Stress Awareness with Kate Ross Leblanc of Saje Natural Wellness

Stress Awareness with Kate Ross Leblanc of Saje Natural Wellness

Stress is a hard-to-avoid, daily occurrence in most of our lives. Whether from pressure we place on ourselves, or pressure from work or relationships, it can damage on both our minds and bodies. Headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, an inability to concentrate, or (some would argue) even contribute to serious disease—stress can reveal itself in a myriad ways.

In observance of National Stress Awareness Day, we’re reminding you to take some time for yourself, to go for a long walk or have a hot bath—and of course, smell the flowers.

Need help with your de-stressing plan? We spoke to Kate Ross LeBlanc, the founder and CEO of Saje Natural Wellness which just opened new a new store in Toronto after 23 years operating solely out of British Columbia, about how to manage and what scents can help alleviate certain stress-induced issues.

ANST1481FIRST QUESTION: Stress has a huge impact on our daily lives—can you talk a bit about how it affects us?

KATE ROSS LEBLANC: Stress is definitely subjective; something that causes me stress might be easy for someone else to handle. It exists everywhere, from pressure we put on ourselves, to outside variables we have no control over. We give the word “stress” a lot of power. I like to remind myself that stress is synonymous with change, meaning that stress also occurs when something positive happens such as a promotion at work or a second date with someone we really like. We have a tendency to view stress as purely negative. Just as we can see nervousness as fuel or “an adrenaline rush” before a big presentation, we can use stress as a motivator to initiate positive change in our lives.

Q: How do you approach treating or reducing stress?

LEBLANC: For me, it’s more about how I choose to react to stress, as stress affects each and every one of us differently. Since there will always be stressors or variables we don’t have control over, the best suggestion I can offer is to be open to changing your perspective about stress. Our thoughts are incredibly powerful and knowing that there will inevitably be challenges in life, if we see these as opportunities for growth, we can manage our stress with more grace and ease. We can also use the tools we have around us, such as natural remedies, for extra support. Essential oils of lavender, chamomile, neroli, rosewood and many more are all great for easing the stresses of daily life.

Q: Can you talk about the link between scent and its relation to relaxation? 

LEBLANC: The olfactory system, our sense of smell, is directly connected to the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is sometimes referred to as the “reptilian brain” as it is instinctive. Response to scent is automatic, meaning we don’t have time to think about a smell before deciding whether we like it or not. It is also tied in with both our memories and our emotions, which is why, in rare cases, some people don’t like scents that most find relaxing. If they have a painful memory associated with a scent, it will be off-putting, and again, this response is automatic.

When humans relied solely on our senses to keep us safe from harm, the sense of smell directed us towards plants that were good for us and away from plants that were poisonous. Even today, in our Saje stores, some blends are attractive to some while repellent to others. However, we stopped relying on our sense of smell to keep us safe so it stopped working for us in that way. If we really check in though, as we use our sense of smell, we automatically know what will relax us.


The Pocket Pharmacy Station in a Saje Natural Wellness Store.

Q: What are some specific scents that help to relieve stress or promote relaxation?

LEBLANC: A blend of essential oils is so much more powerful than a single note oil due to the increased potency and combined healing powers of the oils, so I would say our Stress ReleaseUnwind, and Tranquility blends would relieve stress and promote relaxation. For example, the Stress Release Bath, Body and Massage Oil combines lavender, chamomile, orange and vetiver to soothe, balance and help alleviate mild symptoms of anxiety and nervousness. For single note oils, typically, lavender, chamomile, marjoram, vetiver, patchouli, neroli, rosewood, cedarwood, and sandalwood are all very calming and soothing.

Q: How and why do these scents work to relieve stress and promote relaxation?

LEBLANC: When inhaled or applied topically, essential oils have a great impact on our mental and emotional wellness. Because they are cleansing, when inhaled, they cause us to open our lungs and breathe more deeply, similar to the effect of walking in a rainforest or by the ocean. When we breathe more deeply, the body relaxes and tension is released. As blood flow becomes more regulated, constricted blood vessels relax, helping us to think more clearly. As well, the association (memory/emotion) connected with essential oils that are deeply relaxing is soothing to the mind, calming anxiety, stress and irritability.

Q: If you could impart one piece of advice to help people find a way to relax, what would it be? 

LEBLANC: No matter what happens, you will get through it, so make the journey an adventure!

For more ways to de-stress, why not try a scented, bathtub soak?

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Alexandra Donaldson is the editorial assistant at The Whale & The Rose and a freelance writer and content creator. Although she recently took up yoga in an effort to be a healthy adult, she still binge-watches cartoons on a regular basis and dreams of running away to a cottage in the woods. She has yet to nail down her favourite perfume, but knows that it smells green, earthy and maybe a little bit spicy, but definitely not sweet.