Beyond the Apocalypse: Aromatherapy to Fight Winter Blahs

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About the Author: Lisa L. Kirchner is a freelance writer and yoga teacher living in New York City.

Aromatherapy oils, such as these from Aura Cacia, may help fend off winter blues.

The winter solstice is 2012’s shortest day, but this year it looms large with  doomsday prophecies. But Dec. 21’s greatest threat to our well-being may actually be the restricted daylight’s potential for inducing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — which, according to some statistics, is four times more likely to affect women.

A little research cures the Mayan scare, since the Mesoamerican empire’s priests never actually predicted an apocalypse. But the decrease in sunlight is an indisputable problem. The good news, however, is that SAD is responsive to treatment, whether that means medication, light therapy or other options.

I like to use aromatherapy to brighten my moods in the winter months. Of course, aromatherapy is no substitute for actual therapy when there are underlying emotional issues, but even then it can provide a beautiful complement. My must-have oils include lavender, which studies have shown to help with mild depression and insomnia; lemon, proven to help improve mood and alertness; bergamot, which, according to one study decreased workplace stress by lowering heart rate and blood pressure; ylang-ylang, shown to reduce stress; and rose, which is relaxing and soothing.

It’s possible to buy premixed blends, such as Aura Cacia’s Essential Solutions, with names like Chill Pill, Pillow Potion and, perhaps most intriguingly, Love Potion. But I prefer a more targeted approach of choosing my own single-essence scents. Below are my tips on how to best use esssential oils.

Light diffuser/meditation oil I love tealight oil warmers to create a gentle atmosphere, but in a pinch I’ll rub a few drops of lavender oil directly onto a night light, so long as it’s a bulb with a cool temperature.

Bath oil This is a no-brainer! I add a few drops of my favorite oils directly to my bath. (And a dip in a relaxing bath is often a stress reliever on its own.) Ylang-ylang, rose and bergamot make a lovely combination. More often I add a few drops to unscented almond oil and add the mix to the water; it leaves my skin lovely and soft and delicately scented.

Moisturizer Lemon and ylang-ylang are a treat for winter hands; I simply add it to unscented lotion and carry it in my bag.

Best of all, since you’ve got the oils, you can experiment with your own combinations. I don’t fuss much about counting drops or I’d never make anything. Better to start small, you can always add more. The joy will come from deeply listening to your own body.

The shortened days are a reminder that time is precious and finite. We turn the corner today, as the days get longer again. Acknowledging this rebirth can be profound opportunity for change.

Do you think aromatherapy is beneficial?

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