According to the World Health Organization, there are around 450 million people worldwide currently living with mental and/or emotional health challenges. The United States is in the top four countries with the highest percentages of mental illness. As we find ourselves navigating through these unprecedented times, the need to realign and come into balance is more important than ever.
Human beings are one of the most social species. Social connection and interaction is a critical component of our everyday life and is directly linked to our mental and emotional development from childhood to adulthood. Isolation and a lack of this connection can lead to many imbalances manifesting in body and mind, resulting in a spectrum of mental and emotional health disorders.
With our current landscape of uncertainty, with the isolation in practice due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the stress we are all feeling as the result, how do we connect back into ourselves and lessen the frenetic energy that is all around?
An Ayurvedic Approach To Mental Health
Could it be as easy as smelling a scented candle or inhaling an essential oil? Not necessarily, but these tools can definitely help bring us some clarity and uplift us from mental fog. Mental health should be approached with as much importance and care as we would give a broken leg or arm. It's all about the tools you have access to and how can you implement them once you’ve found them in your everyday practice.
As an Ayurvedic Practitioner, I come from the understanding that most of our illness starts in our emotional bodies, and I treat the body from a holistic point of view. Ayurveda translates to “knowledge of life.” It recognizes that the body is a fine-tuned mechanism that always wants to return to its natural homeostasis. Part of the work is about determining the individual’s constitution, where they are out of balance, and how lifestyle interventions and natural therapies can reestablish balance between mind, body and spirit. For me, a very important question I ask my patients is how can they approach healing with preventative measures before popping a pill. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in Allopathic medicine and its scientific accomplishments.
Aromatherapy for Mental Health
In my practice, I have come to rely on the help and wisdom of not only these powerful herbs/plants but their essences as well. If we look from the perspective that illness starts in our emotional bodies, any condition can then be treated with inhalation and topical treatment with essential oils.
Essential oils are the volatile, aromatic and chemical constituents of a plant. Master aromatherapists equate essential oils to the life force of the plant, even referring to them as the “joie de vivre,” which means exuberant enjoyment of life. The chemicals are made up of alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, terpenes, sesquiterpenes, ethers and esters. Essential oils can be derived from all parts of plants: the flowers, leaves, resins, woods, barks and roots. Each of these parts of the plant produce essential oils that can have a particular effect: sedating, active, cooling and wound-healing.
How To Use Essential Oils
The oldest and time-tested use of essential oils is the practice of inhalation, which stimulates the limbic system. The limbic system sits in the brain and is responsible for how we deal with emotions and memory. Once we smell a particular essential oil, the limbic system translates the response to emotional stimuli and there is an immediate release of hormones and neurotransmitters and reinforces behavior therefore making it one of the quickest ways to bring transformation to our thoughts and feelings.
To inhale essential oils, place 3-5 drops of essential oil in a bowl of hot water. Place a towel or cloth over your head and breathe in. Nowadays we also have essential oil diffusers that can help clear the air and protect you from viral pathogens.
Even burning candles can definitely shift and elevate moods. Introducing scented candles such as Les Ruches 100% all natural beeswax candles and all natural essential oils into your daily routine is a simple way to help bring clarity to your day and uplift you when in a mental fog. Candles scented with particle terpenes (one of the eight chemical constituents found in essential oils) are known for being very stimulating and have antiviral properties. Essential oils are also accessible to most of us at our natural grocers.
Building a Morning Self-Care Routine
Most of my patients have a daily self-care routine that starts and is adjusted accordingly upon the moment they wake up. In Ayurveda we call this dinacharya — aka morning rituals. As a part of their morning routine they give themselves a self-abhyanga also known as a self-oil massage. The massage oil formula is a seasonal Ayurvedic herbal blend with medicinal grade essential oils that I customize for their constitution and make at my clinic. The rhythmic motion helps to release joints and relax muscles for greater freedom of movement. The oiling of the body also stimulates blood circulation and encourages the elimination of metabolic wastes. Naturally there is an inhalation of the essential oils happening here. This form of self-care provides relief from anxiety, fatigue, circulatory disorders, rheumatic and arthritic problems, backaches and injuries.
Another part of their morning ritual is Nasya. Nasya is a traditional Ayurvedic herbal oil formula with medicinal grade plant essences that lubricates the nasal passage, throat, sinuses and head. One to three drops of this formula is dropped or massaged into each of the nasal passages one at a time and inhaled with alternate nostril breathing. It is a significant remedy for congestion, allergies, sinusitis, headaches and migraines and allows the return to full easy breathing.
They will usually have a morning digestive herbal tonic to stimulate the digestive juices. There is also some form of movement/exercise of their liking, a meditation for a minimum of 5 minutes (increasing time as they get more accustomed to the routine), and then finishing up with a shower. The act of showering opens the pores of the skin and allows the plants/herbs/essential oils to penetrate at a deep level.
This morning routine is intended to nourish, strengthen, fortify and ground. The idea we’re going for is accumulation of daily self-care. The more you do it, the better you feel.
The wisdom of essential oils is inherently the idea of the deep wisdom of our earth. Our plants are here to help us heal and find balance.
Ready to Find Balance?
To help you establish a balancing ayurvedic ritual, I’ve partnered with Prospect Farms and Les Ruches to give away an aromatherapy bundle designed to help soothe the mind. Sign up HERE to win a Matte Noir Accessories Set, Cassonade 22 oz candle and a Beauté Marbre Candle from Les Rushes, a Dream Nighttime Relief Topical, and 1500 mg bottles of Dream and Natural Balance tinctures from Prospect Farms.