Stress as defined in the Chambers 20th Century Dictionary is a hardship or a system of forces applied to the body leading to pressure from emotional, physical or mental influences: the insistent assigning of weight or importance.
Stress could also be defined as that what ever we see, hear smell, taste or think has a direct effect on our brain and consequently to the rest of the body. The brain responds negatively or positively to every stimulus that we experience in life.
Stress can be as small as stubbing your toe on a door or as large as suffering abuse. The brain will respond by sending biochemicals that help our body withstand the onslaught that we are doing to it. The brain is constantly trying to balance the chemical functions of the body.
It is trying to make sure that enough oxygen is absorbed by the body so that biochemical processes fundamental to life can carry on.
The brains first preoccupation no matter what type of stress you are going through is to keep the main organs functioning so that you have a better chance of surviving whatever it is you are up against. The brain does not have a list of criteria that it uses to distinguish between different crisis so that it can adjust to the degree of stress accordingly. It behaves the same way whether you are facing someone with a gun or whether you have seen a spider in the bath.
Your brain will produce the same response and this response is unique to each individual. The symptoms may seem the same from one person to the next but there will be different biochemical changes that will occur that gets them to that particular state.
Our bodies in the modern world are under much more pressure and strain then our ancestors were a hundred years ago. Our brains now are having to respond constantly to stimuli all the time. This could be negotiating traffic to breathing in polluted air to the constant negative thought patterns that we feed ourselves with day after day (how do I look? Am I satisfied with my body? Am I proud of my achievements in life? Am I happy? Why isn’t anything going right in my life? Why don’t I have any money?Why am I alone? these are some of the examples of our internal stress that we put upon ourselves) to eating refined food that does not nourish our bodies.
Our brains are constantly having to respond, making biochemical changes within our body to keep our bodies functioning smoothly in the face of this onslaught.
We can be stressed even when we do not consciously feel stressed. For example when we leave for work in the morning without eating breakfast. You may consciously not mind eating breakfast, in fact, you probably never eat breakfast, but your body has to therefore end up trying to obtain energy from wherever it can, in able to get you to walk down the street, get on the bus, spend hours at work till you eat something at lunch. If that lunch comprises only a white bread sandwich, a chocolate bar and a can of coke, you can begin to see where the deficit is beginning to build up within your body. You come home tired from work at the end of the day, you might be frustrated at not being able to get problems solved and then you begin to feel stressed and blame it on work. All the time your brain works quietly in the background responding to every thought and stimulus and eventually the body becomes deluged and begins to be dis-eased with itself.
So you do not have to suffer major stress for your body not to be stressed, in fact just living produces stress.
When the body feels stressed, hormonal changes occur within the hypothalamus and Pituitary which send chemical signals or messages to organs such as the adrenals, kidneys, liver, stomach etc who all react in one way or the other to this barrage of chemical stimuli.
This could mean not processing a certain food like in the case of an allergen or it might mean that you feel the need to urinate all the time or it might mean having heartburn. Whatever the symptom, it has arose out of stress that the body is experiencing .
Stress doesn’t go away if not dealt with adequately either. Cells have a capacity to remember stress in the form of chemical imprints. This means that given the right trigger, the person can develop symptoms sometimes years after the original stress was going on.
Therefore you do not only as therapists work on recent stress but a lot of it is stress that was laid down in the past whose chemical imprint or beat constantly interferes with our normal biochemical programming.
How many people have you treated who come in for treatment who say things like ‘I’ve never been the same since I had my baby’ or ‘the operation ‘ etc.The other problem of stress is that people will often blame other things for the reason that they are not well instead of the real reasons.
For example on a simple level, you have just missed a bus and the next one isn’t for 20 minutes which in turn will mean that you will be late for a meeting. At the point of you realising that you have missed the bus your brain will have flooded your body with biochemicals that will either get you to feel angry, mad, sad, tearful depending on how you deal with stress.
The bus comes along, you get to the meeting and everything goes well for the rest of the day. By seven o’clock that night you have started to develop heartburn and possibly wind. The first thing you think is that it was something that you ate. You think this instead of realising that when your body was stressed earlier in the day, your body understimulated the biochemicals to your digestive system and so it created a deficit so that when you ate later on, the digestive system was unable to cope and created the symptoms that you are experiencing now.
Dealing with stress is so subtle sometimes that we don’t even know that we are stressed and that our brain was responding to that stress. It could be having to walk across a room with everyone looking at you, the moment was fleeting but the stress caused during that walk was enough for your brain to respond and weaken your body in a way that is unique to you.
I believe that any biochemical imbalances reflect through a persons entire energy system.
If we think a negative thought pattern this interferes with the biochemical activity of the brain. I believe that in turn our brain through our biochemicals transmits these imbalanced signals to our chakras which in turn sends messages or signals to our subtle bodies and to our higher self. So the imbalance affects our entire energy system.
Essential oils enable us to help change these negative imprints so that we can change the way we deal or behave to stress and so help us to heal.
Every time we put essential oils on our skin or sniff them, our brain immediately responds by emitting biochemical messengers which encourages particular effects on the body.
These could be as simple as feeling more relaxed to changing complex biochemical messages which in turn help the body clear up conditions such as eczema or depression for example.
Essential oils are one of the ways that we can influence our biochemical patterns positively and help our bodies to function properly.
Psychologically essential oils are wonderful tools to use to alleviate stress from negative emotions or negative thought patterns that we keep manifesting.
Obviously when we look at stress from this angle, all essential oils will change the biochemical activity of our brain and therefore will change symptoms, although each biochemical affects a different part of the brain.
Stress is laid down in the cells in the weakest part of your body (so as not to weaken another part) and if not actively worked on just lies there and festers.
Subsequently other experiences or thought patterns you think of and get stressed about get laid down there till the area reaches breaking point and you either develop a bad back or gall stones or Cancer for example.
Therefore understanding when we are stressed and dealing with it at the time goes a long way to health, also working on stress that was laid down earlier or at childhood is critical for overall health as well.
So understanding what is going on in a persons’brain when facing a particular stress and what biochemicals they are either depressing or stimulating when faced with this stress leads us to heal more effectively. It gives us another tool to use in helping us to heal as effectively as we can.
Once this biochemical mix is corrected, by working on the psychological issues involved the person can face this particular stress again without it affecting them like it used to before. This is especially helpful when dealing with phobias where just the sight of a spider for example will send the person to emit the same biochemcial pattern again and again. Breaking them out of this pattern gives them a freedom they had hitherto not known.
Before one can utilise essential oils in this way, firstly we need to know parts of the brain, what they represent and the oils that influence them. Below I have outlined psychological patterns associated with the different parts of the brain in order to give you clues as to where a particular stress might lay within an individual and the biochemicals and oils that you could use to help them.
PITUITARY: Relates to the qualities of control, surrender, balance, harmony, truth and nerve. Helps to correct and balance conditions of want, desire, indifference, apathy, listnessness and inertia.
Aphrodesiac: The Pituitary receives its orders from the Hypothalamus and therefore is the organ associated with taking higher authority. It works with polarity with the body for if the organ started to work for its own benefit instead of the body’s, then the body falls into disfunction. The Pituitary understands its role in life and accepts it has control and trusts that its needs will be met by the body as a whole. The Pituitary needs surrender to function. It gives excitement, generates energy and envelops everything with aphrodesiac qualities.
Endorphins: Clary Sage, Jasmine, Patchouli, Ylang Ylang are some of the oils that produce the ‘endorphin’effect and influence this organ.
HYPOTHALAMUS: Relates to the qualities of acceptance, release, flexibility, suppleness and Responsibility. Helps to correct and balance conditions of inadequacy, defeatism, fear, despondency, mood swings self-hatred and anxiety.
Regulating: The Hypothalamus is the emotional centre of our brain and is where we transform our emotional responses into physical responses. It regulates and balances our whole system. It controls the Pituitary and the Adrenal glands, the automatic functioning of the heart, lungs, digestive and circulatory systems and appetite, body temperature and blood sugar levels.
It gives us honesty and acceptance of ourselves at a fundamental level. It allows us to release and let go, be flexible with ourselves and to take responsibility for ourselves. The Hypothalamus needs self-love to function.
Various Bio- chemicals Particularly neuropeptides: Bergamot, Frankincense, Geranium and Rosewood are some of the oils that influence this organ.
THALAMUS: Relates to the qualities of love, resilience, soul, personality, self-knowing and the’will to live’. Helps to correct and balance conditions of self-hatred, a desire to die, uncertainty, feeling ‘sick at heart’, isolation and alienation.
Euphoric: The Thalamus is linked to our sense of identity and because of its link to our heart,it is also the seat of our ‘fire’, our ‘passion’ and our love of life. It controls our immune and lymph systems and establishes our mode of health. It establishes our desire to live and gives us our strength to face difficulties in life and to resist influence or external invasion. When we feel confident, loved and in control, it is very hard for us to be ill, but when we loose our positive frame of mind and feel low and unloved, illness sets in. The Thymus needs tolerance to function.
Enkephalins: Clary Sage, Jasmine, Grapefruit and Rose are all oils that influence this organ.
AMYGDALA/HIPPOCAMPUS: Relates to the qualities of permission, compassion, sympathy, positivity, excitement, change, influence, liberation, learning and self will. Helps to correct and balance conditions of denial, moroseness, irritability, invasion, fear, anxiety, where people want to ‘fly’ instead of facing reality and old negative patterns of our past, poor memory, difficulty in concentration and mental fatigue.
Stimulant/memory: The Amygdala/Hippocampus are our links to our ‘past’ and ‘future’. This is where we store our memory of past events. Smell plays an important part here and it filters the memory of a particular smell to other areas of the brain so that it is acted upon. It is the activity centre of our memory, whereby we log, define and act upon stimuli that excites our link to past events and memory. If the stimuli brings us in contact with painful or fearful memories, then we depress the Amygdala which allows us to bury the pain of the memory somewhat. If the stimuli brings us in contact with pleasant memories or experiences, then the warmth of this is allowed to fill our whole system. When people work on ‘past life’ and NLP ‘time line’, they ostensibly are working here and in the Limbic part of the brain. The Amygdala/Hippocampus needs courage and compassion to function.
Various Bio-chemicals are involved here: Black Pepper, Peppermint, Rosemary and Lemon are all oils that influence this area.
RAPHE NUCLEUS: Relates to the qualities of stillness, serenity, sympathy, balancing, belonging, joy and happiness. Helps to correct and balance conditions of anger, obsession, mania, irritability, depression, victimisation, loneliness, helplessness, hypertension and insomnia.
Sedative: The Raphe Nucleus part of our brain calms our emotions and allows us to approach life calmly. Negative, hot emotions are filtered out here and our sense of balance is restored.
Therefore the Raphe Nucleus is our ‘conscience’ if you like, our mode of reasoning after the ‘fire’ or heat of a debate. It tempers over activity of any one emotion and tries to bring the body back into balance. It’s job is to adjust over- energy and under-energy within the system. Fears of being excited, passionate etc result in forced suppression of the Thalamus and a constant pressure on the Raphe Nucleus to keep sedating the individual.