Life can feel pretty out of control and overwhelming at times. But no matter what is happening in the world around you, you always have control over how you choose to feel, think and respond. The secret to controlling your emotional, physical and mental response to stress lies in your ability to control the part of your brain that responds to external threats – your autonomic nervous system, or your ANS for short.
The ANS controls all of the “automatic” functions in your body, like your heartbeat, breathing, and body temperature, along with your ability to digest food, detoxify waste, turn inflammation on or off, and support immune function. Your ANS’s goal is to keep you alive and it has two gears to help you both navigate stress and recover from stress.
The sympathetic branch of your ANS serves helps you respond to any danger or threat, including perceived threats like anxiety and worry. You might think of it like a “gas pedal” – it floods the body with hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to give you more energy so you can either fight or flee from a dangerous situation. It also increases heart rate and respiration so you have enough fuel in the form of blood and oxygen to survive. And it routes those critical resources to your limbs and muscles and away from your digestive track, in essence shutting down all functions not critical to your immediate survival.
When the danger passes, your body shifts back into the health maintenance mode of the parasympathetic branch of your ANS. The parasympathetic branch acts as a “brake pedal”, calming your mind and your body after the threat has passed.
These two branches operate with a push-pull dynamic and activate very different physical and mental states of being. For example, your Sympathetic branch helps you hyper-focus on short-term survival options, shutting down your access to the part of your brain involved in creative thinking and problem-solving.
This is where anxiety and overwhelm kick in. When your brain is stuck on survival mood, it is unable to access higher cognitive functions that allow you to feel safe and calm. Your ability to activate your Parasympathetic nervous system can shift you out of anxiety. And it can be as simple as using essential oils.
Essential oils are the natural, highly concentrated essences extracted from plants. Because essential oils are small and fat-soluble, they can bypass the blood-brain barrier and directly access the areas of your brain that help calm your anxiety.
The gear shift between your sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems is the longest nerve in your body, known as your vagus nerve. It originates in the brain, splits to wrap around both sides of the neck behind the earlobe and down through almost every organ in the body.
Stimulating the vagus nerve helps you shift into the parasympathetic state where your brain and body feel safe and anxiety melts away.
How Do Essential Oils Stimulate the Parasympathetic State?
While there are many methods of stimulating the parasympathetic state, ranging from a surgical implant that sends an electrical charge to your neck, to gagging yourself with a tongue depressor or enjoying your own personal ice bucket challenge by regularly splashing freezing cold water on your face, essential oils offer a non-invasive tool for helping to trigger the Parasympathetic state.
Essential oils are natural, non-invasive, easy tools to use to activate your vagus nerve. They possess both olfactory (smell) and transdermal (topical application) qualities.
Research backs this up as inhaling essential oils such as lavender and bergamot have been shown to activate your vagus nerve as measured by improved heart rate variability.
Inhaled essential oils travel directly to your brain (specifically to the prefrontal cortex behind your forehead) where they can immediately help calm the fear response in your brain.
Acupuncture performed in this area (behind the ear and around the neck) are the most effective points for stimulating your vagus nerve.
Applying stimulatory essential oils, like a combination of highly stimulatory clove and distilled lime, can offer stress-relieving properties.
Clove oil is known to help ease internal feelings of stress and uneasiness, along with other functions associated with anxiety. The same goes for lime, which has been clinically proven to help alleviate feelings associated with nervousness and depression.
Try Vibrant Blue Oils
To further support your Parasympathetic state, consider trying Vibrant Blue Oils Parasympathetic® blend and turn on your body’s ability to recover internally with this all-natural essential oil blend made from a synergistic combination of clove and lime essential oils.
The Parasympathetic® blend is the missing link that has helped thousands bring their health back into balance and eliminate unwanted symptoms of fatigue and stress.
Jodi Cohen is a bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and founder of Vibrant Blue Oils, a top resource for essential oils online, which welcomes 300,000 visitors every year. Her #1 bestselling book, Healing with Essential Oils, synthesizes decades of leading scientific research to help explain how essential oils can work to support the body and the brain. Random House will publish her second book, Essential Oils to Boost the Brain and Heal the Body, on March 16, 2021.
After personally experiencing the profound physical and mental benefits of essential oils in addressing her own anxiety, insomnia, and autoimmunity, Jodi wanted to know why. Today, she holds certifications in nutritional therapy, functional neurology, herbalism and aromatherapy, along with multiple continuing educational courses in plant medicine, brain health, Chinese medicine and herbalism.