Shocking in Lavender

I had a bit of a shock this week; nothing major, but enough to rattle my stress response and leave me with stress hormones whizzing through my system. The details are irrelevant; like so many of these things the threat soon passed but, as we explored a couple of weeks ago in Stress: The goat lurking in the bushes (blog, 21 October), the chemical effects lingered and given legs could have overwhelmed my state and emotions.

On this occasion, rather than taking myself through anything but the most rudimentary NLP state management exercises, I found myself reaching for a bottle of lavender essential oil. I know for many people aromatherapy is associated with spa retreats and pampering rather than serious mind or body maintenance but the more I experiment with these magical oils the more I’m convinced that they have a valuable role to play in mind-body wellbeing.

If nothing else Lavender Oil has now become a strong relaxation anchor for me. Following the plane crash Andy and I used to dab a few drops onto a tissue before we flew and would sniff the tissue during the flight whenever we wanted to feel a bit calmer. It really did work – despite that fact that at times, and I’ll speak for myself here, I was only moments away from full out panic. Obviously we’ve now transformed our fear of flying back into a feeling of anticipation, adventure and joy (watch out for our revolutionary new fear of flying course to be announced very shortly) but we still find Lavender Oil a wonderful way to calm the body and mind whenever life throws stuff at us we weren’t expecting.

The olfactory sense (smell) is amongst the fastest routes to the brain and so it makes sense that sniffing a powerful aroma can break the brain’s pattern just enough for you to be able to stop the spiral of rumination and stress hormones in its track. In fact even pretending you can smell something that isn’t really there can achieve the same result. One of the most popular break-states used by our NLP students is ‘can you smell popcorn?’ Just trying to smell it will force our brain to stop associating into whatever negative experience it is fixated on and allow us to disassociate long enough to take back control. Try it out now – can you smell bacon frying?

Scientifically there is a lot more to aromatherapy than I previously realised. For a start there are millions of nerve endings in the nasal cavity. When we inhale an essential oil, neurons fire to send a message directly to the limbic system of the brain. As this is the part of the brain which influences the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems (which in turn control a great deal of hormone production in the body and are responsible for our fight and flight mechanism) it becomes easy to see how these simple little oils could have a significant influence over mood and emotions. In fact research is showing that they can play a major role in improving our emotional reaction to injury, stress and illness and more specifically can aid with sleep, pain control, reduction of anxiety and even depression.

I came across a study recently that was conducted at New York University Medical Centre in 2006. 50 patients who had undergone surgery were given the ‘normal’ postoperative pain control medications with half of them also using lavender essential oils to assist with pain relief. You won’t be surprised to learn that patients in the ‘lavender group’ reported less pain (otherwise it would be a pretty rubbish example to use here). There are a growing number of studies of this nature and I for one am not afraid to say that I’m increasingly impressed by our own experiments.

If you’ve attended one of our courses recently you may have noticed one of our forays into the world of essential oils - a stylish cone in the corner of the room slowly changing colour and emitting a fine mist like a mini fog machine. We’re particularly likely to use it after the lunch break (the grave yard shift as it’s known by many trainers) and it’s most probably got a few drops of lemon essential oil to lift the atmosphere and help people achieve a powerful learning state (it’s one of the tricks we share on EFFORTLESS LEARNING: MAGICAL MEMORY as a way of improving focus during revision and periods of study – we’ve also found it very useful for lifting states and overcoming mood funks including light depression).

In case you’re interested, due to popular demand, the diffusers will appear in the shop very soon as will a greater range of essential oils (as you’ve probably realised by now, the whole idea of the shop is to provide useful products that we feel may support you in your journey from where you are today to where you want to be, and like so much of what we do here at WHATEVER LIFE THROWS we try to keep the prices as affordable as possible).

I hope you have an amazing relaxing week with no shocks or goats lurking in bushes, but if something does jump out at you then maybe you could do worse that give lavender essential oil a try. Good luck and have an amazing week.

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