Many homes are now multi-functioning as office, college, school and canteen. Keeping a cool head and stress to a minimum might be helped by fragrance, writes Carol O’Callaghan.
Have you learned to play the bassoon yet? Or Mandarin Chinese?
If social media is to be believed, everyone is doing fabulous things, making the lockdown an opportunity for productivity and self-improvement rather than an endurance test.
It doesn’t half make you feel inadequate when a successful day is having cooked three meals, prepared 17 snacks, and resisted the urge to choke your partner, while keeping your children from choking each other.
So, how about we all take a deep breath, retire to the sofa, and consider what we might have in the cupboard to help us de-stress and relax?
Maybe there are a few scented candles, a diffuser, or an oil burner that could be put to use.
Emma Fallon, of Emma’s So Natural, which supplies candles and diffuser oils, says, “When you or your house smells good, you feel good.
"Floral fragrances are amazing when blended with citrus scents, if de-stressing is your goal, as sweet and tangy orange can have a sedating effect that lifts the spirits.
“Floral scents trigger happiness, calm, and relaxation, lift the mood, and ease anxiety and stress.
Luckily, most of us will have something floral if we have a scented candle at all, but not necessarily with as exotic a fragrance as neroli.
Emma also offers a more accessible alternative.
“Probably the most famous scent for relaxation is lavender,” she says. “It’s fresh and light and helps relieve tension, as it has a soothing and calming effect on the nerves,” she says.
With so many of us working from home and students prepping for exams, Emma cites some of the more zingy fragrances for help with concentration.
“Revitalising aromas, like lemongrass, which is deliciously citrus-smelling, can help to increase concentration, revive the mind when feeling frazzled or burnt-out, to stimulate, energise, and relieve tiredness,” Emma says.
“Other herbal scents — which are fresh and sharp, can help clear the mind, and help with focus — are refreshing rosemary, which is an excellent brain stimulant,” she says, “as well as improving memory.
Rosemary was burnt in French hospitals during epidemics in the Middle Ages, and peppermint can increase mental agility and also focus.”
In what’s now a busier home for most of us, Emma’s advice for dispelling cooking smells and personal odours (given that everyone is in the house together, day and night) focuses on high-traffic areas, like the living room and kitchen.
“Again, lemongrass is an ideal fragrance for clearing a room of strong cooking smells or nasty odours,” Emma says.
“But there are other natural fragrances that also do this very well, such as those from earthy woods, like the traditional, clean pine scent or spicy cinnamon and clove.
"They needn’t be reserved for the wintertime, as we are all essentially hibernating during the current lockdown, despite it being springtime.”
Margaret Urbanowicz, of luxury candle-maker Sómas, starts with a simple, but often overlooked, suggestion after a long, cold winter.
“I think key here is ensuring the room you are working in has good air circulation,” she says.
“Fresh, fruity citrus scents are refreshing and invigorating and help to lift mood and feel more energised, which can really boost productivity and concentration.
“I find that musky, rich scents are fantastic for relaxation and creating a really cosy ambience.
"Scent is also one of our most powerful senses, so finding one that brings back memories and makes you feel relaxed can also help.
"Sweet, floral, and honey scents always remind me of my family home and never fail to make me feel at ease,” Margaret says.
With taste in scent being subjective, what suits one person won’t suit someone else, so florals won’t work in certain environments, adds Margaret.
“To keep your house smelling fresh, avoid overly sweet fragrances. Florals can work well, but combined with strong cooking smells, especially in small spaces, can make the place feel even more stuffy.
"Instead, opt in for fresh herbal scents, like vetiver or bay leaf, which can help alleviate lingering scents, and let fresh air in as much as you can.”
Anyone with safety concerns about using candles and oil burners might like to try a reed diffuser or room spray instead.
See our picks below...