What makes people stay healthy despite stressful life experiences?
Some people are more vulnerable to trauma than others. The key factor that determines whether one remains healthy despite a variety of stressful life experiences such as loss, divorce and other traumatic events comes down to the degree of coherence in one’s system.
Coherence is “the degree to which a person can remain themselves under pressure” (Aaron Antonovsky) or also: the degree to which a person is not overwhelmed by what is happening.
There are three factors that contribute to the degree of coherence:
It has to do with your mindset whether you are more receptive to trauma. Trauma can create emotional barriers to how well we live our lives, even decades later. This is because after the trauma we have begun to connect ourselves and our beliefs about “who we are” with the emotions the trauma releases in us.
Can we become addicted to trauma?
Traumatic experiences trigger the release of stress hormones (cortisol) that put us in “flight mode.” We can become addicted to these hormones as if they were drugs (in a sense, they are).
When we have multiple experiences that trigger the same emotion, we not only become familiar with the emotion as a belief of the “self,” but we also become addicted to the hormone that the body is releasing at that moment, and then unconsciously seek or create more experiences in our lives where we re-trigger that emotion.
If we regularly experience feelings of guilt or shame as children, we may attach this to our identity and in adulthood seek experiences where we can feel these feelings again.
Although these emotions are not “feel good” states, we have associated them with our identity and therefore believe that these emotions are an integral part of our being.
How can essential oils help with trauma?
Essential oils directly affect the limbic system of the brain. Researchers have shown how aromas make the brain respond. They activate the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, the body’s hormones and the limbic system.
The limbic system connects the left and right hemispheres and the centers of the voluntary and involuntary nervous system and is often dysregulated after trauma. Scents are processed in the limbic system, evolutionarily the oldest part of the brain. The limbic system houses our emotions, sexual feelings, memory and learning. It also houses the amygdala. This is the part of the brain that activates our fight-and-flight response. When people are traumatized, this is the part of the brain that is most affected.
Essential oils are a catalyst for healing from a mind-body energetic perspective.
Essential oils alone are unable to resolve the trauma for us.
This work is in our hands!
Types of trauma therapy
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, allows you to talk about your trauma and go through the healing process. It is important to find the right therapist because this is the only way you can build a trusting relationship that allows you to open up and share. Therapy is exhausting and it is normal to feel worse immediately after therapy, but it should feel like you are recovering from an intense workout.
Essential oils can be a valuable help in dealing with this.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
CBT is a form of behavioral therapy. You learn to recognize behaviors and attitudes that have a negative impact on your life. You then work on replacing these negative attitudes with positive ones and can apply these new skills in your daily life.
If you have reached a positive state of mind during therapy, this state can be associated with the scent of a particular essential oil. Between sessions, smelling the fragrance can help you cope with stressful situations.
COGNITIVE PROCESSING THERAPY
CPT is often the first choice in treating trauma, especially in treating the long-term effects of childhood trauma in adults. Like CBT, CBT helps teach new, more positive ways to deal with trauma-related beliefs and emotions.
These new ways of coping can be reintegrated using essential oils.
DIALECTICAL BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
Like other forms of trauma therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy focuses on better regulating emotions. This form of therapy has proven effective in helping people with suicidal thoughts. It helps teach new skills that help people change unhealthy behaviors.
EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING (EMDR)
In EMDR therapy, you focus on the trauma while being visually stimulated. Thoughts, feelings and physical sensations are activated while the stimulation helps to reduce the emotions and physiological reactions to the trauma. Negative thoughts related to the trauma can then be processed with more positive and accepting beliefs. Again, essential oils can be used in a very supportive way.
Group therapy is helpful because it shows that you are not alone with your problems. In a supportive and safe environment, group members find it easier to tell their stories and help others process their trauma.
A diffuser in the room and appropriate essential oils can be used to create a calm and pleasant atmosphere.
Brainspotting therapy uncovers trauma, negative emotions and physical pain. A therapist directs your gaze with a pointer. The direction in which people look can influence their feelings. Brainspotting helps identify triggers for traumatic memories or negative emotions and can be very well supported with aromatherapy.
COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE FOR TRAUMA
CAM therapies have particular strengths, they require fewer conversations and disclosures than psychotherapy and do not carry the risks of side effects as pharmaceutical approaches.
Some examples are:
- Breathing exercises
- Progressive relaxation techniques
- Therapy with animals
- Smart Supplementation
Supporting essential oils
Essential oils can be used to support the healing process and promote self-healing. Special oil mixtures and the application of oils to specific points (acupuncture points) on the body help to calm the nervous system and harmonize energy.
- Bergamot: Bergamot has long been in use as an adjunct in therapies to relieve anxiety and fear. It has a cleansing effect on stuck feelings and limiting belief systems, awakens a sense of hope and encourages you to share your feelings with others.
Tangerine essential oil has been shown in studies to have calming and anxiety-relieving properties. It can transform the darkest moods and invites you to relive the joy and spontaneity of childhood.
- Rose (Roos): Rose oil is one of the most popular essential oils used by therapists for support in treating anxiety, grief, panic attacks, shock and depression.
- Roman Chamomile (Roomse Kamille): Chamomile can be used as an adjunct to therapies that treat anxiety, worry, irritability and depression. It can increase feelings of inner peace and contentment. It helps to detach us from meaningless activities that fill our lives so that we can focus more on fulfilling work.
- Clary Sage (Scharlei): Clary Sage helps calm emotions after an outburst of anger. It gives courage to see the truth and encourages staying open to new ideas and perspectives.
- Sandalwood (Sandelhout): Sandalwood helps with a variety of relaxation techniques such as meditation, mindfulness and prayer. It has been used since ancient times for its powerful ability to calm the mind. It can help you transcend your current belief systems.
- Vetiver: As one of the most grounding oils, Vetiver can help you feel more rooted in life. It is supportive of all types of self-awareness work.
- Lemongrass (Citroengras): Lemongrass empowers you to move forward, accept change and commit to your healing.
- Ylang Ylang: Ylang Ylang helps you process things from the heart and heal emotional trauma. It helps to connect with a source of joy that comes from within.
- Geranium: Geranium helps you regain confidence in the world and in others. It restores confidence in life and in the goodness of others.
- Lavender (Lavendel): Lavender combats the fear of being seen and heard. Lavender helps with the ability to communicate honestly and openly.
- Black Pepper (Kardemom): By taking off our mask and trying to understand feelings and behaviors, we allow our true thoughts and emotions to surface and allow the flow of growth to begin. Black Pepper is also used to reduce cravings for addictive substances
- Frankincense (Wierook): Once you can connect with your truth, you can embrace your true purpose in the world and therefore no longer be guided by the ego.
- Juniper Berry (Jeneverbes): It is especially helpful when one resists the deep soul-diving required for healing. Instead of running away or hiding from the unknown, Juniper Berry helps one dig deeper and learn the life lesson.
How to use essential oils to support trauma therapy
- Calm the body: To calm the body’s stress response and activate the parasympathetic state of “rest & digest,” apply a drop of essential oil to the base of the skull, above the heart, on the inside of the wrists and behind the ears.
- Release emotions: To release emotions, apply essential oil to the little toe or the outside of the foot from the ankle to the toe.
- Reduce stress: The adrenal glands release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. To rebalance the body and calm the release of stress hormones, apply essential oil to the adrenal glands (on the back of the body, one fist from the lower rib upward)
- Improve sleep: Severe startle reactions can disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep. This can leave you feeling “tired and wired.” To improve sleep, you can apply essential oils to the crown of the head, the back of the skull and above the ears.
- Sense of security: the kidneys are traditionally considered the seat of courage and willpower. To reduce anxiety and promote feelings of security, strength and courage, essential oils are applied to the kidney area.
- Atmosphere of relaxation and healing: Use essential oils in your diffuser when you want to create a calming atmosphere.
- Support the Body: Use essential oils in veggie capsules as a Smart Supplement. It is best to first consult an essential oil specialist for advice.
What can you do now to create more peace in your life?
There are a few simple things you can already implement in your life to create more peace in your life:
- Connect with nature (take a walk in the woods (forest baths) and let natural light fall on your skin every day).
- Turn down the volume (your system is already overloaded; avoid unnecessary stimuli)
- Hug and embrace (hug your loved ones and pet your pets to release endorphins and oxytocin).
- Grounding (use a weighted blanket, walk barefoot)
- Leisure (take time for self-care, choose activities that nourish your soul).
- Shake it off (move the body to shake off pent-up energy, e.g., by dancing, jumping on a trampoline, jogging, etc.).
- Cold therapy (cold showers or ice baths increase the body’s self-healing ability)
- Healthy eating (you have full control over your life energy)
- Sleep well (set a goal of sleeping 8 hours to give your body time to rest and heal).
You will find that it is not a linear healing process, but rather a bumpy road with ups and downs. It is important to create a sense of safety for yourself as you learn to deal with your feelings. Create sufficient space and time to mourn the losses associated with the trauma. As you develop a new sense of self and redefine yourself, you will take the necessary steps toward self-determination and a free life. You deserve it. You are worth it.