How Can Aromatherapy Ease Your Stress Levels?

Everything from candles to incense sticks can help calm your mind.

mist from essential oil diffuser
Photo: Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

Stress can feel like a never-ending plague, even when you are in the safety of your own home. Aromatherapy is a helpful tool for this very reason, says Tracey Kim, the founder of Ojas & Woo, since it can be used to ease your mind and more. "Aromatherapy carries the goal of attaining optimal physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being," she says. "It emphasizes the need to look at the whole person, including analysis of physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spiritual, and lifestyle values."

This practice, in turn, can also be a stress reliever when used alongside therapy techniques. "Deep breathing, for example, is a well-researched method of stress reduction—and the use of aromatherapy encourages you to take deeper, more intentional breaths that typically have a calming effect," says Nancy Bledsoe-Link, a licensed professional counselor at Connections Wellness Group. "Aromatherapy can also be used as a coping strategy to bring your awareness to the present moment through turning your focus to your sense of smell." This practice is known as grounding, as you focus on your senses and experiences. Luckily, there are even more ways you can benefit from aromatherapy. Learn how to add it into your de-stressing routine, ahead.

Aromatherapy boosts mental health.

Kim describes aromatherapy as a holistic practice that includes Ayurveda, which is derived from two Sanskrit words: ayus meaning life and veda meaning knowledge. The mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual benefits are plentiful, especially when it comes to reducing stress. "Aromatherapy makes an impact on mental health through olfaction and is able to influence emotions, the nervous system, and the limbic system (the emotional brain)," she says. "It is also able to impact physical health via dermal application and inhalation, and, lastly, it is able to support spiritual practices, such as meditation."

Aromatherapy also aids stress reduction by combining therapeutic practices. "Taking a pleasurable stimuli (the smell of eucalyptus or lavender, for example) and pairing it with a stress reducing activity, such as a massage or warm bath" can soothe the mind, Bledsoe-Link says. "These associations, especially when you like the scent you are utilizing, promote the production of 'happy hormones' (serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins), which usually grow stronger the more you experience them over time."

Light candles or incense sticks to ease stress.

Not sure how to engage in this practice? Consider Bledsoe-Link's suggestions. "My favorite ways to use aromatherapy at home include spreading my favorite eucalyptus- and spearmint-infused lotion on my arms and legs after a relaxing bath (paying special attention to make sure I moisturize every inch of them!), soaking my feet in lavender Epsom salts after a stressful day, and through lighting my favorite rose and sandalwood candle before I wrap myself up in a blanket to read and relax," she says. Kim adds that "aromatherapy can be accessed through candles and incense sticks (translated through the olfactory system), essential oil rollers or sprays (which can make an impact through dermal application or inhalation), or even in tea when ingested orally (this requires the right mixture of essential oil and water or tea)."

Use different essential oils to calm yourself down.

Each essential oil carries certain properties and serves different purposes. "For example, lavender is relaxing to the psyche, grapefruit essential oil is awakening, and tea tree oil is beneficial for the skin when applied topically," Kim says. But a fragrant home environment can lessen your stress levels, and that's true of whatever the notes you choose. "Find scents that you enjoy and light candles, use wall plugs, burn incense, or even use room spray to bring that aroma into your space," Bledsoe-Link notes. And if you go the topical route? Make sure to mix essential oils with carrier oils when applying them directly onto the skin to prevent irritation. Look for therapeutic Grade A essential oils, as these are skin safe and contribute to best for the body, mind, and soul when mixed with your preferred carrier. "The essential oils can be used on the temples or wrists to soothe the mind," she adds, noting that these can also be used on linens. "Candles work optimally when only non-toxic phthalate-free scents are used." Try the Ojas & Woo candles (from $18,

Create "wind down" sessions.

Create a relaxing moment at home by drawing yourself a bath; use an aromatherapy bath bomb, Epsom salt soak, or a candle while you rest in the hot water, Bledsoe-Link suggests. Take this process a step further by creating a "wind-down" ritual with your favorite scent. "Settle into a comfortable position, rub oil or lotion on your hands, and breathe into them for five to 10 deep, slow breaths," she says. (Just make sure to avoid getting any oil or lotion in your eyes!)

Implement massages in your routine.

Giving yourself an arm massage can ease your stress, too. Bledsoe-Link says to take note of the smell, texture, and temperature of the lotion. "Pay close attention to the way it feels when you moisturize your fingers, knuckles, wrists, elbows, and shoulders," she shares. "Slow down enough to notice the difference between skin that has lotion on it and skin that does not yet."

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