Use Aromatherapy to Help Alleviate Overwhelm

Antonia Guerrero from Personae, 2016, by Carlos David. Copyright © 2016 Carlos David. Used by permission of the artist.

I couldn’t find my phone last December for six hours.


It was minding its own business, in my freezer.

Three work deadlines loomed large and apparently while putting away the groceries, I placed my cell on its own VIP shelf, right underneath the ice-maker.

My brain determined my phone belonged with the frozen peas. And in it went to chillax at 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours. Miraculously my phone still worked, unlike my brain at the time.

We artists and writers are prone to overwhelm because we have erratic workloads. Sometimes we endure nail-biting times when we have zero commissions. Then, just when we think we’ll never sell anything again, three orders come in at the same time.

Despite my attempts to use Google calendar alerts, various organizational apps, and forests of color-coded Post-its, it has become obvious to me that there are times when more technology is not the answer.

For me, the pressure I place on myself via Evernote, Edgar and Buffer often add to, rather than alleviate, the problem.

So I had to find a back-to-basics answer for overwhelm that involved zero reminder settings, and I discovered an uncannily effective one—aromatherapy.

Scents for Sensibility

Aromatherapy is the science and art of using essential oils extracted from the leaves, roots, seeds and petals of beneficial plants.

“Every essential oil has unique chemical components,” said certified aromatherapist Sharon Mayberry ( “Let’s look at five oils that possess the compounds proven to help us breathe deeply, stay calm and prioritize beautifully.”

Get Positive With Pinyon Pine

Pinyon Pine is a delicious slightly sweet, woodsy fragrance that is distilled directly from the needles of the tree. “I love pinyon pine for combatting overwhelm for four reasons,” said Mayberry.

1) It imparts clarity.

2) It’s grounding and uplifting at the same time. (It’s hard to find oils with both of those qualities.)

3) It puts us in a good mood.

4) It’s affordable.

Pinyon Pine works wonderfully in a simple blend with Patchouli. The combination is reminiscent of the scent in the air that you may have inhaled walking in the woods after a rain.

Peacefully Prioritize With Patchouli

People either love or hate the smell of Patchouli.

“I personally love it and it’s a really good anxiety reducer. So, when an artist’s mind is going off in a million directions and they’re afraid they can’t do anything and they’re full of anxiety, Patchouli is excellent for reducing anxiety. Plus, it’s affordable and easy to find in stores,” said Mayberry.

Find Your Footing With Frankincense

“Frankincense gives great support to you when you need to feel grounded and safe,” said Mayberry. There are several kinds of Frankincense; the one that Mayberry recommends for overwhelm is Frankincense carterii, a gorgeous, deep resinous oil with a pine heart note, high in boswellic acids which have been found to impart a feeling of emotional and physical comfort.

Mayberry suggests Frankincense carterii for artists or writers who need to feel better about themselves, “Use it when you want to switch out of fear mode and into creative or meditative mode.”

Find Focus with Davana

Davana has a fruity, almost sherry-like, aroma and is selected by aromatherapists for clients who need more calm and emotional balance in their lives.

“It also brings increased focused and a sense of inner peace that is so uplifting. So, it’s just a great all around oil for overwhelm,” said Mayberry.

Davana is very high in ketones, which aren’t readily metabolized by the liver in large amounts, so Mayberry advises you use it in small doses, especially if you’re putting it on your body.

She recommends 1% (5 drops) Davana oil in one ounce of carrier oil (like jojoba.) “It’s a great oil, you just have to use it with care and respect,” said Mayberry.

Stop Stressing With Cedarwood

When we get overwhelmed, we are usually stressed out and panicking that we are not on top of things and won’t make deadline. Cedarwood oil can be extremely calming to our entire nervous systems in such times.

“When you’re in fight or flight mode, suffering from self-doubt, or are worried about your survival, Cedarwood essential oil is very soothing and centering,” said Mayberry. “It has a beautiful, fresh, earthy, woodsy scent and like all five oils in this overwhelm kit, it’s balancing, grounding and protective.”

3 Ways To Put Your Aroma Toolkit To Work

1. Cotton Ball

You could simply put a drop or two of one, or all of the oils onto a cotton ball you have placed on your desk or beside your bed.

2. Rollerball

Aroma Roll-Ons: Place a few drops of essential oil and carrier oil (like sweet almond or jojoba) in a perfume vial with a roller ball top and glide the blend over your wrists.

3. Diffuser

For best possible therapeutic results Mayberry recommends you purchase a plug in diffuser and place a few drops of oil in the diffuser’s water well and press go. Mayberry turned me on to one I love on Amazon:

Safety Warnings: Never ingest oils and avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes. Don’t use oils on kids or if you are sensitive, pregnant, nursing, have epilepsy, asthma, health challenges or doubts, before consulting a doctor. Don’t diffuse oils in closed rooms with cats, it can give sensitive felines URIs and liver issues.

Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD is an arts & culture journalist by day, assemblage artist by night. The Charmed Studio is her new blog/online sanctuary dedicated to informing and inspiring artists and writers of all experience levels. Eyeball her current top post, Frida Kahlo: 7 Meaningful Tips For Artists and Writers From the Life of a Mexican Maverick at: