It seems that everyone is into aromatherapy these days. Many companies from natural health stores to companies specializing in essential oils/ aromatherapy to your next door neighbour who belongs to a network marketing company are selling essential oils and essential oil infused products.
Aromatherapy has so many benefits! It can improve focus, help deal with mental health and emotional issues, help support sleep, help with aches and pains and more. You and your colleagues can be more productive and focused, more alert, in better moods and healthier by using aromatherapy in the workplace. There is a BUT however. With more and more workplace environments being scent-free due to allergies and medical issues, how can we incorporate aromatherapy to help give us a boost in the office environment while keeping everyone safe and healthy?
I am going to start with what we should NOT do. How many times have you walked into a health food store or a company office only to be hit in the face with an overpowering aroma?
I’ll bet most of you are nodding your heads.
For some of you, it might be a pleasurable experience; for others it’s a nightmare. While the intention is good, presumably to make you feel good while you frequent their establishment, there are some problems with this.
The MAIN issue is the potential for contraindications - this is when people with certain medical conditions or who are on certain medications should not be using another medication, supplement, or yes, even an essential oil because of the potential for adverse affects. Some examples would include: someone with epilepsy or other seizure disorders, a woman who is pregnant or nursing, someone who is on blood thinners, someone on certain types of antidepressants. While much of the research on contraindications is with internal use (which I do NOT recommend) it is best to err on the side of caution to keep everyone safe. Some people may have an allergy or have adverse reactions, either physically or emotionally (mental health triggers) to certain essential oils/ aromas. The point here is unless you know every condition that everyone in your office or place of business has (you don’t) you should not be publicly diffusing essential oils.
I have many clients that have aversions to certain aromas or that have contraindications with certain essential oils. I think that I should mention here, this is a relatively new thing for me too. Before I studied aromatherapy and explored trauma informed aromatherapy I used to assume that everyone finds the same scents that I do pleasurable. Then I stopped to think, there are aromas that I do NOT like, some that most people do (lavender in my case). That was the Ah-ha moment and why I think it is important that I share this with you. If you run a health clinic of any kind or a yoga studio or gym it can be tempting to have a diffuser running to calm everyone or to make them feel good. What you may not realize is that you could be diffusing an essential oil or an essential oil blend that certain people a) should not be around, b) do not like, and c) could be triggered by ( bringing up unpleasant emotions and or memories, think PTSD).
That is why you shouldn't....let’s be responsible and considerate.
Here are some suggestions for using aromatherapy safely and considerately in the workplace.
1) I am saying this again, avoid public diffusion; if you want a subtle aroma maybe have some clay beads or lava stone with a couple of drops of a safe essential oil on it. BUT that is only if everyone in the office is OK with it and if you do not have clients coming in. Consult with a certified aromatherapist on oils that are safe for everyone AND consult with your team to be sure they are OK with it. Maybe send around a simple anonymous questionnaire if people are not comfortable sharing. If you want to contact me I can help with that.
2) If you want to purify the air or remove odours using a spray or diffuser, consider running the diffuser or spraying 30- 60 minutes before people arrive or after they leave for the day and be sure the diffuser, if that is what you are using, is off for a few minutes before anyone arrives.
3) Suggest personal diffusion devices, like aroma sticks or aromastones (which I have recently started making for my clients) that they can use to support their own needs. Maybe they need a pick me up mid- day or are prone to cold and flu and need some support, maybe they are anxious before meetings or presentations, maybe they are prone to headaches, there are so many things that aromatherapy is good for on an individual basis in the work environment. One size does not fit all. Personal aromatherapy devices that do not intrude in other peoples space can be beneficial to the whole office. Individuals can have different personal blends for their own needs.
4) If you are an employer, consider adding visits to a professional aromatherapist to the list of covered options in your employees wellness spending account as part of their insurance coverage. This will allow more people to experience the benefits that aromatherapy has to offer in a safe and effective way.
Aromatherapy is a powerful tool to support our well being, it is about much more than smell. However, smell, which is a big part of aromatherapy is a powerful thing, it can be pleasant and helpful or can be unpleasant and potentially harmful if not used correctly. Let’s use aromatherapy safely, considerately and responsibly. Contact a trained aromatherapist to help you incorporate aromatherapy into your wellness routine which includes supporting your well being at work.
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We, as settlers, acknowledge that we practice our craft on the unceded and unsurrendered traditional territory of the Wolastoqiyik and Mi'kmaq. We are all treaty people under the Peace and friendship Treaties. We are committed to honouring their stewardship of the land in our work and our lives.
Fawn Last is a life long learner and educator with degrees in biology and geology. She left an academic career to become a certified aromatherapist and continues to learn as she helps others find ways to support their wellbeing using aromatherapy.
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