Center Yourself: The Go-To Essential Oils for Self-Care

By Nyssa Hanger, MA, LMT, RYT
March 1, 2018

Center Yourself: The Go-To Essential Oils for Self-Care

By Nyssa Hanger, MA, LMT, RYT
March 1, 2018

It's about time for your client to arrive, but you just received a phone call from that family member who always knows how to push your buttons. Or maybe you just completed an intense session with a client and walk out to find your next client has arrived early. What about when you wake up still thinking about the conversation that didn't go so well yesterday, but now you have a big day of clients ahead of you?

At least one, if not all of these situations, has happened to every massage therapist. As in any profession, emotional turbulence can hit us out of nowhere. We all know what it's like to be pulled from our center while we are expected to help our clients find balance themselves. Essential oils provide us with a quick and easy way to release what's on our mind, so we can go back to the task at hand and shift our emotional states when we need to the most.

Centering Through Scent

The sense of smell has a direct connection to the emotional centers in the brain and can produce an instant change in mood. In observing this process with myself and with students, I think that part of the reason is that smells, especially pleasant ones, encourage us to take in a deeper breath.

Students of meditation know the value of just a few deep breaths, and there is good reason for that. As we increase oxygen to our brain, we can initiate a relaxation response from the parasympathetic nervous system by stimulating the hypothalamus. When combined with a pleasant scent, this practice can become even more powerful.

There is no special device needed to use essential oils in this way, nor are there any oils that are the best for this practice. Everyone has a different preference when it comes to smell. But based on reflections in "The Blossoming Heart" by Robbi Zeck, here are a few that I like to turn to when I start to feel the stress of life cloud my awareness at work.

Scents to Get You Back on Track

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)—this respiratory tonic and sinus opener will inspire you to breathe deeper. It helps to open the lungs to new air, as its expectorant qualities clear mucus from the respiratory passages. Robbi Zeck recommends Eucalyptus for times of overwhelm and overwork, when thoughts are scattered and stress is mounting. I've turned to Eucalyptus many times when I've felt the pressures of impending tasks.

Spruce (Picea mariana syn. P. nigra)—out of all the wood oils out there, Spruce just might be my favorite. For days when you feel heavy and bogged-down by tasks or responsibilities, Spruce helps to pick you up. It brings with it the strength of the forest, and many of us feel like we are walking in the woods when we smell Spruce. On days when a walk in the woods might be your best medicine, but you just can't get away, close your eyes and inhale Spruce.

Successful-Start Blend

May Chang (Litsea cubeba)—ever since I read "The Blossoming Heart," May Chang has been my go-to for times when I need some business inspiration. Robbi associates May Chang with success. It is a bright and uplifting, lemony smell that feels like the light of gold. I turned to this oil many times when I was just starting to grow my practice and my schedule wasn't as full as I would have liked. It is also helpful in shaking the fear of income loss with canceled or no-show sessions. Use these three oils together to create a morning blend that can help you have a successful start to your day.

  • 3 Drops Eucalyptus
  • 3 Drops of May Chang
  • 5 Drops of Spruce

Put these drops in a diffuser while you sit at your desk, or put them in a plastic inhaler to take with you for the day. Each time you inhale, focus your attention on your body and the present moment. As your breathe out, release the worries, frustrations, and concerns of the present moment. Practice this until you feel calm, present, and ready for the next moment.

One gift of being a massage therapist is doing what we love. We owe it to ourselves to find ways to make sure we keep loving what we do each day.