Escape Stress With Essential Oils

Escape Stress With Essential Oils | Transcend Texas

Calgon, take me away! If you were born before 1980, it’s very likely that you remember this phrase from an iconic commercial for bath products. The entire premise of the commercial was that Calgon’s finely-scented toiletries could help you escape the stress of everyday life, letting go of your cares and finally getting a chance to relax. All you had to do was add a bit to your bath and you’d be carefree and sane once again. Oh, if it were only that easy…

Calgon’s claims may have been overstated, but they were rooted in the use of essential oils via aromatherapy. Used for thousands of years in multiple cultures for healing and relaxation, essential oils may very well hold benefits for those experiencing stress and stress-related symptoms. When the right essential oil is used, it can invoke calmness, focused energy, or even sleepiness, all without the need for drugs or medication.

Want to give essential oils a try? Let’s break down the basics and learn which oils benefit recovery-related symptoms best.

One caveat: be sure to test your tolerance to them in advance; a drop on the inside of the wrist left on for 24 hours is best. If you develop any itching or sneezing, essential oils may not be right for you. If all goes well, you can move forward with their use safely.

Lavender Oil for Insomnia

Stroll down your local grocery store’s laundry aisle and you will probably notice one main thing: lavender-scented everything. This is especially true for infant detergents, and with good reason. Lavender oil seems to have a soothing and calming effect on the body, inducing relaxation and even sleepiness in some people. If you’ve been struggling with insomnia, it may be just the thing you need to soothe yourself to sleep without drugs.

To use lavender oil, start by buying an essential oil product that contains authentic lavandula angustifolia oil (synthetics often don’t carry the same benefits). Try placing a diffuser beside your bed; turn it on only at night, starting about an hour before you plan to sleep. Or, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a dry washcloth and toss it into the dryer with your pajamas. The subtle, flowery scent will lull you into relaxation gently without leaving you groggy the next morning.

Vetiver Oil for Anxiety Attacks

Panic and anxiety are close bedfellows in addiction and recovery. Very often, sobriety increases these symptoms because addicts were self-medicating them away in the first place. Re-learning how to deal with these symptoms in a positive manner can be extremely challenging, especially if you’ve opted to tackle the problem without medication. Although it’s not by any means a cure for Panic Disorder (PD) or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), some patients have found benefit in smelling vetiver oil, sourced from the Chrysopogon zizanioides plant, when anxiety levels rise.

Vetiver oil carries an earthy, wholesome scent that can be very grounding and calming, much like patchouli, though it isn’t nearly as overwhelming and strong. It has an ever-so-slight citrusy finish that will also help you to focus if you’re experiencing dissociation or derealization, both of which are very common in anxiety.

To use vetiver oil, you can infuse it into the air or rub it onto your skin. If you choose the latter, you must dilute it as it can cause irritation when applied directly. The best way to do this is to add two or three drops of vetiver oil per tablespoon of cold-pressed organic coconut oil. Mix this together until combined and then massage a few drops into your hands.

Ylang-Ylang, Bergamot & Lavender for Stress

A study from 2006 points to the benefits a mixture of ylang-ylang, bergamot, and lavender may have on a stressed-out cardiovascular system. Hosted by the Geochang Provincial College, the study evaluated whether or not inhaling a mixture of these essential oils could effectively reduce hypertension in patients.

The results of the study were quite positive;  blood pressure, pulse, subjective stress, state anxiety, and serum cortisol levels all showed at least some improvement in patients who inhaled the mixture regularly over time.

You can make your own version of this formula right at home if you have the right essential oils. Start with 5 to 10 drops of each essential oil. Add them to 1/4-cup of cold-pressed organic coconut oil, melted at room temperature. Then, use an oil diffuser to distribute it throughout the air before heading out to work, after a long day, or whenever stress levels are high.

Alternatively, fill a small cosmetic tub with the mixture, chill it in the refrigerator, and use the cool, calming solution as a massage oil on your pulse points when you feel yourself becoming stressed.

Wintermint & Spearmint for Stress Fatigue

These two crisp, minty essential oils are used extensively by aromatherapists to reduce stress-related fatigue. Wintery and bright, both scents wake you up without having the edgy nervousness often associated with caffeine and other herbal stimulants, so there are effective no side effects (save maybe smelling like a candy cane now and again).

For stress-related fatigue, using a facial cream or wash infused with minty essential oil first thing in the morning can help. The gentle tingling sensation stimulates the senses, and may also brighten up tired eyes and reduce under-eye circles. Rubbing a bit of peppermint oil into your hands midway through your workday may also help you to stay focused and awake when under pressure, letting you get through your day more effectively.

Peppermint for Pain

If you are recovering from opiate addiction, or if you struggle with a chronic pain condition, you likely understand how pain can exacerbate your stress levels. In fact, pain is a significant contributor to relapse, especially for those whose drug of choice happened to be an opiate drug. It goes without saying, then, that reducing pain in natural ways will also help to reduce your stress levels over time. Applying peppermint to the skin may help.

What’s so special amount mint? The answer has to do with the fact that all three oils induce the same physiological response – it reduces signals sent to the brain by skin receptor TRPM8. This handy little guy is directly responsible for transmuting pain sensations along the nerves and into the brain, where they are then translated into “ouch.”

When triggered, either by cold water, ice, or mint essential oils, TRPM8 becomes quieter, and sends fewer signals along in the first place. That can translate into lower pain levels for many patients, especially during withdrawal or in conditions like headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. Essentially, when you apply peppermint essential oil, you’re telling TRPM8 receptor to use its indoor voice instead of screaming.

Staying focused and on track in recovery means paying close attention to your stress levels. Having the right tools will help you to reduce stress and decrease the likelihood of relapse, slips, and bad decisions made in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s essential oils or weekly meetings with your therapist, what matters most is your dedication to staying sober and willingness to work towards a healthier life. Even if essential oils don’t help you in the ways outlined above, they can still benefit you just by smelling lovely in the first place.

6 Daily Meditation Routines For Clearer Thinking

6 Daily Meditation Routines For Clearer Thinking | Transcend Texas

Addiction recovery is difficult; this is part of the reason why some people never seem to really make it through recovery in the first place. Deciding to quit and improve your life instead requires some serious dedication and patience. It’s also immensely brave, extremely commendable, and one of the very best decisions you can make for yourself if you’re struggling with addiction. Even though the journey may be difficult, you don’t need to walk it alone; there’s help available when you’re ready.

Emotions and feelings often run high in both active and post-acute withdrawal. You’re dealing with so much at once that feeling a bit overwhelmed is very normal. When it’s difficult to think clearly, or you’re struggling with “brain fog,” clear your mind and find your center with these seven daily meditation routines.

Morning Affirmations + Meditation

Thomas Szasz once said, “Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.” If you struggle the most each morning when you arise, remind yourself that it’s okay to take 30 minutes to an hour to center yourself and fully wake up. Be gentle and loving towards yourself even if it seems like you’re headed for a challenging day.

Morning affirmations (preferably recited in a nice, warm patch of sunlight) encourage you to focus on the positive before you start your day. When you first wake up, get out of bed, grab a drink, splash some water on your face, and find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit.

Begin by sitting upright in a comfortable position. Breathe in to the count of three, hold for three, then release to the count of three. If this feels too short or long for you, free to adjust the count to whatever suits you best.

As you focus on your breath, gently begin stretching each part of your body; first your neck, then your shoulders, then your arms. As you stretch each part, say out loud one positive affirmation about yourself. This could include any of the following:

  • I am strong.
  • I am beautiful.
  • I am capable.
  • I am recovering.
  • I am compassionate.
  • I help others.
  • I deserve love.
  • Many people love me.
  • I am appreciated.
  • I appreciate my body.

Although these might seem a bit cheesy at first, affirmations and meditation are a powerful combination. They gently guide the body in the direction of positivity without making you feel forced. Spend about 15 to 30 minutes doing this routine, then follow it up with a shower and get started with your day.

Reading + Contemplating

If you’re spiritually minded (regardless of specific religion), be sure to make time out of each day to focus on your faith or belief system. Look for books that focus on healing and recovery while highlighting important spiritual lessons at the same time; dedicate 15 minutes or more to reading and contemplating what you’ve learned along the way.

Whenever possible, aim for positive, comforting reads over stressful, confrontational books. Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Apart,” for example, will have a much different impact on the stressed-out Buddhist’s mind, than, say, a book about death and its meaning.

Follow your reading session with a short sitting meditation or yoga. While you practice, focus on what you’ve learned and allow your mind time to mull it over as you stretch. Choose books that are particularly interesting and uplifting to you and you’ll find that it recenters your focus and helps you to think more clearly, too.

Writing + Visualizing

Guided visualization is immensely powerful. Research shows that those who visualize their success very often feel more confident and capable when it comes time for the actual event. Likewise, writing or journaling your problems can help you to get them out on paper instead of hyper-focusing or getting stuck in a loop of negative talk in your mind. Combining these two approaches boosts the benefits you experience from either one.

Start by taking 20 minutes out of your day to sit down and write out a short story; the main character is you. Write yourself into a scenario you’d normally struggle with, and finish the story with your ultimate success. Feel free to get as creative or bland as you want.

Then, read the story back to yourself and meditate on it for 10 minutes or more. Go over the story multiple times, visualizing your success in your mind as you focus on your breath.

This routine works best just before bed; anecdotal evidence shows that writing down a problem or visualizing it before you sleep can give your mind time to come up with practical solutions. This is where the term, “sleep on it” comes from.

Dance + Gentle Yoga

In places like New York, a new ecstatic dance movement that combines dancing with affirmations and movement is capitalizing on this concept. Practitioners believe that allowing yourself to move to music with abandon is not only good for the body, but is also excellent for relieving tension and clearing the mind. At its heart, dancing takes us back to our tribal history and makes us feel invigorated, healthy, and happy.

But wait; there’s more! There’s another reason why so many people love to dance; doing so can be entrancing and almost meditative, especially when it comes to interpretive and contemporary dance styles. It seems to allow us to process our thoughts and feelings in the same way as art or crafting.

To integrate this into your daily life, carefully watch yourself for signs of boredom, stress, and anxiety. When you’re feeling sluggish or restricted, find a private spot, pop in your favorite music, and dance your heart out while gently stretching your arms, legs, back, and torso. Allow yourself to become fully immersed in the music.

BONUS: dancing boosts endorphins, something that many recovering addicts struggle within the first one to two years of sobriety.

Walking Meditation + Nature

For centuries, Buddhist monks have practiced walking meditation in temples all over the world. As the name suggests, its only difference from standard sitting meditation is that the walker focuses not on the breath, but on the actual process of walking and everything it entails.

To practice walking meditation, start walking. As you take each step, you should focus on how the heel feels as it connects the ground, how the pressure spreads around the foot, and how you subconsciously pick up your other leg to move it forward again. Paying attention to these tiny little movements forces the brain to slow down and relax, improving clarity and cognition.

This activity works even better if you engage it in a peaceful, natural environment. Connecting with the natural world has its own benefits, so don’t be afraid to dive into a local park or go for a hike at the same time. If you do, try to reflect on and appreciate the beauty around you and your role within it.

Binaural Sounds + Sleep

Getting enough sleep is such a crucial part of recovery that it cannot be understated. Not getting enough sleep is a serious relapse trigger; feeling tired or run-down often cripples our productivity, so we turn to substances (be they caffeine or illegal drugs) to keep us going.

Listening to binaural sound as you fall asleep is a form of self-hypnosis. At its most basic, it causes a trance-like state of relaxation. Some believe that this state may induce deeper, more refreshing sleep, too.

What exactly is a binaural sound? Any sort of steady, hypnotic sound input with two different but complementary channels that has a marked and scientifically proven effect on brain waves. The brain’s response to binaural waves is clear; researchers have identified responses in the brain when listeners dialed in. If you’ve ever felt entranced by dance music or electronica, you have experienced a variation of binaural sound.

Theta sounds (between 4 – 8 Hz in frequency) that move into Delta sounds (4Hz and under) seem to be best for lulling yourself to sleep. While this won’t have an immediate effect on mental clarity, better sleep certainly will.

These wonderful meditation routines are simple, easy to integrate into your life, and widely beneficial regardless of what addiction you’re recovering from. Added on to an overall recovery plan, including one-on-one or group therapy and medical management, they are an effective way to reduce stress and improve mental clarity. If you find yourself still struggling with clarity, consider speaking with your therapist or physician. Certain medications may help.

The Healing Powers Of The Great Outdoors

The Healing Powers Of The Great Outdoors | Transcend Texas

The Earth has much to teach us. If you’ve ever wandered through a beautiful valley or taken on the challenge of hiking up a mountain, you may already know this first-hand. There’s just something magical and majestic about seeing the Earth in its true, unspoiled form; it grounds us, reminds us of our place in the world, and can even help us to re-center ourselves when we’ve gotten off-track. Fresh air, the scent of pine trees, the feel of sand under your feet, or even the rough surface of stone in the desert – wherever you’re from, you have an entire world just waiting for you out there.

Whether we’re 10 or 85, getting out and experiencing the great outdoors comes with immense spiritual, emotional, and physical benefit. In a world that’s increasingly saturated by electronic devices and social media, scaling things back is crucial to good health. When you’re in recovery, every tool in your kit is important – even the little ones – so don’t overlook the benefits of healing through the great outdoors. Get in touch with the Earth, and hopefully, your inner self, and you’ll quickly grant yourself access to these incredible benefits.

Vitamin D Regulation

Mood is something that’s incredibly important in recovery, especially during the first few crucial months after detox. This is a time when brain chemistry is still notoriously unstable, producing everything from anxiety to depression and even mood swings depending on what  substance you’re withdrawing from. Research shows that getting adequate vitamin D may actually help to curb these negative effects. This leads most individuals to seek out supplements, but these can be costly and questionable with regard to quality and efficacy.

But that doesn’t mean all is lost; after all, your own body can generate its Vitamin D. Just head outdoors into the sunshine to reap the benefits. Only 10 minutes of mid-day sun exposure is needed to produce a robust 10,000 IUs of this happy-boosting vitamin, so even a short walk around the block will do.

Want to boost your Vitamin D regulation even more? Snack on sardines or a whip up a bowl of granola with a splash of fortified milk. Both contain a portion of your total daily dose requirement, something that can be helpful in winter or sunless periods of the year.

Connecting and Grounding Ourselves

Humans are forever and intrinsically connected to the Earth; we come from it, and someday, our bodies will return to it. It nourishes us and provides us with water, food, and shelter, but it’s easy to lose sight of those basics in an ever-busy world that never stops moving.

We develop these ideals that tell us we need to work harder, faster, and stronger, even if it’s to our own detriment. Society pushes us to excel past what’s even healthy, so we take up vices to help us cope with the stress. You can, in fact, even become addicted to the busyness itself and the chaos it brings.

Unfortunately, it’s exactly that type of scenario that frequently leads busy business people and corporate executives into addiction or alcoholism. Research shows that putting too much stress on your plate in recovery can actually result in relapses and slips, so moderation is important. It’s much too easy to fall into the trap of drinking more to work more, distracting yourself from the fact that your body is trying to tell you to rest. Or maybe popping just one painkiller to get rid of the pain so you can go to work when you really need sleep. This type of self-medication is a major driver in addiction and recovery.

There’s even proof that simply existing in the city may directly influence your brain and cause stress. Escaping the hubbub from time to time isn’t just fun, it makes good sense.

Getting out into nature allows us to leave all of those worries behind, at least temporarily. Better yet, it grounds us and reminds us to be grateful for all the beauty that exists around us each and every day. Clean air, clean water, even just the ability to walk, ride, or sit in nature…all of these are immense gifts that not everyone has access to. By placing your feet on the ground, feeling the wind on your face, or even just gazing out over a canyon, we remind ourselves that it’s okay to slow down, unwind, and take time to refresh our minds.

Letting Go of Control in a Healthy Manner

Nature is a wild, chaotically beautiful thing, but everything within it has its place and its purpose. This reminds us that we don’t necessarily need to be in control of everything around us at all times as long as we’re taking care of ourselves as best we can.

Picture this: you’re wandering on a hike and encounter a rainstorm; you might not be able to stop the rain, but you can open an umbrella and keep yourself from being wet. Or, you can toss the umbrella aside, realizing that the rain won’t harm you permanently as long as the weather is warm, and let it refresh you instead.

Control is a major player in addiction, especially for those who may have anxiety disorders or dual diagnoses. Even the average person in recovery can begin to catastrophize everyday problems; this is essentially what happens when someone has a slip and then decides to toss all caution to the wind instead of stopping and seeking support. Learning to let go of our mistakes while still recognizing our responsibility by making healthy choices is one of the most important lessons nature has to teach us. This is the entire concept found in the famous Serenity Poem.

Those little symbolic lessons have such a big place in recovery – a time when learning to judge risk, love yourself, and protect yourself from harm becomes so important.

You Matter (and You Belong)

As a recovering addict, it can be incredibly difficult to feel like you have a place in society. No matter how much the research argues against it, some people just can’t wrap their heads around the fact that addiction is truly an illness. Without a constant reminder, it’s easy to start feeling like society has given up on you – but nature provides the perfect reminder of why this isn’t true.

If you’ve ever stood out under a sky full of summer stars, you’ve undoubtedly felt that incredible feeling of inconsequentiality. It’s two parts wonder; one part feeling like you’re “home,” probably because you are. The Earth is your home, regardless of whether you’ve made some questionable decisions about self-care in the past or not. It’s a gentle reminder that we’re all a part of something much bigger and much more important.

That feeling of oneness is beneficial not only because it reminds us that we belong, but also because it encourages us to extend our view beyond ourselves while also being kind to ourselves, too. We are a part of the whole; thus, we deserve compassion, kindness, and support, too. And at the end of the day, we’re all just seeking the same thing – happiness and love.

Achieving Better Physical Health

Last, but most certainly not least, is the fact that getting out into the great outdoors is just plain good for your physical health, too. Exercise, for many people, is a challenge in recovery, and getting outdoors can help motivate you to get moving more often. A short walk around the block everyday may not seem like much, but that 15-minute walk will boost your heart rate, burn off calories, get your blood pumping, and even improve your cardiovascular health.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, outdoor sports like hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and even sport fishing are the perfect way to get a bit of exercise while boosting those mood-happy endorphins. Yoga in the park and equestrian sports like trail riding? They work, too. The key is to find something that gets you up off of the couch, out the door, and engaging with nature in a way that’s safe, meaningful, and beneficial to you.

Whether you love to go for long walks with your dog or you’re just trying to find a way to heal your soul, nature has so much to offer you if you’ll just take that first leap. Healing through the great outdoors isn’t only an option; for many people, it’s as required as breathing clean air and drinking clean water. It keeps us connected and in tune with the world around us, even when everything else seems out of control.

Mindfulness Has Been Life-Changing For Many Recovering Addicts

Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery | Transcend Texas

There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of the word mindfulness. In fact, today many people have heard of mindfulness, but not exactly sure what it is or how to do it. Yet, many recovering addicts have been introduced to mindfulness in their recovery and have stayed committed to the practice because of its many benefits.

Mindfulness is the practice of staying present and being aware of what’s going on inside of you and outside of you. It’s a practice that asks you to avoid worrying about the past and fantasizing about the future. Instead, mindfulness invites you to keep your mind focused on what’s going on right here, right now. It’s a simple task, but it can become challenging depending upon your level of emotional turmoil and stress.

As mentioned earlier, a practice of mindfulness comes with enormous benefits. Some of these include:

Facing Triggers With Greater Ease

One of the greatest advantages of mindfulness is that it gives you the ability to respond to triggers in a more healthy way. For instance, if you’re used to drinking when you’ve been triggered emotionally, then you have developed a habit, a conditioning, of reaching for alcohol when you’re in emotional turmoil. However, when you’re being mindful, you have a greater capacity to stop yourself. You have the ability to stop the habit of drowning your emotions in alcohol, and instead use a healthier coping tool. You might journal, call a friend, or exercise instead.

Gaining a New Perspective

Most of the time when we are lost in our thinking, we are caught up in the emotional field of our thoughts. For instance, if you have the thought that your housemate is a jerk, you might begin to think about all the things that make it so difficult to be with him. With that line of thinking, you might begin to feel bitter, angry, resentful, or hopeless. However, with a practice of mindfulness, there is a greater chance that you’ll have a different perspective. Although you might still have the thought that he is a jerk, you might also have a thought that he may be difficult because he’s going through a hard time. Or you might feel some compassion for him. Instead of letting your ruminating thoughts bring you down, mindfulness helps keep you connected to the present moment where fresh ideas and new perspectives can be found.

Learning More About Yourself

One of the most significant parts of recovery is the opportunity to learn more about addiction and how the illness has affected you. Recovery is also a chance to learn about the factors that might have led to addiction in the first place. A regular practice of mindfulness can bring insights and self-understanding. When you grow the ability to stay present, you also grow your ability to become more aware of yourself. And with awareness you can then make different choices.

Mindfulness is an important practice of rewiring the brain. Staying present with your experience gives you the ability to notice your thinking, change your thoughts, become aware of your triggers, and stop yourself when you think you might do something to sabotage your recovery. In fact, many recovering addicts have found mindfulness to be an essential practice for healing.

Your Prescription for a Dose of Virtual Reality

Using your senses to fight depression | Transcend Texas

In a recent study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, virtual reality was discovered to perform as well as narcotics in reducing pain. The CEO of startup company AppliedVR, Matthew Stoudt, hopes that in the near future, doctors will start prescribing doses of virtual reality rather than doses of pain pills.

AppliedVR has joined forces with Cedars in an effort to effectively combat and manage pain in a whole new way, through the advancements of digital technology. If successful, this powerhouse partnership could forever change the medical playing field as we know it. The breakthrough could revolutionize patient care.

Currently, the startup is still in the process of building an extensive library of virtual-reality content for alleviating pain and anxiety before, during, and after medical procedures. With working alongside of many various hospitals, and with the help of doctors, patients who are using the technology on Samsung’s Gear VR headset are being monitored for effectiveness.

Rachel Metz, MIT Technology Review’s senior editor for mobile, reports that:

“So far, the company has created three different virtual-reality pain applications, as well as one for reducing anxiety, Stoudt says, and it’s using some third-party content, too. Headsets running AppliedVR’s platform are being used in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics for things like drawing blood and administering epidurals, as well as for pain management after operations.”

Read the full article here.