After a brutal week of everything from lost contracts to managing employees' expectations and simply struggling with the day-to-day operations of owning a business, I was feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Interestingly, when there is a diagnosis of mental health challenges that include depression, it is difficult to discern whether the depression is based on a chemical imbalance in the brain or due to life stressors. In any case, the feelings are the same, i.e. a feeling of isolation, fear, tiredness, hopelessness and intense indescribable sadness.

All I wanted to do was stay in bed, which is known to suck the life force out of you. I often hear from people that they are either on their way home from work to get in the bed or that they can't even get out of bed when experiencing depression. There was one situation wherein a prominent pastor of a church reached out to me to discuss that her severe depression had kept in the bed for a couple of days and she gave others the excuse that she simply wasn't feeling well. After listening to her, I suggested that she get up and take a shower. I recommended that she take a shower and use a soap that had a fragrance different than what she was accustomed to. I have found that this can help a person move through their depression. There is something about the smells and invigorating the senses that allow you to feel better.

Thinking back on that conversation, I decided to do the same for myself. I dragged myself to the tub and filled it with hot water and Calgon. The smell filled the room and my senses were awakened. I then opened a new bar of fragranced soap and lathered up. I truly began to feel better instantly.

I write about this because you may simply have a hard day at work and need to release tension. Instead of making that stiff drink, pouring a glass of wine, watching a mindless television show, or crawling into the bed...take a bath or step in the shower and stimulate your senses. This is known as aromatherapy. According to Wikipedia Aromatherapy uses plant materials and aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering one's mood, cognitive, psychological or physical well-being.

There are two primary ways to introduce scents into your system: inhalation and absorption. Inhalation can be achieved while at your desk. You can rub an essential oil between your hands and cup your hands over your nose to breathe in the scent. In your home you can use a diffuser or warmer. Then there is the bath, where you can immerse yourself in the scent. The bath also can be used for absorption as you sit and soak for 20 minutes or more. Absorption can also be achieved by applying an essential oil directly to the skin or massaging in for a length of time. I have found adding an essential oil to a scentless lotion is wonderful to start my day.

Aromatherapy is actually a profitable industry. When we think of aromatherapy we usually think of the holistic practitioner or spa professional. However, store shelves are filled with candles, oils, and sprays for consumers who don't think of the products as alternative medicine but rather a way to make their environment soothing, refreshing, or warm. I think on a subconscious level, people recognize the benefits and buy the products.

If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, or any emotional mental health challenge and you simply want to release those feelings, try aromatherapy. I am not advocating that it should replace therapy or even medication, if there are severe persistent symptoms or a diagnosis. I am saying that stimulating your senses can improve your mental well-being. And, the great thing about aromatherapy is that it can be achieved and practiced anywhere. You can rub an essential oil on your hand and inhale before entering or exiting a stressful meeting. The list of uses is endless.

If you would like to experience aromatherapy here are some scents and their purposes according to www.aromatherapy.com:

Stress Relief

Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Patchouli, Vanilla, Ylang Ylang

Anxiety/Fear

Bergamot, Chamomile (Roman), Cedarwood, Frankincense, Jasmine, Lavender, Neroli, Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood

Sadness/Grief

Bergamot, Chamomile (Roman), Clary Sage, Frankincense, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Rose, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang

Fatigue

Basil, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Ginger, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lemon, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sandalwood

Agitation

Chamomile (Roman), Lavendar, Mandarin, Sandalwood

Published on: Feb 3, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.