The science behind how our sense of smell can help us to manage stress.

Stress is something we all have to deal with in varying degrees. We need some amount of stress in our lives in order to function optimally.

A total absence of stress might make us feel deflated and lacking in energy or drive.

Too much stress can lead to illness (physical, emotional, mental), relationship struggles and breakdown.

The right amount of stress can motivate us to show up, put in the work and create the outcome we’re after.

Everyone’s stressors will be different and so will their response to stress, so it’s absolutely crucial that we develop a healthy routine that helps us work through the common stressors of our lives.

A healthy routine for dealing with stress will look different for everyone. For some people, it will be talking about it (with a counsellor or friend) and for others it’s being alone, journaling or processing things internally. For some, it’s physical exercise or reducing the workload or taking time out and unplugging. It might be reading or prayer time or mindfulness exercises. Maybe it’s taking the time to cook and enjoy a good meal or going out with friends or watching a feel-good film. It could be putting on some music, oils in the diffuser, clay mask on the face and a foot soak.

Our external cause of our stress might be minor and short-lived, such as getting stuck in traffic, or it might be very serious and permanent, such as the loss of a loved one.

When we think about using our senses to help with stress, what usually comes to mind is to throw on some calming music, sip some lovely tea or something stronger, pump a stress ball in our fist or take a walk or close our eyes to turn our mind away from the stressful stimuli. We rarely think about how our sense of smell can affect our stress levels.

Here’s the thing.

Essential oils are made up of various components commonly referred to as “constituents”, each of which has its own unique characteristics.

Your body has millions of receptors that bind to these constituents, communicate with your brain and then signal a response in your body.

These signals can go to your muscles, organs or – in the case of your olfactory receptors – the amygdala in your brain, which is part of the lambic system and is involved in such functions as emotion, memory, focus and mood.

That’s right: your sense of smell is DIRECTLY linked to the part of your brain that takes care of some really important stuff. There’s a reason we’re told to “stop and smell the roses”.

Don’t overlook your sense of smell in helping to deal with stress just because it’s not the first thing we were taught to use.

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