You can call it the new normal if you like, but there’s nothing normal about the way we’re living right now, and it’s affecting us in myriad ways. Whether we can’t drop off, have incredible and disturbing dreams, are unable to finish a train of thought or are bursting into tears at cute animals on Twitter, our moods are all out of kilter. We can’t change much about the way we live right now; worry and stress will be part of our lives for some time to come. But we can change how we respond to it, by incorporating self-care practices like meditation, yoga and aromatherapy.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to help people adjust their mood, and there’s some science behind the idea that oils like lavender can relax you. It also makes intuitive sense that the fragrance of mint should be refreshing, or a citrusy scent can revive you. The best way to scent a space is using an ultrasonic diffuser—there’s no open flame to worry about like with a candle, and they can scent larger spaces better than reed diffusers, which, says Sara Panton, CEO of Vitruvi, typically use synthetic fragrance rather than pure essential oils. Decades ago, diffusers were ugly and purely functional, but brands like Saje Wellness, Muji and Vitruvi have injected style into the designs, so they’re now an attractive home-décor piece.
(Saje, incidentally, recently announced its latest collaboration with Jillian Harris, including an Aroma Carve Ultrasonic Diffuser and Aroma Sculpt Ultrasonic Diffuser, $94 each, that will be available for purchase as of July 17th (or, alternately, sign up for early access sales July 15th and 16th, 2020).)
"The problem nowadays is choosing your oil if you’re no longer able to wander past Saje or Escents for a whiff. My best advice is to read thoroughly about the product online. There are often great descriptors that let you know how you can expect the product to smell and how it will feel. For example, is it floral, woodsy or citrusy?” says Saje national educator Kristin Rondeau. “I recommend reading through some of the customer reviews. Real people giving their real feedback on how a product felt, smelled or worked for them is a great testament to what you can expect from your purchase."
And it can be as simple, says Panton, as thinking about what you like. “If you love the scent of basil and peppermint, you’re likely someone who enjoys herbal aromas. If peeling an orange or lemon water make you happy, then citrus might be your scent choice. Start with choosing between floral, herbal, citrus and woodsy, then look for blends or essential oils that fit those categories."
People claim all sorts of benefits for essential oils but, of course, the ones most of us are interested in right now are relaxation and concentration. Karyne Sauriol, of Lotus Aroma’s marketing team, says that lavender is an obvious choice for calming, but there are other options, too. “Exotic basil, mandarin and East Indian lemongrass are recognized to help relieve stress and improve focus,” she says. “Other options can be frankincense [it regulates the nervous system], spearmint [calms and relieves headaches] and ylang ylang [calms, and is a known aphrodisiac],” she says.
You can buy essential oils ready blended—Saje’s Tranquility blend has lavender with roman chamomile and marjoram, while its Brainstorm has citrus, spice and floral notes to perk you up. Alternatively, it’s easy to start experimenting with your own. Sauriol says it’s best to start few a few drops of just two or three essential oils, which makes it easier to figure out what you like. Panton is such an essential-oil expert that she wrote a book about it, Essential Well Being. Her next-level tip is to combine scent variations. “Citrus and herbal essential oils, and floral and woodsy essential oils tend to pair nicely,” she says. Think lemon and basil, or sandalwood and rose.
Ultimately, though, it’s not what oils you choose or how you blend them, but the process; we’re all spending more time at home than ever, and feeling more stressed than usual, so let’s turn our spaces into self-care spaces. By the end of this pandemic, we might have developed better ways of relaxing to take into our daily lives—and who doesn’t need that? —Aileen Lalor