Things have been extremely intense and unprecedented lately on this beautiful planet what with Covid, world politics, ecology…you name it, it’s anxiety provoking. Many people are not only feeling anxiety linked to their personal stories, but also the collective anxiety linked to a world that is becoming more and more difficult to understand and feel in harmony with. Here we will share six essential oils for anxiety – For transforming anxiety, not merely covering it up.
I have recently been waking up feeling anxious. You know that feeling when you open your eyes, realize you are here in this life and then you suddenly feel that heavy thud of anxiety in your stomach. Some people refer to this as a permanent low hum of anxiety inside.
The common reaction to unwanted feelings like this is to somehow try not to feel them. We try to do something to distract ourselves or cover the feeling up. This may work momentarily but is definitely not a long-term healthy solution. ‘What we resist persists’ is a phrase we have all heard. This applies perfectly to unpleasant feelings. Instead, if we want to heal, we need to do the opposite. Florian says that ‘Our psyche never gives us more than we are ready to process and at the same time unconscious forces (e.g. addiction) can destroy us.” How can we resolve this seeming paradox. Florian says that when we face what our psyche presents to us, which is often heralded by a feeling of anxiety, then we will grow through the feeling into a new way of being and seeing. No matter how intense, if we go into the feeling it will rapidly transform. On the other hand, if we react out of ego instinct, and try to avoid uncomfortable feelings, we go into self-destructive, avoidant patterns, such as addictions (and we’re not just talking substance addictions, but work-aholism, shop-aholism, etc.) and other avoidant behaviors. This is ultimately the path to death or insanity. If we avoid the call of our psyche (Soul), she will send stronger and stronger messages. If we still avoid, life eventually says ‘Game Over.’ In ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ C. G. Jung talks about a client of his whose soul came calling and he avoided this at all cost. Instead of going deep inside himself, he became obsessed with mountain climbing (going higher and higher) and eventually died in a mountain climbing accident. In the book, Jung says this was ‘spiritual suicide’, because he avoided his soul and hauntingly says ‘if we don’t listen when our Soul comes calling, life dispenses with us very quickly.’
I want to share an exercise that we have used in live classes, online classes and consultations and which re-trains us to feel instead of avoid.
Exercise: To Feel is to Heal
1) Fully acknowledge that you are feeling anxious.
2) Really feel it: What does it feel like in your body? You could check into each part of your body and see how anxiety expresses itself there. Where do you feel it? What does it feel like on a physical level, on an emotional level, on a mental level, on a spiritual level and on an environmental level? It may help to jot down what you notice in your journal.
3) Allow the anxiety to exist in its own right without judging it, trying to change it or even trying to understand it. Just behold it for what it is in itself.
4) Open yourself to the anxiety. There should be no resistance just a complete feeling of openness.
5) Step into the anxiety. Really put yourself in the centre of the anxiety and just notice what it feels like and what you feel like. See if you can feel compassion for the anxiety.
6) As you do the above remember that you are not the anxiety, it is merely a feeling passing through you that needs to be allowed to take its course. See if you can feel compassion for yourself.
7) Remember to breath throughout and stay with it. If your mind wanders simply acknowledge that it’s wandered and go back into awareness of anxiety.
When I do the above exercise regularly, I am more able to handle feelings of anxiety. I become a lot more familiar and can relate to it on friendly terms. I can even feel empathy for it and for myself. Knowing I can fully feel anxiety and that it does not kill me is very liberating and diminishes the fear that we feel around feeling anxious. It also allows the anxiety to process itself, to work itself out, rather than become more intense and persist, due to our resistance to it.
Being more familiar with it also helps me to really choose the essential oil that is going to help me at that particular time. In that way I am reminded that the anxiety is a signal from the hidden parts of myself (be they in the body, emotions, mind, spirit or environment), a reminder to call on my allies. I don’t see this as using an essential oil to dissociate or distract myself from the anxiety, or to ‘relieve’ it. Instead, I usually choose an oil from a selection by smelling them one by one. While I am smelling them, I tune in once again to feeling the anxiety. I am instantly able to feel if the particular oil is relieving and calming, even elucidating or enlightening, or not.
This may sound contradictory. On one hand I am saying we need to fully feel our anxiety and on the other hand I am telling you to choose an oil that will transform the symptoms. But you’re not covering it up, you’re using the oil as an ally to help the anxiety transform itself, by having successfully communicated from your unseen parts to your conscious self (ego).
Sometimes anxiety is a repeat visitor. This means we get to feel it again, and I recommend you use that opportunity and open yourself to the anxiety when you have time, alone and can concentrate on that. When you can give it and yourself the attention you deserve. Nevertheless, it is very useful to have an essential oil in your pocket that helps calm the feelings when you are busy and have to go into the world of work and social interactions. Just like when you’re cooking, it’s nice to adjust the heat so that the stew gets cooked right and tastes great, instead of getting burned.
Below are a selection of essential oils that are known for their help with anxiety. These are just general basic suggestions. This is just the beginning. The real ‘help’, i.e. guidance, you will receive directly from the oils you yourself choose. The below are like vague roadmaps and when you work with the oil, smelling it repeatedly and carrying with you, is when you go on the actual journey. Because everyone is different, we invite you to cultivate your instincts and choose the oil that suits you, regardless of whether it’s known for its calming properties or not. Choose with your nose not your book knowledge. Remember, ‘the nose knows.’
1) Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – an ester-rich oil that is well known for its calming, antispasmodic action. Remember though, that some people may have unpleasant memories and associations with this smell, due to it being widely used. It may be deservedly well-known, but it does not suit everyone. Nicknamed ‘The Mother’ and should be in everyone’s tool box of essential oils for anxiety.
2) Angelica Root and Angelica Seed (Angelica archangelica) – two of our personal favorites. I find them instantly soothing and grounding, as if I have a warm, soft blanket around me. As deep upward as it is downward. We love combining the two aromas together.
3) Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) helps us digest the traumas and stresses that can trigger and exacerbate anxiety. Anxiety can be seen as a ‘surface’ emotion, an uncomfortable message from the unconscious that demands our attention. Cardamom can help us get to the root of what anxiety is trying to tell us. When our thoughts circle around and around one or more anxieties, which is what’s known as the intrusive thoughts of PTSD, cardamom quiets the mind, stops the intrusive circling thoughts and can reveal and transform the underlying trauma patterns.
4) Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides aka Chrysopogon zizanioides) (wild vetiver is known as Ruh khus) Vetiver encourages us let go of using the intellect as our armor or castle. It invites us to really feel at home in our bodies and discover what it feels like to fully live and be present in our physical bodies. It has been shown in an animal study to reduce anxiety. By building a solid, loving relationship with our physical bodies, we begin to feel more confident and centered. Our feelings, thoughts, emotions and interactions are anchored in our flesh and bones. Anxiety, stress and trauma can trigger dissociation, i.e. disconnecting from our body. Only when we are truly grounded can we process anxiety and related emotions.
5) Rose Attar (Rosa sp) and Wood’s Rose Hydrosol (the latter distilled by us in Taos)- Rose has a special affinity for the heart. The heart is often contracted and tight when we are feeling anxious and rose gently reminds us we are held in a much bigger heart, for which our heart is the channel, like the rose is the channel for its spirit. Rose essential oil coupled with a visualization of a rose opening in the region of the heart can be a powerful antidote to anxiety.
6) Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) – Yet another trusted ally among our essential oils for anxiety. I feel it goes deep and gets things moving again, the tightness and paralyzed feeling that sometimes accompanies anxiety is dispersed with this oil. Like its ‘everlasting’ flowers, it carries golden light within it, that heals through touch. After searching for years, we finally found a helichrysum essential oil from Croatia that is alive and powerful. It is truly magical.
Last not least:
7) CBD oil: First, this isn’t an essential oil, but it’s so helpful I had to include it. CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, one of the many cannabinoid molecules produced by cannabis. CBD is not psychoactive, unlike its more famous cousin THC. It does however have a broad range of medical applications, including for pain, inflammation, cancer and anxiety. Its effectiveness for anxiety may be due to its ability to stimulate the serotonin 1A receptor in the brain, which has been shown to relieve anxiety. The reason I mention it is that, as of now, CBD oils that don’t contain any THC are legal throughout the US. Even though the cannabis plant contains many different molecules, CBD does offer a non-psychoactive doorway to communicate with and learn from the cannabis plant, which is a powerful teacher, that has to be respected and that is also an embodiment of compassionate love. I find CBD oil extremely beneficial in helping me get through those days where my levels of anxiety are flying high and I am wondering how I am going to deal with it. A few drops of good quality, highly concentrated CBD oil, taken sublingually, makes all the difference. The best CBD oil we have found is made by our friend and Cathy’s Attars team member Sasha with her company Kind Synergy. It is locally grown right here in New Mexico and 100% organic. It is full-spectrum meaning it offers many other cannabinoids and other beneficial molecules from cannabis and it much better assimilated by the body than CBD isolate. (Sasha is setting up her website. In the meantime, email us and we will introduce you to her via email.)