Anxiety is Affecting Your Sense of Smell
I'm a Mental Health counselor by day and a Scentsy consultant by night (not really, but I always get a kick out of saying it like that, ha!) Anyway, you can imagine that I'm a huge nerd when it comes to learning about the brain and human behavior. My goal in counseling is to give my clients practical and helpful strategies so that they feel confident about their ability to tackle on challenges! One of those strategies includes using scents to help them relax. Typically, I recommend specific scents that are known to induce relaxation.
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Yes, we all have scents that we consider soothing; however, I personally never thought about the depth of the relationship between anxiety and our sense of smell. To properly explain their connection, let's discuss what anxiety is. Anxiety is a comprehensive condition that involves much more than just fears and phobias. It's something that affects not only your mood and body, but our senses as well. Everything in your life is affected by your anxiety, including your sense of smell. Let me explain!
Scent Sensitivity can Impact the Development of Anxiety
Your sensitivity to smells can impact the development of anxiety; especially if these smells make you feel self-conscious! Have you ever left home forgetting to put on deodorant and you felt like you smelled all day? Think of how much it affected your mood, confident, and how much it made you feel anxious. Imagine if you were self-conscious about your clothes, your house, and your body smelling bad all the time, surely, you’d develop a negative self-image. Scents are incredibly powerful, and there is some evidence that your sense of smell is actually better associated with memory than your vision or other senses. So it's possible that when you worry about your own smell - even if you don't smell at all or smell "normal" - you start to overthink your own presence, and that can lead to the development of social anxiety and generalized anxiety.
Anxiety Can Create Smell Sensitivity
On the flip side, anxiety itself can, in fact, cause you to increase your sensitivity to smells. Your senses are naturally heightened when you’re anxious (this goes back to the cave man days where survival required the person to hike up his/her senses to fend off danger). Our body still responds anxiety the way people did in the primitive days, come on brain, get with the times! Because our brain still thinks it’s a life or death situation when we are anxious, we become more receptive to different scents especially with regards to bad smells.
If you start to notice that when you have anxiety you notice almost every negative smell around you, especially as you walk, or you feel as though you're smelling bad things that aren't actually there, you may have developed an increase in your smell sensitivity. Normally your mind filters out scents it doesn't think are important, but when you have anxiety, it may pick up on those scents more than ever before!
Anxiety Can Create Smells
Most people that are concerned about their own scent actually don't smell. They've simply grown self-conscious of their scent and assume that they smell poorly all the time.They even smell themselves and any time they smell anything even remotely bad, they assume everyone else can smell it too! I remember a time I had two important meetings at work and I had spilled the balsamic vinegar from my salad on my shirt. Besides the ugly stain, I kept getting whiffs of it all day! I thought people could smell me all the way to Hawaii.. speaking of Hawaii, I'd do anything to be there right now!
Anxiety Can Be Reduced By Smells
Ironically, smells can actually reduce anxiety. Yay for solutions! The traditional practice of this is called aromatherapy. There is some evidence that pleasant smells can help with anxiety, especially if they're combined with a relaxing atmosphere. One strategy is to take advantage of classical conditioning - a behavioral tool that you can use to associate relaxation with smells. Find a smell that you love and put yourself in an extremely relaxing situation. Maybe take a bath, play relaxing music, etc. Then release the smell and enjoy every bit of it! Try doing this a few more times for a while, and always allow yourself to be in as stress free an environment as possible. Then, once you've associated that smell with the relaxing environment, try smelling the scent when you're feeling stressed. You may find that the scent relaxes you, because you've associated the smell with relaxation.
Let's test out the theory, picture yourself in this beautiful garden and focus on the smells you are encountering while you walk through. Once you've done that, scale your anxiety level from 1-5.
Let me know your results!
Overcoming Anxiety and Smell Issues
No matter what the cause of your anxiety or what its symptoms are, you need to work with a comprehensive strategy to cure it. recommend that you speak with a professional to get to the core of your anxiety in addition to utilizing scents to help you decrease your anxiety.
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Independent Scentsy Director