Anxiety and a chronic exposure to stress are often associated with fear and worry caused by anticipation of future threat. Frequent bouts of anxiety, panic attacks and nervousness can significantly disrupt the quality of life and cause major impairment across all life domains. Research shows that living in excessive fear, worry, and anxiety especially during childhood years is strongly correlated with suffering from suicidal thoughts and depression in later years (Sareen, Afifi, de Graaf, Asmundson, ten Have, & Stein, 2005).
When seeking professional help, most individual, including children with anxiety symptoms are prescribed psychotropic medication, such as Lorazepam, Oxazepam, Valium, and Xanax. In some cases, medication can help stabilize acute anxiety to allow the progress in therapy. However, it is crucial to be aware that psychotropic medications, like any other drugs, bring along potential risks or side effects, including physical side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, changes in appetite, sleep disturbance, and/or weight gain and emotional/psychological side effects such as mood swings, disinterest in activities, or emotional numbness. You should always discuss the risks of medication use with your doctor before making a decision whether the potential benefits outweigh the risks or whether an alternative treatment method may be a better option (Hamrin, McCarthy, & Tyson, 2010). In addition, it is important to realize that taking psychotropic medication may successfully suppress the symptoms; however, the brain is not learning anything new.
Safe, Non-Drug, Anti-Anxiety Strategies:
In my practice and working with clients, my focus is on identifying and using client safe strategies to reduce if not eliminate symptoms of anxiety. If you or your child suffer from an anxiety disorder, I would strongly recommend individual psychotherapy, especially mind-body focused treatment, including relaxation techniques, mindfulness, distress tolerance skills, and cognitive restructuring.
But beyond psychotherapy, one of my favorite strategies to reduce symptoms of anxiety is the use of essential oils, one of the most precious, yet untapped resources of the world. The natural aromatic compounds found in seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants have been used since the days of ancient Egypt due to their health-promoting properties. Essential oils can lift your mood, calm your senses, and enhance your vitality, emotion regulation, and overall well-being.
Modern scientific research shows that essential oils are very potent, with remarkable medicinal properties. Unlike psychotropic medication, essential oils support all of the body systems from the root and ultimately enable the body to heal on its own. In addition, essential oils do not remain in the body and do not leave any toxins behind.
As with any strategies, essential oils may not be for everyone; however, I have experienced and witnessed essential oils significantly empowering individuals to manage their emotions, reduce anxiety, and maintain their health and the health of their families. Of course, essential oils will have the most beneficial impact if they are aligned with your other wellness goals, such as clean diet, proper rest, stress reduction, and exercise.
A Word on Quality
It is crucial that you choose only pure therapeutic grade oils that are carefully extracted from plants. Unfortunately, there are oils on the market containing pesticides, fillers and/or artificial ingredients that dilute their active ingredients and act as hormone disrupters in our bodies. Thus, essential oils can become extremely dangerous if you use synthetic, chemical, cheap brands. The higher price of high-quality essential oils reflects the labor that goes into making pure oils. And trust me, it is well worth to invest into quality when it comes to your health.
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways. You can add them to a warm bath allowing yourself to inhale the vaporized fumes of the oil. You can also diffuse the oils in the room using a diffuser or apply them directly to your body by rubbing them on the soles of your feet, the back of the neck, the shoulders, or the forehead. It’s important to dilute essential oils before you use them directly on your skin because a concentrated essential oil could potentially irritate it. A 2 percent dilution is standard for adults, and it should be reduced to 1 percent for children. if you need further help with this, send me an email.
I love using essential oil with my kids. However, young children are more sensitive to essential oils than adults, and the oils should be used for therapeutic purposes only under the supervision of an educated adult. Only few essential oils should be taken by mouth, as some of them are toxic if swallowed. They should also never be used in the eyes or inside the ear canal. However, essential oils have few, if any, undesirable side effects when used as directed. You can use each oil individually or in many powerful combinations.
My Favorite Top oils with Anxiolytic (Anti-anxiety) Effects
Lemongrass: This essential oil has a subtle flavor and aroma that heightens awareness and positive outlook. A research study conducted in 2015, evaluated the potential anxiolytic effect of lemongrass aroma in healthy volunteers submitted to an anxiety inducing situation. The results suggest that even very brief exposure to this aroma has some perceived anxiolytic effects. Use 3 or 4 drops in your diffuser (Goes, Ursulino, Almeida-Souza, Alves, & Teixeira-Silva, 2015).
Ylang Ylang: This essential oil is often used to lessen tension and stress and to promote a positive outlook. You can put this oil into an Epsom Salt bath for relaxation or dab it on your wrist or soles of your feet. You can also put three to four drops into a diffuser. If applying topically, make sure to dilute the oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil to minimize any skin sensitivity (Tan, Lee, Yin, Chan, Abdul Kadir, Chan, & Goh (2015).
Lavender: This oil has been successfully used for its calming and relaxing qualities. You can add it to bath water to soak away stress and anxiety or apply to the temples, wrists, and the back of the neck. Add a few drops of Lavender to pillows, bedding, or bottoms of feet to promote a restful night’s sleep. Dilute if using on skin (Domingos & Braga, 2015).
Citrus: Citrus (lemon or orange) is very uplifting and energizing and has been shown to help improve mood. In their research study, Jafarzadeh, Arman, & Pour (2013) investigated the effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oil on child anxiety during dental treatment. The results showed that the use of aromatherapy with natural essential oil of orange could reduce salivary cortisol and pulse rate due to child anxiety state.
Purchase a high-quality lavender oil and add it to a warm bath along with some Epsom Salt for an amazing relaxing treat. For extra points, email me to let me know how that felt.
If you need help selecting or finding a high-quality essential oils or if you are curious about the specific brand that I use for myself, my family, and my clients, please contact me.
Sources for this article include:
- Sareen J1, Cox BJ, Afifi TO, de Graaf R, Asmundson GJ, ten Have M, Stein MB. Anxiety disorders and risk for suicidal ideation and suicide attempts: a population-based longitudinal study of adults. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2005 Nov; 62(11):1249-57 PMID:16275812
- Hamrin V, McCarthy EM, Tyson V. Pediatric psychotropic medication initiation and adherence: a literature review based on social exchange theory. J Child Adolesc Psychiatr Nurs. 2010 Aug;23(3):151-72. PubMed:20796098
- Goes TC, Ursulino FR, Almeida-Souza TH, Alves PB, Teixeira-Silva F. Effect of Lemongrass Aroma on Experimental Anxiety in Humans. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Dec;21(12):766-73. PubMed:26366471
- Tan LT, Lee LH, Yin WF, Chan CK, Abdul Kadir H, Chan KG, Goh BH. Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry, and Bioactivities of Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:896314. PubMed:26294929
- Domingos Tda S, Braga EM. Massage with aromatherapy: effectiveness on anxiety of users with personality disorders in psychiatric hospitalization. Rev Esc Enferm USP. 2015 Jun;49(3):453-9. PubMed:26107706
- Jafarzadeh M, Arman S, Pour FF. Effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oil on salivary cortisol and pulse rate in children during dental treatment: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Adv Biomed Res, 2013 Mar 6;2:10. PubMed: