New research from Australia shows that emergency room nurses -- who certainly have a high-stress job -- calmed down when they got brief aromatherapy massage sessions at work.
The nurses were in their late 30s and had worked as nurses for nearly eight years, on average. They rated their anxiety level at the start of the study.
More than half of the nurses had moderate to extreme anxiety levels -- but that was before they settled in for an aromatherapy massage.
During the aromatherapy massage sessions, the nurses chose from a menu of fragrances that included rose, lavender, lime, and an "ocean breeze" mix of lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, and patchouli scents.
Each nurse sat in a chair and listened to New Age music played through headphones. A licensed massage therapist spritzed the scent chosen by the nurse above the nurse's head. The therapist then massaged the nurse's shoulders, mid back, neck, scalp, forehead, and temples for 15 minutes.
The nurses unwound during the massage -- only 8% of them reported moderate to extreme anxiety after their massage.
It's not clear what relaxed the nurses most: the aromatherapy, the massage, the music -- or just taking a break from their hectic day.
Future studies should be done to figure that out, note the researchers, who included Marie Cooke, PhD, RN, MSPD, deputy head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Australia's Griffith University.
The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
(Have you tried aromatherapy for stress? Tell us how it worked for you and get feedback from an expert on WebMD's Stress Management: Melanie Eller, RN, MSN, message board.)