Along with the hot flashes, weight gain and mood swings, menopause is also a time when our mental health takes a knock. Either through depression or anxiety.
Apart from going for CBT therapy, and watching your diet, keepign to a strict bedtime routine, you can also use aromatehrapy to help.
You might have heard that you can ease depression with aromatherapy. Or wondering whether lavender can help with anxiety? The short answer is yes!
But what is Aromatherapy?
Simply put, aromatherapy is the use of essential oils. But what are these essential oils? Well they are not essential in the dictionary term of essential, they could have perhaps been named plant essences… Anyway, essential oils are the fragrant molecules stored inside flowers, leaves, bark and berries that have been extracted by means of distillation or expression. They are expensive to produce, but a tiny bottle contains hundred of droplets, each droplet is a powerful force to use to wellness.
Aromatherapy is often used as a last resort or stumbled upon – it has effects beyond a gorgeous massage with scented oils. It works on the subtle level that affects our mood.
How you ask? The molecules are so small they travel up from the nose to the brain’s limbic system that controls moods. Certain oils are associated with calm, others with energy, so you can use aromatherapy extracts to influence how you feel in an indirect way. In France, essential oils are prescribed by Medical Doctors. In The UK, USA and Canada, we use essential oils as part of therapeutic massage and in skincare products.
There’s a story behind the term ‘aromatherapie’. A French perfumer Gattefossé, injured his hand in a laboratory explosion. He then plunged his hand into a vessel of pure lavender oil. He noted how the swelling reduced and how fast it healed. plus no scar tissue. In 1937 he published the world’s first book on Aromatherapy: ‘Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones vegetales’.
Studies have been done on linalool and lavender that show that linalool affects the same parts of the brain as anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium, but without the side effects of impaired movement. There is a catch though, too much lavender can be invigorating. So diluted lavender works as well or better than too much.
Depression affects 20% or more of the population. It’s a dark time of lowered energy when life feels glum, hopeless and even purposeless. Serious cases need professional therapy and psychological help that may involve CBT techniques or medication. But for less intense spells of the Dark Dog, aromatherapy can be used to perk up mood. This is where we use oils that are energising and inspiring. Remembering that in life many things we never feel like doing so waiting to until the mood is right, means we will never get started.. You need to do the thing and the mood can shift.
Essential oils for depression
One of the oils I use when depression or low mood strikes is bergamot. Mmm. It’s a gorgeous fruity, fresh scent and you’ll recognise it as the scent of Earl Grey Tea. It comes from a citrus tree and is known to work on our mood in a similar way to anti depressants. It really is an uplifting joyous scent. How to use it? Simple. Sprinkle a drop onto a tissue and tuck that into your shirt pocket or sleeve – and discreetly inhale. You can also sprinkle a few drops into a diffuser or vaporiser.
Other oils for depression are Sweet Orange which is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Orange is a symbol of joy and along with mandarin evokes a playful atmosphere – that’s what’s needed when you’re down in the dumps. It’s hard to be gloomy and playful at the same time. Use oils that bring in a sense of light and playfulness, like citrus and florals. It’s hard to stay depressed once you regain your childlike wonder and playfulness – so start doing things that are fun. I use Sweet Orange in Tuscan Sunrise cleanser for this very reason!
Essential oils for anxiety
For anxiety, look for oils that calm the nervous systems – so lavender, chamomile, vetiver all help with this. As the essential oils work on our emotional and spiritual selves, here are some more ideas to consider:
If you feel timid, then consider thyme. It’s the oil of courage, the essence of warriors. For inner fears, then try juniper or atlas cedar. For unknown fears then cypress is excellent. Where you have night sweats and anxiety, then you likely have insomnia – so this calls for the cooling oils that comfort feminine hormones like rose, ylang , geranium and palmarosa. Jasmine uplifts while it calms, when anxiety alternates with depression – common during peri-menopause. (I use jasmine, ylang and rose in Heart of Eternity)
If you feel anxious for your health, then Lavender is an option. It’s also good where you feel boxed in, suffocated by circumstances or other people. If you feel anxious and deep inner feelings of regret, shame or guilt, then neroli can ease and comfort you. Neroli is an oil that restores hope. When you have lost faith, then reach for the holy oil, spikenard.
Massaging an aromatherapy hand cream into your cuticles, hands and arms is a physical act of self care – the act of touch is much needed during this isolating pandemic where we are all feeling alone. As humans, we thrive on touch, for comfort, for healing. When we need a hug we can also self hug, hug a teddy or a pillow. It sounds silly but is part of self care and does not cost anything. Nobody can see you giving yourself a comforting hug – try it next time you feel down or worried.
The Bach Flowers are also useful – here’s a complete list and guide.
Essential oils for sleep
For sleep, use an aromatherapy pillow spray and a herbal sachet or dream pillow. Aromatherapy bath oils also help make the transition from work to sleep. Look for blends of chamomile, mandarin, lavender and vetiver, to help you wind down before bed. Switch to caffeine free drinks at night. Think of chamomile, valerian, vervaine, rose and lime flower. Diffuse essential oils in your bedroom – again a calming blend will work.
When you travel, take your oils with you. You can sprinkle a drop on the hotel pillow to create a calmness. You can use oils when you are studying or doing a Zoom call.
For worriers, allocate a 20 minute time in the day to write down all your worries – seeing them in black and white and then you can ask yourself how true they are. Something new I am doing is Morning Pages. My coach suggested I start this. It declutters all sorts of random noise from my head now that I am moving more into my artistic side. But you don’t have to be an artist to do the pages, you can be a lawyer, accountant or student.