Two 12-week alternative therapy sessions were provided over the course of a year. 86 nurses participated in the study, with 39 taking part in summer and winter sessions. “There’s always been a perception that staff feel more stressed in the winter months – when they deal with more serious respiratory and cardiac cases – and the stress levels we recorded would seem to support this” says Marie Cooke, Deputy Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia.

Massages were provided by a qualified therapist who sprayed aromatherapy mist above the heads of participants and then massaged their shoulders, mid back, neck, scalp forehead and temples, while they listened to relaxing music on headphones. Participants, who were seated in a quiet room, were able to choose the essential oil used, from rose, lavender, lime or ocean breeze – a combination of lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot and patchouli.

The researchers found that 60 per cent of the staff – 54 per cent in summer and 65 per cent in winter – suffered from moderate to extreme anxiety. But this fell to just eight per cent, regardless of the season, once staff had received 15-minute aromatherapy massages while listening to relaxing new-age music.

As well as measuring staff’s anxiety levels before and after aromatherapy massages, 68 responded to a detailed occupational stress survey – 33 who had taken part in the summer sessions and 35 from the winter sessions. The survey included measuring occupational stress factors such as pressure of responsibility, quality concerns, role conflict, job satisfaction and self esteem.

Introducing stress reduction strategies in the workplace could be a valuable tool for employers who are keen to tackle anxiety levels in high pressure roles and increase job satisfaction, the researchers proposed.; Source: Blackwell Publishing