Add a Somatic Approach to Resilience & Aromatherapy
By Caryn Gehlmann
Recently, I was introduced to Maria Connolly and we formed an instant connection. Maria is a psychotherapist and somatic coach, and the owner of Neways Center, living and working here in Southern Oregon. It was interesting to see how we connected over one word that was really meaningful to both of us as our community and our world continue to deal with the pandemic — resilience. Maria understands the psychological impact of scent and utilizes aromatherapy in her coaching practice. You’ll enjoy her tips on how to take a somatic approach to resilience in our interview below.
Tell me a little bit about your background and your work.
I began studying psychology in Padova, Italy and went on to receive my Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. Over the years, I used a variety of methodologies as a therapist. After extensive study, training and experience with my clients, I gradually shifted away from traditional therapy and into Somatic Psychotherapy and Coaching. Somatic coaching creates higher self-awareness than traditional psychotherapy because rather than focusing solely on thoughts and emotions, a somatic approach incorporates your entire body.
I work with highly motivated female small business owners, CEOs, managers, consultants, coaches, therapists, medical practitioners, and leaders to help them increase their impact in the world personally and professionally. Many of my clients come to me passionate about making a positive impact in the world and a sense that they’re “meant for something better and bigger”. I love working with women who are motivated, focused and ambitious and possess a personal commitment to excellence and growth. I love helping women discover their full potential – and discover they are fully capable of becoming who they want to be and building a meaningful and sustainable personal and professional life!
Any recommendations on how we can continue to grow both personally and professionally, despite the new unexpected challenges many of us are facing?
In times of greatest challenge, it is imperative to return to the basics: healthy eating, drinking water, good sleep, sunshine, helpful connection with others, compassionate connection with self, restoring a belief in something bigger than us.
I also encourage mindfulness. Mindfully acknowledge your feelings, without judgment. They are simply telling you something. Perhaps you need to rest, go for a walk, or disconnect from the news. Or perhaps they’re telling you that you’ve lost touch with your purpose and values and it’s time to reconnect.
Think about small and achievable actions that will give you a measure of satisfaction today. It may be eating a more healthful meal. It may mean getting in touch with a friend again. It may be making time for meditation. At the end of the day, focus on that feeling of satisfaction and let it fill you, so you remember it. It might be helpful to write this in a journal because it’s easy to forget as the next day brings new challenges.
Why is the quality of resilience so important right now?
As a somatic coach, my work is strength-based. I want my clients to walk away with tools that they can use wherever and whenever they need to. Resilience is one of those tools: it is innate, it is resourceful and it is so empowering!
When everybody is talking about the negative effects of these very confusing times, I help my clients recognize, tap into and cultivate resilience. Resilience is our ability to bounce back from hardship, to find our stillness in chaos, to be inspired and resourceful in spite of adversities.
It comes from the lessons and skills we embody as we grow up.
Why is resilience essential? Because if you are resilient, you will be able to face, overcome and even become personally strengthened and transformed by difficult times. Resilience doesn’t mean pretending the problem isn’t real or that it doesn’t affect you, on the contrary, it helps you acknowledge it, face it, and find new ways to move forward. I often ask: “Who do you need to be or become to face this? And then the work becomes practicing those skills.
How does aromatherapy connect to your somatic approach to life coaching?
The somatic approach relies on the ability to use our sensory world to describe our experience. We can use our sense of smell to remember a beautiful day near the ocean or the cookies that grandma used to bake. My mom used to make apple sauce on Sunday afternoons in the winter and the smell of apples and cinnamon is still soothing to me.
The sense of smell is connected with memory and can be used to retrieve good memories or to anchor resourceful states on purpose. We are surrounded by smells all the time, smells that are soothing and smells that are triggering or repelling. Aromatherapy allows us to be more intentional in using this helpful sensory channel.
How do you personally use essential oils? Do you have a favorite blend or application you can share?
A few years ago I bought a diffuser for my office after a colleague mentioned she was using aromatherapy during her sessions. I started experimenting with putting a few drops of essential oils in the diffuser at the beginning of the session to see if clients noticed and if it made a difference. It turned out they did notice and they commented on it quite a bit.
I like using Frankincense and Orange to create an uplifting atmosphere and Lavender and Rosemary for a more calming experience. I’m just a novice at it but I plan to learn more and experiment with more complex blends.
Recently, I discovered the Resilience Blend by Essential 3 and I’ve been experimenting with incorporating it in my personal morning grounding practice. So far, I find the combination revitalizing and the body experience stays with me for hours afterward. I like it a lot and I look forward to using it with clients. I really want to give my clients a holistic experience when they come to my office.
Thank you, Maria, for sharing your somatic approach of being more mindful and resilient, and also the great reminder of how aromas can affect our mood.
If you would like more tips on how to nurture resilience, sign-up for 30-day series of aromatherapy tips specifically designed for right now… to help you feel calm, centered, and inspired.