As one who appreciates a holistic approach to health, I am always enjoy learning other ways to support wellness. And, I so thankful for the amazing connections I have made with other professionals around the world. This is a guest post from Oraine Ramoo – a women’s counselling psychologist in private practice at Camhanach Counseling Services in San Fernando,
Trinidad & Tobago. Oraine specializes in female trauma and works closely with adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. She takes a holistic approach toward her work and is happy to help clients find gentle and drug-free alternatives to alleviate distressing symptoms and achieve healthier, lasting outcomes.
For those of us in the helping professions, we always run the risk of compassion fatigue – a secondary traumatic stress disorder that arises from consistently caring for others and investing emotionally – without care for ourselves. Nurses, doctors, therapists, law enforcement members, EMTʼs are some of the populations that are at risk for compassion fatigue. Symptoms include apathy, substance abuse, physical pains, irritation, isolation, exhaustion and concentration problems. This downward spiral continues with interpersonal conflicts, problems with the job itself and financial issues.
There are many paths of self-care to ward off compassion fatigue and even better to prevent it! There is a plethora of natural options available for anyone who desires to find relief. Today, I am going to focus on aromatherapy – specifically, essential oils – those wonderful smelling oils in the small amber bottles!
Essential oil is the product of steam distillation of plant materials (flowers, leaves, roots). These oils are volatile and very aromatic. Most importantly, because they are derived from plants, they do have medicinal/therapeutic value and must be carefully handled. But donʼt be scared, some simple tips and you will be fine.
The oils below are readily available due to their popularity. I have included the Latin name which you can refer to, just to be sure you have the correct species of plant from which the oil is derived.
Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) – Help with depression, insomnia, headache and sore muscles. A very popular and truly calming oil.
Geranium (Pelargonium asperum/graveolens) – Eases anxiety, offers adrenal support, assists with exhaustion and depression. Calming, uplifting and balancing.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – Alleviates mental fatigue. Stimulating! Lemon (Citrus limon) – Eases sluggishness. Also stimulating.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) – Banishes negative thoughts, depression, and alleviates headaches. Cooling. Extra note – the scent or even a drop on the tongue eases nausea!
Patchouli – (Pogostemon cablin) – Works on depression, anxiety and lethargy. Grounding and balancing – very earthy.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – Helps with depression, anxiety, stress. Balancing. Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) – Alleviates anxiety. Soothing.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – Promotes confidence, courage and success.
So…how do you use them?
One of the safest ways to use essential oils is by breathing their scent in. This can be achieved with a diffuser (electric or ceramic) which can spread the scent throughout a room or many rooms (peppermint is excellent in a diffuser!) A mobile option is putting a few drops on a clean cloth, cotton ball or even in some salt to take with you.
To use on the skin, PLEASE research your oil to be sure you wonʼt have any negative reactions. The usual patch test of a small area on the inside of your forearm will suffice. Try to not use the oil directly from the bottle (“neat”) as it is so very potent. The best way is to use a carrier oil. That is just another oil that will “carry” the scent and healing properties of the essential oil, but not in such a potent way. Excellent carrier oils include olive oil, apricot kernel oil, coconut oil and jojoba oil – which is really a liquid form of wax. Add a few drops of essential oil into some of the carrier oil to achieve the scent you want and you are set.
An easily available, quality brand is Aura Cacia to get you started. There are hundreds of brands out there and I urge you to try as many as you can as some quality of scents will resonate better than others. I personally have about four lavenders and each one is a bit different – but all are high quality. Takes a bit of trial and error. If you ever end up with an oil you do not like or sadly, is poor in quality – donʼt throw it away. You may be able to use it in household cleaning products. A little online research and youʼll know.
Make sure to keep your essential oils in a cool, dry place in no direct path of sunlight. If you blend your oils, never do so with mental implements and always store in an amber or cobalt blue-bottle/jar – again, away from direct sunlight.
My hope for the caregivers out there and really, anyone who reads this post, that they will feel informed and ready to take the first of many natural and healthy steps toward self-care as they navigate through life.