Writing can be a highly pressured occupation: if it’s not deadlines, it’s trying to grab an hour at the key board amid demands of domestic imperatives – especially if they are home from school. I am familiar with other people’s stress because as well as being a writer, I am a relaxation therapist – almost an act of self preservation.
Part of my role is to provide therapeutic balms for my clients. I make them myself, blending clinical quality essential oils with organic base oils, and thickening with beeswax.
Some of these oils can be particularly helpful in a writer’s lifestyle, so I thought I would share a few tips with you.
Rosemary oil, from Rosmarinus officinalis, is an energising oil and especially good for boosting brainpower, concentration, and memory. The Greek philosophers associated rosemary with Apollo, a solar deity who also presided over poetry, music and philosophy. I put a few drops on a tissue and inhale from time to time to kick-start the grey cells on sluggish mornings. And on sunny days, I pop out to the garden between writing tasks for a quick sniff of my three metre rosemary hedge. An essential oil is highly concentrated and much more potent though, and you should avoid rosemary essential oil if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffer from epilepsy.
Lavender oil is well known for its analgesic and soothing qualities. Of the several varieties of lavender plants, the most therapeutic is Lavandula angustifolia, also known as L.vera, true or English lavender (other varieties are used more for their fragrance). When sleep won’t come – characters roaming my mind looking to swop plots, to-do lists forming behind my eyelids – a few drops of lavender oil on the pillow help me to relax and sleep better. A smudge of lavender oil on the temples or back of the neck relieves a headache (lavender is the only essential oil that is safe to use directly on the skin in small quantities), and a few drops in the bath are sheer heaven.
Here is a delicious way to relieve exhaustion, or to sooth aching limbs:
Switch the phone off. Fill the bath to a comfortably warm temperature (if it’s too hot, the oils will evaporate too quickly). Immediately before stepping into the water, add 1 drop of camomile oil, 2 drops of geranium oil, and 2 drops of lavender oil. Swish the water around gently, immerse yourself and enjoy! Dry off gently to leave traces of oil on your skin for longer. (Don’t be tempted to use more drops: the benefit is in the dilution and balance).
If you’ve had something to celebrate lately, here’s how to relieve the hang-over:
Fill the bath with comfortably warm water. Add 1 drop of fennel oil, 2 drops of juniper berry oil, and 1 drop of rosemary oil. Swish the water gently, immerse yourself and swear to drink less next time. (Avoid fennel oil if pregnant, breastfeeding, or the skin is highly sensitive or damaged).
And my particular favourite, to revive tired, aching feet:
Put sufficient warm water in a foot bath or large enough bowl – not the washing-up bowl, please – to cover your feet without flooding the floor. Before putting your feet in, add 2 drops of juniper-berry oil, 2 drops of lavender oil, and 2 drops of rosemary oil. Stir the water and put both feet in – sigh.
If there is space under your desk, you can soak your feet while you write – it could have an amazing effect on your prose – but you need to plan this before putting your feet into the water…
Safe use of essential oils:
Essential oils are extracted from living plants. They are an amazing gift from nature for our wellbeing, but they are potent and should be used with respect: never use more drops than recommended on the bottle. If using essential oils for massage, always dilute with vegetable-based oils as directed on the bottle before applying directly onto the skin. Use only pure essential oils – not synthetic substitutes.
To retain their therapeutic qualities, store them tightly sealed in a cool place and, most important, out of the reach of children. Good brands provide a tamper-proof screw cap and a dispenser inside the neck of the bottle that releases one drop at a time. This allows for accurate measuring and is also an extra safety measure against inquisitive little fingers.
And while you are here, take a short break from words, relax for a moment of quiet contemplation with images of nature. Enjoy!
(This post does not contain medical advice. If you have health issues, consult a health practitioner before trying therapeutic products new to you).