I wish I could tell you that I relieve stress with a vigorous workout but, I am admittedly a physically lazy person. I’m not proud that I have, on occasion left the garbage cans at the curb for my husband to bring in because I simply did not want to exert the energy to roll them 20 feet to the side of the house. I do, however, indulge in other excellent (non-physical) de-stressing activities including prayer, meditation, and long, hot baths.
For this article, I’d like to focus on meditation. As little as 10 quiet, thoughtless minutes per day can dramatically decrease stress levels. According to a study conducted by Harvard instructor Sara Lazar Ph.D., certain types of meditation have even resulted in an increase in gray matter thickness in areas of the human cortex.
"Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being… “
How it’s done
If you’re new to meditation, I urge you to simply try spending 10 minutes focused only on breathing. Simply close your eyes and follow your breath as you inhale visualizing it filling your lungs, then slowly release the breath and see it exit the lungs through the trachea, out your mouth, and into the air. Repeat this action until you feel calm, centered, and relaxed. There are many great meditation methods, but this is a simple, easy-to-follow meditative exercise that you can do almost anywhere!
Generally, when I relax or meditate, I like to diffuse essential oils to help promote mental clarity, focus, and relaxation. Since the very core of aromatherapy is to benefit the psychological as well as the physical, it complements the act of meditation perfectly.
Most of us are familiar with Frankincense (or Olibanum) in the biblical sense as a gift given to the Baby Jesus by the wise men. At this time, Frankincense was very precious, rare, and incredibly expensive. It was not only a cure-all for many ailments but symbolically represented the divinity of Christ.
It has been used for over 5000 years, spanning many cultures for spiritual healing. This exceptional oil is widely revered for its spiritual qualities as well as its medicinal history. Because of its beneficial purifying attributes, Frankincense was used to “smoke” blankets and clothes and is to this day still used to purify the air. Additionally, due to its anti-tumoral properties, Frankincense has been the epicenter of a recent study by immunologist Mahmoud Suhail.
It aids meditation by calming the mind, promoting relaxation by slowing and deepening breathing, and enhancing enlightenment making it an ideal meditation companion.
A traditional emblem of love and innocence, the Greeks would create wreaths and garlands of Myrtle to lay at the Greek goddess Aphrodite's altars as it was a sacred plant to her. To this day, myrtle is worn by brides to symbolize the union of their marriage. Perhaps its mild camphorous but slightly floral aroma leads to the romanticism of the oil, but it also is an excellent aid for respiratory ailments. Not as harsh as Eucalyptus but with similar benefits, it has been used to help children suffering from asthma attacks and other respiratory issues. Personally, I find rubbing a drop on the soles of my feet at bedtime completely alleviates the dry, irritating cough associated with allergies I sometimes experience. For meditation, Myrtle helps to release anger and inner conflict. It is an emotional cleanser and seems to harmonize and balance emotions.
Also known as “Nard”, this famous biblical anointing oil has been used in Ayurvedic treatments in India since ancient times. Due to its natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, it is commonly used in various skin treatments but is also revered in herbal medicine for its ability to aid in cell regeneration as well as hormone balancing. From an aromatherapeutic aspect, Spikenard is widely used in meditation to stimulate inward reflection as well as balancing and grounding. Its wet, earthy aroma helps to sedate the overactive mind and allow deeper concentration. We could all use a little more peace in our lives. Even if you’ve eschewed the idea of meditation in the past, simply look at if from a different perspective. It doesn’t have to be a completely foreign idea to simply relax. As a good friend of mine (who has two rambunctious little girls) says, “you call it meditation, I call it a ‘mommy time-out’”.