat anxiety. It’s also great for muscle aches. You can make a topical massage oil by mixing this blend of essential oils with two ounces of your favorite carrier oil. Massage it into your sore muscles and feel the tension slip away.

    Ingredients

    • 5 Drops Mandarin Orange Oil
    • 3 Drops Lime Oil
    • 1 Drop Lavender Oil

  • Recipe Five: Stress Away

    Stress affects everyone. No matter how many things you have to do during the day, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Once you get overwhelmed, it’s very easy to give up and not attempt anything. However, this oil blend can help. You can mix the oils in eight ounces of water and make a fresh room spray to spray around the areas of your home you frequent the most.

    Ingredients

    • 3 Drops Bergamot
    • 2 Drops Roman Chamomile
    • 1 Drop Marjoram

Tips to Reduce Stress and Anxiety and Further Reading

Now that we’ve given you five great essential oil blends to help combat your stress and anxiety, we’re going to provide you with a few tips to help lower the amounts of stress or anxiety in your life.

Listen to Music

Are you a music lover? Did you know that listening to music can lower your blood pressure and the amount of cortisol in your blood? Cortisol is the hormone that is directly linked to stress levels. (41) We recommend some light classical music for 10 to 20 minutes every day. However, if you don’t like classical music, Calmsounds.com will play up to 10 hour mixes of various nature sounds ranging from thunderstorms and rain to pre-set relaxing blends. It’s completely free, and you don’t even need an account to listen.

Go for a Short Walk

At least once a day, get up and go for a walk in a green space. Studies prove that going on a 10 minute walk once or twice a day in a park or on a trail can reduce your anxiety levels. (44) It’s also a great way to get a short exercise routine in. You can go by yourself or take your family for a mini-outing.

Meditate Everyday

One great way to reduce stress and anxiety is through mindfulness meditation. The goal of this meditative process is to give yourself a chance to unleash your natural curiosity and suspend any judgement about your mind’s inner workings. (42) This helps to reduce your stress levels, gain new awareness about your own mind. One excellent mindfulness meditation tool is the free Headspace app. It’ll get you started on the right track to a less anxious and stressful life.

Talk to Someone

Call up a friend or family member and ask them to talk. Even if you just want to vent or rant for a few minutes, it can massively lower your stress levels. (45) If you don’t walk to talk, you can communicate with a therapist online through talkspace.com or have a wellness chat at iPrevail.com. For an anonymous chat room, 7cups.com lets you connect to a listener and talk or vent with no pressure.

Create a Journal

Writing out all of the thoughts or issues that are bothering you is an excellent way to reduce your stress and anxiety levels. (43) It can help you put it in perspective. You can also focus on the positive and commit to finding 5 or 10 things that you’re grateful for each day. If you don’t want to have a paper journal, you can journal on Penzu.com. This site has dozens of customizable journal formats to pick from and over two million active journalists. Another great site is Journalate.com.

Additional Reading and Resources

If you’d like more information on stress and anxiety or tips on how to lower it, you can read more on:

Conclusion & What’s Next?

We hope that you’ve enjoyed our article on ways to combat anxiety and stress with essential oils. We taught you several excellent ways on how to use essential oils for anxiety, depression, stress, and anger. We also outlined eight great oils for anxiety and stress relief, explained stress and anxiety, and talked about the long-term effects. If you enjoyed this article, we invite you to read more articles on our site.

This site has several in-depth essential oil articles that teach you the different oils to use for various physical and mental ailments. From anxiety to sleep to several different oil blends, we’ve covered it all at one point or another in order to bring you the best and most comprehensive articles available.