Essential Oils are Only a Drop in the Self-Care Conversation

When it comes to essential oils I may be a casual user living among skeptics. I call myself a casual user because, as you likely know, there are people out there whose endorsement of essential oils would have us using them for literally everything. They’re like a more complicated coconut oil – collectively a miracle remedy for all things.

*in case you haven’t been on pinterest this year – coconut oil in all of its forms is praised as a miracle product for your hair, skin, health… you name it! Put it in your coffee, your shower and on your skin. Essential oils are like that, too, but in drop form and with more complicated delivery methods.

I’m not saying they aren’t beneficial (I mean honestly, like coconut oil for many reasons!) but I do stop short of recommending every person I meet use this or that oil and blend for whatever ails them.

Actually, I think essential oils are important and do give us a reason to start a way bigger and more important conversation. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

How my Love Story with Essential Oils starts:

Really I was pretty passive about the whole essential oil industry. Curious, but not curious enough to have taken action. I’d used lemon oil to flavor my water and I knew lavender was good for relaxation and sleep. That was kind of the extent of my knowledge and I wasn’t quite ready to hop in the bandwagon to pursue a greater knowledge or use.

My girlfriend bought me a beautiful diffuser necklace that I’d been admiring and that’s really what initiated my active use of essential oils.

I struggle with mental health ups and downs. As a teenager some research revealed I am likely affected by S.A.D or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It basically means that come winter, when the natural urge is to shelter ourselves from the cold and take in less sunlight, I suffer. My body and brain don’t balance my mood-affecting chemicals quite right without a good dose of sunlight and so I spend a lot of the colder months feeling depressed.

Luckily, because this overwhelming sadness is a balance issue and not because my life is actually sad, there’s lots I can do to lift my mood. No one remedy is a fix-all and nothing really makes it go away entirely. It’s still a battle but each year I discover more weapons at my disposal and feel a little stronger in this fight.

When Maggie gifted me the diffuser necklace she included the essential oil Bergamot, which the store had suggested as a mood lifter. Since then I’ve also purchased one called Liquid Sunshine and for long work days, one called Quick Study.

While putting the necklace on doesn’t instantly protect me from feeling down or off balance, it does give me a lot of hope. I think it’s possible that it genuinely encourages subtle changes in my mood. More importantly, though, it can act as a placebo. The idea that I should feel good with the aid of these scents is a powerful reason to open my mind and embrace each and every shred of positivity that I can find.

Even beyond the actual scents and oils, just seeing the necklace is a sweet reminder of how loved I am and that I am far from alone in this fight. That, too, is a mood lifter.

There’s more to be said, though:

So I said earlier that I think essential oils and this conversation are a gateway to something bigger, and more important. That thing is self care and mental health as a whole.

There’s a lot of pressure these days to take time for self care, self love and nourishing our own mental health. While I do think encouragement and support for these efforts is critical, putting pressure on people to accomplish these activities in a certain way or with a certain style is counterintuitive.

When we talk about essential oils we are talking about just one way to look after ourselves, stay contentious of our minds and bodies, and strive for improvement. However it really is just one way in to the conversation. The list of “ways in” to the self care and mental health conversation is endless. Anything you do to make yourself feel good, look after your mental health and look after yourself as a whole qualifies.  Nobody can tell us what’s going to work for us.

I’ve been relatively open over the years about my struggle with my mental health. Even when I haven’t been super open, it’s sometimes hard to hide. This has meant lots of people have provided well meaning suggestions on how I can stay healthy.

I welcome all suggestions but have learned over the years that the combination of things which will work and make me feel healthy is entirely unique. It’s a collection of small actions, rituals and choices that add up to a lifestyle.

And here’s the big secret – I’m not always good at it.

I know getting up at the same time every day puts my mind in a good and productive place for work but I still like sleeping in. I know that bubble baths and music give me space to unwind but I don’t always make the time. I know that something as simple as brushing my hair can lift my confidence but sometimes my topknot has a lifespan of like 3 days.

The thing is, without fail, I recover.

I like using essential oils but I couldn’t just write about that when it’s part of something so much bigger.

The coming fall weather and my recent dabbling in essential oils has brought this to mind. I don’t think it’s fair how some products try to dominate the self care market when self care is so inherently unique. What may make a world of difference for one person may have no impact on another. It doesn’t have to mean that the product or the people are right or wrong. It’s just a fact in self care.

I can only tell you what I know and what my experience is. I’m enjoying surrounding myself with the scent of sunshine and hanging on to the hope I find in this locket. I can tell you essential oils might make you feel well or they might just smell nice.

Whatever it is for you, celebrate it. =)

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