The challenges of being in lockdown come in all different shapes and sizes: some people are experiencing the loneliness of feeling isolated from friends and family; others are juggling home schooling whilst working from home and trying to keep family life on track; others are facing redundancy or financial worries .... or a combination of several of these issues. Everyone across the world is dealing with the massive uncertainly which the corona virus has brought to all of our lives virtually overnight with no real end-game in sight, plus the accompanying health worries of the epidemic both for oneself and for others, especially the most vulnerable.

What can we do to help ourselves and our family get through these difficult times on a day to day basis as well as to try and keep a positive attitude in the months ahead and for the longer term future? Advice from the psychologists and behavioural scientists stress the importance of establishing a daily routine to give ourselves a sense of structure since many of our usual outer guidelines have fallen away. This is especially important for children who are required to stay at home, since attending school generally provides them with both a daily framework for learning, as well as clearly established goals to be accomplished. Creating a structure is also the age-old value of ritual: a repeated activity that creates a sense of security purely through the repetition of a prescribed, familiar event.

Introducing small everyday rituals in our daily routine, enhanced by the use of natural aromatics, can help to lift our spirits and make us feel more at ease in uncertain times. Essential oils and natural aromatics have been used for thousands of years for precisely this purpose: as perfumes, as incense materials, for bathing and in fragrant massage oils. Scientific research has shown that scent can indeed help elevate our mood, lift depression, help soothe grief and ease feelings of fear or anxiety.

Each essential oil has a unique composition and individual effect: lavender oil, for example, is well-known for helping alleviate headaches and induce relaxation; the scent of rose is comforting to the heart and can help bring relief in times of loss; whilst bergamot can help to lift the spirits, easing anxiety. Oils such as these can be used as natural body perfumes by dabbing a few drops on the wrist or on a piece of clothing - but remember to always do a patch test before putting a new oil on your skin.

Oils such as lemon or grapefruit make delightful uplifting room fragrances in their own right whilst oils such as clary sage or frankincense can help induce a sense of calm by deepening the breathing and soothing the nervous system. These essential oils can simply be added to an electric room vaporiser or to a more traditional oil burner in order to scent a room whilst at the same time purifying the atmosphere. I have also formulated a range of unique ‘diffusion blends’ which include ‘Sacred Space’ to help induce a calm, meditative state of mind; ‘Deep Sleep’ to encourage a good nights rest; ‘Brighten’ to elevate the spirits; and ‘Serenity’ based on orange blossom, to help alleviate anxiety and worry.

Bathing is a daily necessity which can easily be transformed through the use of natural aromatics into a life-enhancing ritual. Running a warm bath before retiring to bed, both for yourself or for family members including children, can help bring the day to a close in calm and pleasant way. Many children like the scent of roman chamomile, for example, and since it is naturally relaxing, a few drops added to their bath water can help them drift off to sleep. For a more exotic experience, a few drops of an oil such ylang ylang or jasmine can be added to the bathwater, perhaps accompanied by candlelight and a glass of wine.

A little self-massage using an aromatic oil blend when the skin is warm after a bath or shower is another short-cut way of creating a greater sense of well-being. Massage between family members is also a sensitive way of showing care for another person ... and it doesn’t mean anyone needs to be an expert in specific massage techniques. Just rubbing the shoulders and neck or gently massaging the face of a partner or friend is a wonderfully soothing experience in itself with multiple health benefits. Who doesn’t like having their feet massaged, for example? My granddaughter absolutely loves it .. and will often request an aromatic foot massage with lavender given the opportunity at bedtime! For ready-made massage oils, you can choose from one of my bespoke blends, such as ‘Aches & Pains’, ‘After Dark’, ‘Tranquility’, ‘0riental Spice’, ‘Vitality’ or my daughter’s favourite, ‘Purity’.

Keeping a positive attitude when times are hard is vital and it is important to try and find ways to deal with stress however it presents itself. In my book, ‘Aromatherapy and the Mind: An Exploration into the Psychological and Emotional Effects of Essential Oils’, I trace the history of aromatics as tools to alter our state of mind, starting with their use as incense and perfumes in ancient civilisation right up their present day employment in therapy centres, hospitals and in the home or office.

In this context, modern research studies have shown that oils such as basil, clove, fennel, geranium, jasmine, orange, pine, rosemary and ylang ylang can help ease depression by having a stimulating effect on our nervous system; conversely, oils such as bay, bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, lavender, melissa, neroli, rose and valerian can help to ease anxiety by having a sedative effect on our nervous system. If you are interested to read more about how specific essential oils can help lift your spirits and transform your moods and emotions, ‘Aromatherapy & the Mind’ is available as an ebook published by Harper Collins.