A calming, serene setting (Gregor Schuster | Getty Images)

If the day-to-day grind is really wearing you down--we're talking physical, mental, emotional wipeout--then take note: A potent solution might be mere sniffs away.



Aromatherapy appears to be an effective remedy for symptoms of burnout, according to a new study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine. The phenomenon of "burnout," if you're lucky enough to be unfamiliar with it, is akin to stress but more severe in nature. It's also difficult to define and even diagnose, according to the National Institutes of Health, because symptoms can vary so widely. What experts do know, however, is that burnout tends to be characterized by fatigue, aches and pains, a cynical attitude toward work, and reduced productivity at the office and at home.
Coming back from a period of burnout can be a lengthy process, but aromatherapy appears to hasten it: In this randomized, double-blind trial, participants afflicted with moderate burnout used personal inhalers containing either a mixture of essential oils or rose water (the placebo). After one week, the aromatherapy group experienced a significant reduction in self-reported burnout symptoms, while the rose water group didn't enjoy much benefit at all.


Given what experts already know about aromatherapy's myriad benefits, the finding makes sense: Earlier research indicates that the right essential oils can reduce the body's stress response, enhance energy levels, and curb high blood pressure. Given that burnout involves all three of those health woes, aromatherapy is a logical (and all-natural) fix.

So which scents are best for busting burnout? These three already have scientific support:


Sandalwood: A few drops of this musky scent can help alleviate constant worrying, says Hope Gillerman, an aromatic healer and founder of H. Gillerman Organics. Dab a few drops on your chest, and then close your eyes and count your inhales: Inhale one, inhale two, inhale three, inhale four, etc. When you lose count, start back at one and keep counting until you feel your tension ease.

Citrus scents: According to several recent studies, zesty aromas (think orange, grapefruit, and bergamot) can alleviate physiological symptoms of stress. "With any citrus smell, lessened anxiety always seems to emerge as a benefit," says Barbara Thomley, lead coordinator for the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic. People respond to different aromas, so Thomley suggests experimenting with various scents. "If you like the smell, and it has positive connotations for you, you'll experience the most benefit," she says.

Peppermint: Curb work-related burnout during your commute with peppermint scents: In a recent NASA-funded study, 25 participants in driving scenarios reported decreased feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and frustration.