After being diagnosed with psoriasis at the age of 10, there has always been a part of me that has loved the winter. Winter meant I got to wear long sleeves and pants without anyone noticing my skin. While that was a major plus, winter also meant being indoors more, seeing less sunshine, and fewer social activities with my friends. While a huge part of me was relieved to be able to hide a little more, I also found myself feeling more lonely and isolated.
Since getting older, I have seen that some form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — or just having lower energy in the winter compared to the summer — is common for many people, whether or not they have a chronic illness. Something else I’ve discovered? People who have a chronic illness tend to be more sensitive to this phenomenon. This, I posit, is largely due to the fact that they’re always having to push through the pain and struggles of managing their daily symptoms.
With winter in full swing, it can be easy for your mood to be affected by the darker days and colder weather. Fortunately, there are so many things we can do or try that can help to keep our spirits high and keep the weather from bringing us down.
One way that I add a bit of joy to my day in the winter months — which is both super easy to incorporate and not going to break the bank — are essential oils.
Yes! Essential oils have tremendous healing properties and have been known to uplift our spirits, keep us grounded, and even help boost our happiness levels.
With just a few drops of diluted oil on your pulse points — to start off your day, or just when you feel a dip in your mood — you can find out for yourself how effective they are. I’ve also used them on my skin when my psoriasis was particularly stubborn or I when was experiencing a challenging flare-up.
Pro tip: When using these oils for the first time, be sure to do a skin test so that you can be sure you don’t have a negative reaction to them. And always dilute 3-5 drops of essential oil with an ounce of carrier oil!
Read on to learn about four different essential oils that could help you thrive this winter!
Sandalwood has always been one of my favorite oils because it instantly makes me feel so grounded and centered in my body. It’s used a lot in spiritual rituals and infused in incense to use for prayer and meditation. Even if those things aren’t part of your practice, the oil on its own is incredibly powerful and soothing to your senses.
Tea tree oil is most commonly used for facial blemishes and breakouts. That’s what I used it for until I realized that it can also help to reduce inflammation, prevent infection, and stimulate the immune system — all properties that support the healing process of psoriasis as well as other chronic illnesses. It’s strong, so be sure to dilute when applying!
An essential oil that’s infused in everything from lattes and cookies to beauty products, lavender is a great starter oil. It has a calming effect on your senses, which means that with just a few quick inhalations you will start to feel your stress relieved — crucial when dealing with chronic illness. Lavender also has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to promote skin growth and healing.
While this oil also has antibacterial properties that are beneficial to the skin, that’s not what I typically use it for. I primarily use lemon essential oil to lift my mood. I remember the first time I tried it, I was having what felt like the hardest day. My friend shared with me some lemon essential oil mixed with a little coconut oil and it was like feeling the sun inside my whole body. Total magic!
Pro tip: Speaking of sun, if you apply any citrus oils to your skin, stay out of the sun. There can be a significant skin reaction to sunlight if you use these on your skin.
Whether you’re planning to add these essential oils to an Epsom salt bath (which I highly recommend!) or take a few deep breaths of one before you sleep, I invite you to start incorporating them into your wellness routine.
Start with the one that calls out to you the most, or go to a store and smell them all to see which one feels (or smells) best to you. When dealing with a chronic illness, there’s always so much to manage — so don’t make this another thing to add to your plate. Have fun with it and find the joy in discovering a new scent that helps lift your spirits in these dreary winter months!
Essential oils aren’t monitored or approved by the FDA, so purchase products that have a reputation for purity and quality. Always dilute all essential oils in a carrier oil before applying to the skin or in the bath. Essential oils can also be diffused into the air and inhaled. Do not swallow essential oils. Consult your doctor or a certified aromatherapist for more information about using essential oils for your health.
Article originally appeared on January 16, 2018 on Bezzy’s sister site, Healthline. Last medically reviewed on January 16, 2018.