‘Smell is a word, perfume is literature’-Jean-Claude Ellena
*Note: this article deals specifically with the use of essential oils in a diffuser or burner. If you are planning to use them in a different way, please take all precautions before use. Essential oils can be harmful and should be used with care.
The word ‘Aromatherapy’ was first used by a twentieth century French chemist called René-Maurice Gattefossé in the title of his book: Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales.
The practice however is much older, with roots in the ancient civilisations of Egypt and the Far East where the aromas derived from plant extracts were used for centuries both in rituals and in medicine.
Although the effectiveness of essential oils is disputed, studies have shown that they can provide mood enhancing effects; and due to the relationship between a human’s sense of smell and the limbic system (one of the most primitive parts of the brain that deals with emotion and memory) it’s feasible that the aromas help to put us in a more receptive and therefore creative state of mind.
Below I’ve listed some common problems that writers have and how the corresponding essential oil can help (in some cases the oils are interchangeable).
Personally I feel that the question of placebo is irrelevant. If they can help draw our attention to a specific problem that’s stopping us from moving forward and getting any work done; assist in keeping us present in the moment (not to mention making the house smell lovely!) then what’s the harm?
Simply follow the instructions on your diffuser or fill a burner up with water, add a few drops of oil and light a candle:)
You Have No Motivation.
It’s hard to sit down and write. Even if you know you’ll feel fine once you get going, that initial step can feel like a Herculean task. The reasons why usually range from the brain wanting to protect you from future unpleasant feelings (fear, failure etc) or just plain tiredness.
Perhaps you think that there’s no value in your work and that others would take no interest. Perhaps you feel you’re not good enough.
Citric oils like Orange are great for combating mental and physical lethargy and Geranium (my favourite:) can be useful if you’re experiencing a low mood or feelings of helplessness.
You’re Struggling to Concentrate (+Writer’s Block).
If you’re having the same problem as me, sitting down and starting is not the problem; the problem is staying focused on the task! Last week was the first time I’d worked up the courage to start sharing and promoting my website and I think the little bit of exposure, even on a small scale caused me to feel less focused than usual.
I’ve felt willing but unproductive, tired during the day but wide-awake when trying to get to sleep at night. In your case the reason might be different but I’m sure that, like me there’s a root cause that simply burning an essential oil is not going to fix on its own.
Maybe it’s an emotional problem, irregular sleeping patterns or something else but being aware of what’s causing you to feel this way and making changes accordingly can bring back the focus you need to produce the results you want. In addition to these changes, using oils can be wonderful in generating the extra concentration or clarity that you need.
Peppermint oil can bring your attention back to the room and the moment, no less because it literally spears your nostrils with its incredible scent:D. Other oils for concentration include Basil and Rosemary which are supposed to aid in opening up the mind, perfect if you’re suffering from a stubborn round of Writer’s Block.
You’re Feeling Stressed.
There are times when writing is stress-relieving, those perfect moments when you’ve purged your mind and soul of everything you wanted to express, leaving you feeling euphoric and pleasantly empty. Yet there are times when the words are not flowing or you’re working against a deadline and you can start to feel your shoulders moving higher and higher up to your ears and your eyes closer and closer to the screen:)
I don’t need an excuse to get a tension headache at the best of times but this is a very common problem and spending a lot of time in front of a computer or reading long texts doesn’t always help.
Lavender oil is well known for its calming effects and can be used at any time during the day not just before you go to sleep:) Alternatives include oils with sweet notes like Rose or Vanilla, which despite stimulating the brain to some extent (like all essential oils), promote relaxation rather than energising the mind like the ones previously mentioned.
When I started writing this article, I thought it would just be a list of essential oils that I’ve found useful when writing but it turned into something more than that and drew my attention to…
A Really Important Point.
Whatever obstacle I’m facing when trying to work, it can’t be alleviated with a quick fix, whether that be a ‘negative’ remedy such as a poor food choice or a ‘positive’ one, such as burning an essential oil. There’s always a root cause that needs addressing.
Today has been the first day in a week that I’ve reclaimed my productivity and feel my sense of calm and focus return. After feeling jittery and all over the place yesterday I sat down in the afternoon and thought: why am I feeling and acting in this way? What can I do to change it?
The answer was actually quite simple.
The root cause was that on some level I felt uncomfortable sharing my work with others, that it tapped into one of my deepest fears of feeling exposed.
This then manifested into behavioural changes such as going to bed late and getting up late with poor sleep in between, being distracted by social media when trying to write and making poor food choices due to tiredness and wanting to save time that, in this spiralling state I felt was running away from me.
Last night I made a point of getting back into my usual routine which is going to bed early and waking up at around 4:30 am. I put my phone across the room so that I wouldn’t be tempted to look at it before going to bed or during the night.
I realised that as a person not naturally drawn to social media my reason for letting it distract me was not a sudden interest in seeing what other people were doing but that, in being quite literally a window for exposure, was testing my fear a little bit; getting the monster before it got me.
This morning I’ve already completed a chapter for Uni, I’ve walked the dog and completed this article. I’ve got some Geranium oil burning as I write and if you’ll forgive the cliché, has been the cherry on the cake in grounding myself and getting back on track:)
So what about you? Do you have any favourite essential oils that you diffuse or burn when writing?(or not:). Write it in the comments section below along with the reason why you think it’s helpful so that others can benefit.
Until next time^^,
References: all of the information (both historical and scientific) paraphrased in this article has come from the most reliable sources I could find including scientific journals and books such as Citrus Essential Oils : Flavor and Fragrance by Masayoshi Sawamura, PhD, Professor of Food Science at Kochi University, Japan.