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What is Stress?

Stress is defined as a negative differential between a series of demands and ability to cope with them.

We each have a personal comfort level, which may vary on a daily base. Everyone thrives and feels comfortable within this personal level, but placed outside of one's comfort zone, stress will quickly manifest.

There are different causes of stress. The most common causes include work stress due to long working hours or heavy workload, and life stress such as divorce or responsibility to take care of sick or elderly family members.

It is important to realise that not all stress is bad, in fact, a certain amount of stress is functional to maintaining optimal health. An environment totally devoid of stress would not be beneficial as some stress appears to be necessary for growth and change to take place and for the person to develop successful coping strategies.

Hans Selye, a leading researcher into the effects of stress, has developed the notion of General Adaption Syndrome:

Stage 1: Alarm reaction is the initial encounter with stress in which the body rises to meet the challenge of stress.
Stage 2: Resistance reaction is when the body has adapted to stress and there is a considerable expenditure of the body's adaptive energy, notably the function of the adrenal cortex
Stage 3: Exhaustion is finally one of exhaustion, in which many of the body functions become impaired.
Stress is a multidimensional syndrome because it involves mind, body and emotions. The symptoms of stress involve both behavioural and psychological problems, and the reason for the success of aromatherapy is dealing with stress is that it uses a multidimensional holistic approach.

Typical Aromatherapy Treatments

The success of holistic aromatherapy in stress management is due to the combined benefits of :

Essential oils
Relaxation rituals such as massage, warm bath
Social interactions, like therapists/client, mother/child, and husband/wife interactions
The sensory aspect of aromatherapy is significant in the treatment of stress. This involves the sense of touch and smell. It is interesting to note that these are the most intimate and sensual of our senses. And these senses are usually not the ones being stimulated in our work or our daily environment.

Essential oils may de-stress through two routes: Inhalation and dermal absorption. The two possible mechanisms by which the essential oils work are:

Pharmacological effect
Triggering response via the olfactory-limbic-endocrine system

We have 3 groups of Essential Oils that are available to cope with stress.

Essential Oils for Stress

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Other Therapeutic Considerations

Learn to relax - Relaxation is a learned skill and if you find you can't achieve it on your own, take up yoga, tai chi or meditation

Get sufficient sleep each night - the amount of sleep affects the amount of stress impact on you and that will also affect the immune system. Less sleep may result in more stress which may weaken your immune system.

Practise deep breathing. Holding your breath is also excellent for relieving stress. Inhale deeply with your mouth closed and hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this four or five times until you feel the tension disappear.

Identify the sources of stress. This helps you understand what is causing your problem.

Take up a hobby. Hobbies are great for relieving stress. Take time to do what you enjoy

Herbs can be effective in relieving the symptoms of stress
Passionflower is excellent for its sedative properties. It may be combined with valerian and skullcap to induce sleep. It is useful for relieving restlessness, irritability, wakefulness and symptoms of exhaustion

Engage in a physical activity that can help to clear the mind and keep stress under control. Some people find doing sports such as running, walking or play team sports beneficial. Some find shopping therapeutic. Any form of activities will be ideal as long as it is done moderately and prudently yet achieving the goal of clearing one's mind and keeping stress under control