One of the gentlest and most pleasant ways to soothe tattered nerves is by infusing your environment with the plant fragrances long known to lower anxiety levels. This is done by inhaling, massaging the skin or soaking in a bath scented with essential oils of flowers and herbs, spritzing the room and bed linens, lighting candles or using aroma diffusers.
Essential oils that are considered especially calming include those made from lavender, chamomile, jasmine, bergamot, and valerian.
These oils are thought to work through the olfactory system to cause the brain to secrete neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which can quell stress and elevate mood. So-called aromatherapy may have its detractors, due to the scarcity of rigorous scientific research in the ancient practice.
Some claim the virtues of aromatherapy are nothing more than a placebo effect. But if your grandmother used lavender soap, and smelling lavender oil brings back loving memories of her, the calming effect on your mind will be real.
In fact, the American Sleep Association, founded by physicians and scientists in 2002, has recently published helpful information about the benefits of using essential herbal oils that are known to help calm the mind and induce sleepiness for those who may have problems falling asleep and don’t wish to take sleeping pills. Read their review, “Essential Oils for Sleep.”
Find essential oils and products made with them at most major retail stores, specialty boutiques and online.