It’s a common theme these days.

There is so much of the unknown that we are having to face, and we are trying to make decisions for which we can’t possibly know the outcome.

In my academic life my professor colleagues are all trying to figure out how to become competent online instructors. Almost none of us are trained to do this kind of thing. Our journey through academia didn’t involve being students in an online setting. Heck, I didn’t even get email until my master’s degree, and that was definitely pre-Windows.

Enter our friend Overwhelm.

We all manage this in different ways. Some of us, like me, dive deep into learning mode. We try to learn everything we can about creating an online course (or insert other big scary thing) before we take the steps to start. Many of us get stuck in preparation mode.

Maybe it’s the impossible decision of whether or not to send our kids back to school. I’m there too. We spin through all the different scenarios. If we send them, then this might happen. If we decide to homeschool, then that might happen. Will there be the opportunity for distance learning? How will schools manage? What will it look like?

What then? We get stuck.

Enter Overwhelm’s best friend, Stress.

Stress is a word we see more and more often. At the university we see increasing numbers of students identifying as having stress. My colleagues all have it too, we just came through the system when it wasn’t something you talked about, you just dealt with it and moved on.

I’m not passing judgment about any of this. It’s liberating to be able to have a name to add to that debilitating feeling of fear of the unknown, the physical manifestations that come along with it, and the various ways that people experience stress and are triggered by it.

I never used to think I was an overly anxious person.

Looking back on things from our new lens of self-awareness I realize that I could have all kinds of labels. I still get debilitating social stress in various forms (I’ve learned to just deal with it). I used to get scratchy skin on my wrists and hands before recitals, what I used to call “recital rash”. It happened all the time.

Performance stress? Hell to the yes, every time. I’ve had a panic attack or two, one of which sent me to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. (It was “just stress”.)

When I was Chair the first time in 2014-18 all of this really got magnified. I got my starter kit of essential oils on this day in 2017, August 8th (happy anniversary to me!) and thank goodness I had them at my disposal for the extra, 4th year of administration.

My second round as a department Chair is just starting. Boy, I really ended up with a great time to run a music department (deeply sarcastic, in case you missed that). Thank goodness I have my oils, and this time around I know a lot more about how to use them.

Choose oils that work for you

Below is a list of my favourite essential oils for emotional support and coping with overwhelm and stress as I experience these emotions. Everyone is different. If you try essential oils for emotional support you may be drawn to different oils that I am. You may find that the oils that work for you may change over time, as they certainly do for me and many others.

Something to keep in mind when trying essential oils for emotional support is they’re unlikely to make the situation worse. Instincts work quite well, and if you’re comfortable letting yourself choose an oil based on what you feel like using, that’s great. You’ll never be wrong. Kids are great with this, by the way.

For my personal experiences and recommendations, please read on. If you’d like a deeper dive and some great dōTERRA resources on the subject, there are some resources for you at the bottom of this post.

My favourite essential oils for emotional support


Balance - Doterra Essential Oil for Emotional Support - The Essential Musician

This blend smells like a forest after the rain. When I first smelled Balance I thought, “Well that’s nice but what do I use it for?” It’s commonly referred to as a grounding oil. What the heck does that mean?

I would soon learn how powerful this oil can be.

Balance kept me alive during my last year of administration. I basically bathed in it. I’m someone who carries my stress in my chest, so I had a bottle of Balance close by at all times and any time I felt myself tightening up, or becoming triggered by someone (which happened more and more), or getting angry or overwhelmed, this is what I went for.

A couple of drops in the palms, big inhale, rub on chest, inhale some more. That usually takes the edge off pretty much immediately.

I have two stories about Balance.

Balance experience #1: Not for stage

I do not recommend Balance for stage. I had one of those performances where I was accompanying someone and I was not at all remotely ready. I was backstage and freaking out, which obviously doesn’t help anything. I grabbed my Balance and applied as usual. I walked out onto the stage and couldn’t care less that I was up there.

This is not how we want to feel on stage. The interesting thing about musicians is we have a pretty solid knowledge of how stress will affect us, so I knew that feeling as calm as it wasn’t my usual experience.

So, mental note: Balance works too well and makes you too calm on stage. If you need a bit of excitement and edge when you’re performing, don’t use Balance. But if you need to take the edge off in other situations, she works like a charm.

Balance experience #2: Halts “the spins” in its tracks

My dad is in his 80s and is skeptical of everything. He had to make a confrontational phone call that really had him nervous. When he ended the call I could see him starting to spiral into panic mode.

He has a heart condition so I watched him closely. When I saw him retreat inwards I quickly grabbed my Balance, put some in his palms and ordered him to inhale. He did. One breath. When he exhaled he opened his eyes and came right back to me. He said, “I don’t know what’s in that but I feel a lot better.”

To his credit he has reached for it on numerous occasions when I haven’t been there to order him to do it. He still reports that it works really well, and it works fast.

Here is more info about Balance.

dōTERRA Balance Uses and Benefits


Cheer- Doterra Essential Oil for Emotional Support - The Essential Musician

I am convinced that certain people are still walking the halls at my university with their lives intact directly because of Cheer. This is the blend I felt drawn to for daily mood management. When I was cranky about being at work and having to do a job I didn’t want to do, Cheer immediately helped me adjust so I could just get to work. It helped manage the grumpies, basically.

Also, I found myself using Cheer at the very end of my workday as I was getting ready to go home. It became an emotional line in the sand for me, separating work from home. It also allowed me to come home to my family with a positive mood rather than bringing home all the junk of the day and dumping it on them. That still happened sometimes, but Cheer really helped take the edge off.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it smells like cookies.

Here is more info about Cheer:

dōTERRA Cheer Uplifting Blend


Adaptiv Capsules - Doterra Essential Oil for Emotional Support - The Essential Musician

Adaptiv wasn’t around when I was Chair the first time but I’m so glad I have access to it now.

This has become my go-to oil for overwhelm. When I’m stuck in my ridiculous to-do list, or when I need to make a decision about something and move on, or when I just need to take the first step to do something big, Adaptiv always helps.

The Adaptiv system was designed for emotional support, and boy does it work. Diffuse the oil to make your room smell amazing and help you focus. Take the roller bottle with you and apply topically for a quick fix on the go. I’d also recommend trying the Adaptiv capsules (available in US warehouse).

Adaptiv under the spotlight

I was performing the piano part in an orchestral performance of West Side Story, and only had 12 days to learn the chart (there’s a lot of piano in that score). Understandably I was very nervous, and since we have a no-scent policy in the orchestra I decided to try an Adaptiv capsule before that performance.

We got into it, and I missed an entry. It was covered so it was not big deal, but I usually get a little rush of adrenaline when something like that happens. I usually enjoy the surge of focus that comes after that rush so I was looking for it.

But the rush never happened. That “whoosh” of panic that can either derail you or focus you just didn’t happen.

Aha! That’s the moment I fully understood what Adaptiv capsules do. They manage panic.

You’ll read all kinds of things about Adaptiv and GABA, which is great and all. But until you experience what it really feels like in action it’s hard to fully appreciate how powerful a tool these capsules really are.

Here are a few links with great info about the Adaptiv system.

Adaptiv system

Adaptiv Calming Blend Capsules and GABA

More Resources on Essential Oils for Emotional Support

If you prefer a little more information, here are some resources for you.

Also, please keep in mind that there are so many oils that have emotional benefits. If you try something and it doesn’t work the way you’re hoping it would, try something else. If you have an oily support person talk to them for some ideas.

How to Choose a Blend

This dōTERRA post shows the emotions wheel and divides oils into categories that may support what you need. It also indicates blends that may be of benefit to you, but you can also choose whatever other oils or blends that speak to you. It’s a good place to start.

Emotional Aromatherapy

Here is an e-book that takes a deeper dive into how aromatherapy works with emotions. This is great for those of you (like me) who want to know how things work.

Get your survival tools

Here are some links to get you started. All links include the blends mentioned here today: Balance, Cheer, Adaptiv.

Canadian links do not include the Adaptiv capsules but if you’re Canadian and interested in those please reach out to me for a special link.

All cart contents are completely customizable.


Wholesale account plus Balance, Cheer Touch, Adaptiv oil, Adaptiv Touch

Starter kit that includes wholesale account, Balance and Adaptiv and other goodies, plus Cheer Touch


Wholesale account plus Balance, Cheer Touch, Adaptiv system

Starter kit that includes wholesale account, Balance and Adaptiv and other goodies, plus Cheer Touch and Adaptiv Capsules