Organic Aromas Inc BBB Business Review Customer Reviews

Stress, Brain and Aromatherapy

Posted on April 09, 2018 by Daniel Almeida | 74 comments

Stress, the Brain and Aromatherapy

Stress, a word that I’m sure each of us has an intimate familiarity with. The reality of the matter is that we all go through everyday experiences, whether good or bad that result in us feeling overwhelmed and stressed. While stressful stimuli are largely unavoidable, the way we appraise our environment and cope with stress is most definitely something we have the power to control. What I’ll do in this post is introduce you to a foundational understanding that behavioural neuroscientists have of stress, while also equipping you with effective tools and strategies to change our perception of, and manage stress. So stop and take a moment to sit back, relax and smell some rose oil as we delve into stress, the brain and aromatherapy.

What is Stress?

So what exactly is stress and what does it look like in the brain? Unsurprisingly, like many terms in psychology, stress isn’t as easy to define as one might think. While the fundamental physiology of stress is probably quite similar regardless of the behavioural definition we use, there have been many theories proposed that aim to address the question of “what exactly is stress”. For now, let’s start with a physiological perspective. When an organism, like you or I, experiences stress a division of our nervous system, known as the sympathetic nervous system, is activated. This leads to the very well known “fight or flight” response. The fight or flight response describes a process where our body utilizes our energy stores, increases our heart and breathing rate and gets ready to deal with a threat. Our brain and endocrine (hormone) systems accomplish this task by signalling through a variety of neurotransmitters and hormones such as noradrenaline, adrenaline and cortisol.

 

Stress, the Brain and Aromatherapy

Why Does Stress Exist?

Animals, like ourselves, evolved the fight or flight response to be able to survive all of the threats within our environment. If you’re thinking “are you telling me that stress evolved to be a good thing?!” then the answer is absolutely. In fact, even the stress that we experience today can be a good warning sign that there is a threat within our environment and we should quickly try to deal with it. Stress can even motivate us in positive ways. When stress is experienced moderately and is interpreted as being beneficial to an individual, it’s known as eustress. The key there is to interpret stressful stimuli in a more adaptive way. That is, however, not what most of us do. Instead we appraise our situation in a negative way and ruminate on how stressful it is. That’s exactly the point where stress becomes toxic to our body, brain and mind. The fact of the matter is that our stress system evolved to deal with threats in the here and now. But with expansion of our beautiful brain, particularly the frontal cortex, humans developed an uncanny ability to worry about the future. Our stress system is then put into overdrive, which is something that it wasn’t adapted for, and our body suffers the consequences. Luckily, psychology has taught us a few ways that we can both prevent our experience of toxic stress and also cope with it.

How to Prevent Stress from Impacting in a Negative Way!

According to the “Theory of Cognitive Appraisal”, there are two levels of cognitive appraisal, primary and secondary. The former is our initial evaluation of a stressor, where we decide whether it’s 1. Irrelevant 2. Positive 3. Dangerous or harmful. Often times our first appraisal is to group the stressor in the third category. In reality many stressors can be viewed as benign or even positive. For instance, say that one’s application to work for a well known company is denied. Instead of viewing this as entirely negative, one might be hopeful that there are still a couple of organizations that they’ve applied to and are waiting to hear back from. The secondary appraisal is in our evaluation of our ability to cope with the stressor. Positive statements such as “I have the skills to be able to deal with this situation”, “I’ll at least try my best”, “I have the resources to be able to cope with this stressor” are important for helping us cope. But when all else fails and we’ve reached the point of no return and we’re experiencing toxic stress, there are a couple of ways to help manage and mitigate our stress response.

Best Ways to Handle Stress?

The beautiful thing about coping is that it’s really a personal journey that one discovers what works best for them. For some people this may be practicing meditation, mindfulness and yoga. For others it may be using social bonding and reaching out to their loved ones and friends for support. You might imagine that aromatherapy is most definitely a way that many people successfully manage stress. It’s also an adjunct that you can easily add to other coping methods. For instance, practicing yoga while filling the room with the calming scents of lavender.

But is there any truth in this coping method? Let’s look into the scientific literature to find out.

One study aimed to look at the effects of a lavender massage on women’s stress and immune function during pregnancy. The authors found that the group who received a lavender massage had lower levels of salivary stress hormones (cortisol) and higher levels of important markers of healthy immune function.

In another study, the authors found that inhaling lavender essential oil after delivery reduced mother’s levels of stress, anxiety, and depression scores 2 weeks, 1 month, and even 3 months after delivery.

In an animal model of depressive- and anxiety-like behaviour, lemon oil had anti-stress, anti-depressant, and anti-anxiety effects on mice. The mechanism through which these effects occur was shown to be through activating a neurochemical system in our brain, known as the serotonergic system, that is important for mood regulation.

Bergamot essential oil has been shown to influence the way our brain cells communicate with each other, calm brain activity and have both analgesic (anti-pain) and anti-anxiety effects in stressed rats.

Inhalation of a blend of lavender, ylang ylang, and bergamot once daily for 4 weeks in patients with hypertension resulted in a reduction in their perceived psychological stress, serum cortisol stress levels, as well as blood pressure.

Stress, the Brain and Aromatherapy

So there you have it! There is clear evidence that aromatherapy is an effective tool for managing the toxic effects of stress. Now it’s time for you to try these oils for yourself and see whether they work for you.  

 

 

 Daniel Almeida

By Daniel Almeida, HBSc, PhD(c)

Next

Previous

25 Responses

Bella Hardy @ Healthnerdy.com
Bella Hardy @ Healthnerdy.com

June 25, 2018

It’s great to learn more about essential oils. I prefer rosemary oil. It may help improve memory, concentration, and mental alertness, and help treat headaches and migraines.

Gwenevere
Gwenevere

May 06, 2018

Thanks my brother had two strokes this year. I will share your article in hopes he can use the information to improve health and prevent any future strokes. Thanks again!

Jessica Bennett
Jessica Bennett

April 18, 2018

This will be extremely useful for me. I am often stressed, so this could help me so much.

Brittany Carter
Brittany Carter

April 18, 2018

I love using aromatherapy it’s great for calming down or getting energized thank you for sharing this great information

debbie  wilson
debbie wilson

April 18, 2018

Being Bipolar,Is Stress Itself,I Think Armoatherapy Would help me 4 Sure !!!

Jerry Marquardt
Jerry Marquardt

April 18, 2018

I like to see about the technical factors. I thank you for the vivid review on the way stress works, and what can be done.

Christina Almond
Christina Almond

April 18, 2018

I love this article! Essential oils are great for relieving so many emotional and physical ailments!

denise Smith
denise Smith

April 18, 2018

I work 2 jobs have a sever autistic child nonverbal i have alot of stress on me

mary Rempfer
mary Rempfer

April 17, 2018

My son is living with a serious mental illness, so I use essential oils to help him relax when his anxiety is high.

Nat
Nat

April 17, 2018

I always massage lavender oil into my temples just before going to bed. It’s one of the best habits I have ever started.

brenda williams
brenda williams

April 17, 2018

what a wonderful prize

gala
gala

April 17, 2018

thanks for a lot of useful information

Cassandra A
Cassandra A

April 17, 2018

We all need more self care :)

Cassandra A
Cassandra A

April 17, 2018

We all need more self care :)

Amy
Amy

April 16, 2018

Love aromatherapy

Rishav Chakraborty
Rishav Chakraborty

April 16, 2018

My girlfriends’ mum got my girlfriend into aromatherapy and she got me into it. Aromatherapy products are just beautiful. I suffer from depression and anxiety and use a variety of your blends to help me. I feel that your products help me a lot in my daily activities as I feel so stressless and love coming home to the invigorating smell of blends.

Linda Smit
Linda Smit

April 16, 2018

Stress- lavender.

cleo
cleo

April 16, 2018

Great article

Bronwyn
Bronwyn

April 16, 2018

Baaaah!
tracy wedding
tracy wedding

April 16, 2018

im always stressed would love to try these

Gail
Gail

April 16, 2018

Okay.

Scotty
Scotty

April 16, 2018

Ah some nice new uses for Lemon & Bergamont

Lily.N.
Lily.N.

April 15, 2018

Is freeze considered another stress response? I know many that do under certain stimuli.

Irena Matković
Irena Matković

April 15, 2018

I need these!

Cheryl
Cheryl

April 15, 2018

Thanks for another helpful and informative article.

Leave a comment