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3 Ways to Re-Wire Your Brain to Reduce Stress

by Jodi Cohen

Stress is the root of all disease – it shuts down digestion, detoxification and immune function (Read more here) which can trigger disease (Read more here).

And stress hormones, like cortisol, are corrosive to the body and contribute to systemic inflammation, impacting the gut and our mood, throwing  blood sugar levels out of balance, and contributing to sleep issues and fatigue.

Fortunately, essential oils for stress are uniquely suited to re-wire your brain to reduce your stress.  More specifically, stress triggers the following responses in the brain:


1. “Fight or Flight” Response

The Autonomic Nervous System has two branches – the Sympathetic “Fight or Flight” branch and the Parasympathetic “Rest and Digest” State.  Stress activates Sympathetic survival response, which effectively turns off everything not relevant to immediate survival, including digestion, detoxification and immune function.  In the sympathetic state, blood flow is routed away from the organs of digestion toward muscles in the arms and legs in preparation for flight.  The sympathetic state also increases heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate.  The vagal nerve serves as the on/off switch between the sympathetic and parasympathetic states.

To rewire your brain to reduce stress, you can apply Parasympathetic™ oil to the vagus nerve to stimulate the Parasympathetic™ nervous system.

2. HPA Axis Stress Response

Stress triggers hypothalamus in the brain to initiate the hormonal stress response in the endocrine system.  This response involves a three-part Chain of Command, known as the HPA Axis.

HPA stands for:

  1. H = Hypothalamus, a pearl size region of the brain that serves as control center for neural and hormonal messages received from/sent to body. Upon receiving a stress message, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland.
  2. P = Pituitary is the Hormone Middle Man.It receives hormonal messages from the hypothalamus, and translates these messages into hormones distributed to the thyroid, adrenals, and sex organs.  When triggered by the hypothalamus, the pituitary sends a message to the adrenals to produce cortisol.
  3. A = Adrenal glands produce and release the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol’s main job is to provide energy to fuel our body through the stressful situation.  Chronic cortisol release keeps the body’s repair and healing processes shut down.

Our Hypothalamus™ and Adrenal™ blends can help calm the stress response and keep cortisol levels in balance.


3. Limbic System Response

The stress state can be driven not only by physical stressors, but by emotional and thought driven stress.  The limbic system, a complex system of nerves and networks in the brain, analyzes and filters incoming stimuli to determine if it is a threat to our survival.  You might think of the limbic system as a really highly sensitized security system.  It categorizes all sensory input as either a threat or a non- threat based on past experience.

When the limbic system is damaged, this filtering process can become impaired and alter the way that the brain and body interpret, encode and react to sensory or emotional stimuli that it would usually disregard as not representing a danger to the body.

When not functioning properly, a hypersensitive limbic system categorizes non- threatening stimuli as threatening, triggering involuntary trauma patterns and contributing to distorted unconscious reactions, sensory perceptions and protective responses. In other words, Limbic System Impairment can sensitize the brain to a negative stress response and keep us stuck in a Sympathetic Dominant viscous cycle. Read more about Limbic System Impairment HERE.

Essential oils can be used to re-wire your brain to reduce stress by interrupting brain patterns, like thought patterns and emotions that trigger a stress response.   Since the sense of smell links directly to the amygdala in the Limbic Lobe of the brain, essential oils can be used to reset the volume on threat perception, and help calm the over-firing of protective mechanism that either fire too rapidly or too often.  When we rewire neural circuits in the limbic system, it can impact our stress response, emotion, pain, memory and physiology.



Essential Oils for Stress

Essential Oils are uniquely suited to access and heal the brain (read more here) and support stress (read more here), making them ideal tools to help the brain build resilience to stress.


Parasympathetic™:  The Parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is aptly called the “rest and digest” state.  When the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, your mind and body relax.  This, in turn, reduces the production of stress hormones and allows for happy and healing hormones to be produced.  It also turns on your immune system.  This is one key reason why the parasympathetic state is so conducive to healing.  To trigger the parasympathetic state, simply apply a drop of the Parasympathetic™ blend to the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) before meals to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system “rest-and-digest” state.


: Often referred to as the “master gland”, the hypothalamus acts as the hormonal control center for neural and hormonal messages received from/sent to body and plays a key role in the body’s stress response. The production of growth hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, are all governed by the hypothalamus.   It is constantly reading blood the levels of hormones, and adjusting resulting signals sent to the body to maintain internal balance (homeostasis).  Chronic and prolonged stress can damage the hypothalamus’s ability to receive clear messages from the body which then impacts all outgoing endocrine and neural signals. Applying Vibrant Blue Oils Hypothalamus™ blend over the third eye may help reset the natural ability of the hypothalamus to send and receive clear messages to and from the body.


Adrenal™: Our adrenal glands help determine and regulate the body’s stress response by secreting key hormones that regulate energy production and storage. Prolonged periods of stress can deplete our reserves of these hormones.  Much like adaptogenic herbs, Vibrant Blue Oils Adrenal™ blend helps increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress and maintain healthy adrenal function.  Apply Adrenal™ over the adrenal glands on the lower back (back of the body, one fist up from the 12th rib).


Emotion Balance™ Blends:  Your thoughts and stress levels impact the limbic system which in turn throw off your immune system and hormones.  It has been well researched that happy people have fewer stress hormones and a stronger immune systems.  Emotion Support oils help you release negative thought patterns and emotions and affirm positive beliefs to buffers and protect you against the stress response that can weaken your immune system.  My favorite emotion support blends are Liver Support™ to release anger, Small Intestine Support™ to support healthy boundaries, Spleen Support™ to release worries and bolster the immune system and Uplift™ for general joy and happiness.



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About The Author

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.

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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Subscribe to Vibrant Blue Oils and receive weekly information on oils and how to use them. As a bonus, we’ll send out Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils to your inbox immediately!