Aromatherapy & other self-care practices to fight off the winter blues.
If you’re anything like me, your mood changes as soon as the seasons do. In the summer months, I’m more energized, happy, productive, creative and generally just ready to take on the world 24/7. But as soon as the weather shifts, temperatures drop, and darkness sets in earlier, it gets easier to feel tired, lonely, uninspired, and just lacking energy overall.
It doesn’t take a scientist to recognize the very real effects the seasons have on our overall mindset or wellbeing and there are a number of reasons for this…
The lack of sunshine (leading to a lack of vitamin D), movement and exercise, as well as a dip in social activities (or “winter hibernation") can leave us feeling isolated and just a bit more crummy than usual.
Another big contributing factor is that it gets easier to let our self-care practices slip. Getting out of bed to go for a morning walk or waking up earlier to fit in a journaling session seems nearly impossible when the mornings are freezing cold (trust me, I've been there, there are many mornings where I’d much rather sleep for an extra 20 minutes).
It took me a few gloomy winters of being too hard on myself to realize that slowing down and not being as active, productive or energized is completely okay and normal aspects of a person’s life as we move through seasons. I now embrace the cozier months by recognizing what is out of my control and rather choosing to see the different type of special moments that this season holds.
Some of the practices in my little toolbox of self-care include warm showers with eucalyptus oil (by dropping two or three drops onto a wet cloth and hanging it somewhere where the water will heat it) self-massage with sesame oil (or other body oils that you prefer), lighting a scented candle, wearing cute socks or my favourite pajamas, exercising slower (with gentle practices like yoga, walking or pilates) and most importantly, just allowing for more time for rest.
I’ve also come to rely on aromatherapy as a helpful tool and probably my number one out of all of the above, because it's so easy to incorporate anywhere, everyday, and into any lifestyle.
Aromatherapy and essential oils have been used for centuries as a form of therapy and alternative medicine. Science has proven that when we inhale the aroma of essential oils, it has an immediate effect on many bodily reactions and systems, including emotions, memory, blood pressure and heart rate, breathing, hormones, and stress, as it causes the production of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
This is thanks to our olfactory response (that forms our sense of smell) being directly linked to the emotional center of our brain. So basically what we smell can have a profound psychological impact on how we feel—and fast.
There are many different ways to benefit from essential oils. My favourite being by filling up my home with the oil's scent using a diffuser.
And I've found the diffuser of my dreams in the Aria Diffuser by Young Living. Not only is it the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, but the remote also lets you choose from a selection of soothing, built-in sounds, time-duration settings and multicolored LED lights. Plus, you can plug in your phone with an aux and choose the music you'd like to play through the built-in speakers. If you prefer to switch the sound off, the only thing you'll hear is the slight rippling of the moving water. I find it so calming and could probably stare at it all day long.
*Just before I dive right into which essential oils I'm loving during the winter months, a quick note on the purity of the oils you choose...
There are so many "essential oils" out there and I won't blame you if you find it difficult to tell which ones are pure, organic, and free from harsh chemicals. Purity does matter, especially if you're breathing these oils in by filling your home with them. The oils found in your general stores might smell good, but they don't do much in terms of therapeutic benefits. They often also contain additives, fillers, and synthetics to make them cheaper (thus being less pure).
The best you can do is to make sure you know where an essential oil comes from and what's in it. Another quick way to tell if an essential oil is pure is to check the expiration date of the oil. 100% Pure essential oils (excluding citrus) will last indefinitely if properly stored away from heat and sunlight.
So finally, here are my favourite essential oils to diffuse during the winter months:
Known to help with symptoms associated with anxiety, it's incredibly soothing and I find it helps me when I'm struggling to sleep.
Similar to cinnamon, I diffuse sandalwood for a peaceful, soothing and homey feel. It's incredibly relaxing and I find that it helps me to focus, especially when working from home.
Diffusing these oils in my bedroom helps me wind down after a long day, and drift off into a restful night's sleep. If you do start to dabble in essential oils, I hope you find them to be as helpful and uplifting during these dreary winter months as I have. Please keep in mind: whilst this is one practice you can incorporate to bring a little bit more mindfulness into your days or to use as a tool to help deal with symptoms of anxiety or stress, it’s most certainly not a cure for serious conditions like depression, diagnosed anxiety or serious seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.)
If you do feel you could suffer from, or are already struggling with, any of the above please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group if you are seeking help or want to speak to a professional.
And if you’ve never given essential oils a try before, but want to learn more or try them out for yourself, I recommend starting off with the STARTER KIT by Young Living . It includes 11 of the most versatile and popular essential oils, a diffuser, free shipping and lots more, so be sure to have a look!