It’s well-known that stress is responsible for a large number of serious illnesses and that it’s also a huge factor in accelerated ageing. Yet, it continues to be a problem: It’s International Stress Awareness Day on November 2nd, which illustrates how much people across the globe seem to be battling with anxiety and stress – despite the risks of not factoring in adequate stress-reduction into every day.
A brilliant and very easy way to unwind after an anxiety-filled day is with aromatherapy. Stepping into a warm bath filled with citrus or flower scented oils is an instant stress-buster, but you can also use certain scents to banish the mid-afternoon slump, recover from jet-lag, or wake up in the morning. But with a huge variety of different essential oils and candles on the market, we wanted to know what works and what doesn’t – from an expert.
We interviewed Rebecca O’Connor, who with other twenty years of experience as a professional aromatherapist behind her, created Beatitude, which is a bespoke range of aromatherapy bath oils, candles and facial oils – which are said to be as luxurious as having a tailor-made spa treatment in your own home.
Q: As someone who has a Bsc (Hons) degree in Bioscience & Health as well as being a beauty therapist and aromatherapist with over twenty years of experience, what’s your prescription for stress and anxiety? What’s the ideal way to unwind and forget a hectic day?
A: “I really I find do find the easiest way to relax after a stressful day is to have a good aromatherapy therapeutic bath. I often meet people who have had their baths taken out and I honestly can’t imagine not having access to a bath. I think when you are starting to feel stressed or overloaded then you need to take every measure to look after yourself and this would include; eating healthy foods, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and lots of water and herbal teas. Be aware of caffeine and alcohol and really keep this to a minimum. Try to take note of your breathing too, slow this down in the evening, take some long, deep breaths in and out and play some relaxing music. Make time for some exercise or a hobby too – this can be anything from a walk in the fresh air, a yoga class, swimming, horse-riding or gardening.”
Q: Everyone seems to suffer from stress and anxiety these days – which are your favourite aromatherapy oils to relax and unwind with? Why do you think aromatherapy works so well to help ease stress?
A: “Aromatherapy is an amazing tool for helping to relieve stress and many good aromatherapy products make this easy now and more accessible for everyone to use. Essential oils (which are the building blocks in any aromatherapy products) have profound effects on relaxation and well-being. There have been many scientific studies on this over the years and so it is not just anedoctal evidence. One of the most widely-used essential oils for stress is Lavender and this is often an aromatherapist’s staple ingredient. Lavender has been shown to have a sedative and calming effect on the brain and so can be helpful to promote better sleep and it helps our brain switch off. I find it is often best blended with other known calming essential oils like Ylang Ylang and it goes well with the woody, earthy woody oils oils such as cedarwood. (These are the oils in our Peace blend).”
Q: Do you have any other tips for easing stress and anxiety?
A: “Play some relaxing music in the evening, and turn off the television and all your other electronic gadgets. Then go to bed early with a good book and let yourself be transported somewhere else for a moment or two and let your thoughts be positive as you switch off the light before bed.”
Q: You’ve created an award-winning aromatherapy based brand called Beatitude, your bath oils in particular have achieved cult status as a high quality, clean product that’s free from all toxins and is like having a luxurious aromatherapy treatment at home. Tell us more about that, how that came about and what your clients are saying. We know some huge fans who say it nourishes their skin and smells divine but the bath water isn’t greasy and slippery…
A: “Firstly thank you for that – we have had some amazing feedback about our products and this is truly rewarding. Aromatherapy and its profound effects are truly my passion and I really created Beatitude to make aromatherapy more accessible and more affordable – the spa experience is fantastic but the reality is that this can be expensive and time-consuming. I wanted to create the next best thing to spa treatments in the comfort of your own home and therefore this could be enjoyed much more easily and that you have something on hand if you have had a trying day. I genuinely had my Eureka moment in the bath and this was soon after having my second baby. I nearly had an awful fall in the bath after using a traditional bath oil which had made the bath greasy and slippery. My husband had been away on business and it really did give me a scare. It was at this point that I thought there had to be a better way of enjoying therapeutic bath oils at home and Beatitude was born. Another added feature of our bath oils is that they do not give you the awful greasy tide mark around your bath afterwards – I found this was another negative to using the traditional bath oils. You can quickly lose the lovely floaty feeling afterwards if you have to finish by scrubbing the bath clean.”
Q: Do you have any tips for how to pick a good quality oil? Are there any red flags to look out for if buying online or do you have a favourite brand you can recommend?
A: “When looking at products I personally avoid anything with petrochemicals (petroleum oil and their derivatives) and I avoid parabens, sulphates and unnecessary drying agents too like Sodium Chloride etc. There is much debate about the petrochemicals and parabens and my personal view that if there is doubt, then leave it out. I also much prefer the texture and feel of natural plant oils. They are often more easily absorbed into the skin and do not leave a greasy film on the skin. I also avoid any products with synthetic smells. For me, synthetic smells do not offer a therapeutic action and do not contribute to the benefit of a product. A product with essential oils is going to give you so much more in term of action – the properties of essential oils range from antibacterial, anti-viral, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, euphoric and sedative.”
Q: The most stressed-out people always seem to have trouble waking up as well. Are there any essential oils you recommend using in the morning so they start the day on a good note? Do you prefer candles, putting oils in burners? Or do you do a bath oil that wakes people up? what’s the best way to benefit from and use oils?
A: “Yes there are many oils that have a pick me up, revitalising effect. Many of the citrus oils do this. I have created a wonderfully uplifting blend called Joy and this has bergamot, mandarin, grapefruit, petitgrain in and it is known as our ‘sunshine in a bottle’ and it available in a bath or body oil. The body oil can be used as a shower oil too, which is a great way to get the ‘hit’ of essentials oils. Peppermint is another oil that can be really helpful if you are feeling tired. In Japan some factories pump this into the air-conditioning and they have found that this prevents the mid-afternoon slow down. I also love a good aromatherapy candle – this will not only lift the mood and create a cosy ambiance but the essential oils will purify the air as well. This is a very easy way to create a more relaxing space.”
What are your favourite ways to de-stress? Let us know in the comments below. Also, if you fancy trying Rebecca’s luxurious bath oils, look out for a competition on our Facebook in the coming weeks…