How I prepared for the ARC Exam

I am writing this blog because I have received several emails and messages from colleagues asking how I prepared to sit for the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) exam.  Many well qualified and educated aromatherapists have expressed anxiety and fear about taking the ARC exam, which I understand because I remember well my own anxiety about taking it.

The first step was familiarizing myself with the eligibility requirements to take the exam.  The link above will take you to the ARC page that clearly outlines those requirements.  It is important to download the Candidate Handbook.   The Candidate Handbook is full of useful information and it also provides you with a few sample test questions.  The handbook also clearly outlines the content of the exam, i.e. what you can expect to be tested on, and more importantly the content you will need to study prior to the exam.

After completing the necessary paperwork I realized I was truly committed to the process, and I began my studies in earnest.  I prepared for the ARC exam in the same manner I prepared to take the exam to become a Licensed Psychotherapist. I began my study regimen approximately four months before the date of the exam.  To some people four months may seem like a long time and to others it may appear to be too short a time to study.  The amount of time you dedicate to preparation is a completely individual decision based on your own confidence, study style, and ability to set time aside each day to study.

I began my studies by reviewing ALL of the educational materials I had from my aromatherapy program.  I started at the very beginning.  I read through the material with an eye on the exam content list, taking note of where I found information on each item.  Reading through all the educational materials I had was a positive exercise because I found that although it had been months since I studied it I knew more of the material than I had originally thought.  As I read through the educational material I also made flashcards.  Yes, flashcards.  I hated flashcards as a child, but they did their work, I remembered my times tables!  So, as I slowly read through all of my notes and aromatherapy program materials I made flashcards on the information I wasn’t certain I knew 100% hands-down.  The information on each card was short and succinct, not too wordy, but containing important key words to prompt my memory. These flashcards became my constant companions.  I took them with me everywhere.  If I was a passenger in the car I had my flashcards, if I was sitting in a waiting room I had my flashcards, if I had a few minutes to myself I had my flashcards.  I also dedicated three, thirty minute study sessions with the cards every day.  My husband helped me study by reading the flashcard question and having me respond.  So as not to get too comfortable with the order of the questions I would shuffle the flashcards like a deck of playing cards.  As time progressed the number of flashcards I studied began to dwindle until the day of the exam, when I had twelve chemistry related flashcards.  Yeah, chemistry.

If flashcards are not your thing, or they don’t suit your learning style, try an audio format.  A friend of mine, who is an audio learner, opted to record herself stating the same information I would have put onto a flashcard.  With an audio format she was able to review while she was driving, an advantage over flashcards.  If you are really ambitious you could use both formats.

Let me back up to the issue of those chemistry flashcards.  Chemistry and I were not, and are not great friends.  I struggle with chemistry, so the flashcards were not quite getting me to a comfort level I believed I needed.  The solution was to write, repeatedly, the information I was struggling with retaining.  Being a visual and kinesthetic learner, writing the information several times helped me to focus and remember it better.

During focused study sessions I would occasionally diffuse sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) essential oil. I know people will ask, “Why not rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or peppermint (Mentha piperita)?”  Well, the reason I chose sandalwood is because it is an essential oil that calms and centers me, which, due to test anxiety, was what I needed and what worked for me. Choose an essential oil that helps you feel comfortable, centered, focused while you study because it may help you more than a stimulating essential oil.

Studying before bedtime was not a good choice, it created more anxiety.  I found myself ruminating about the information I wasn’t getting and I would end up getting out of bed to study.  Sleep is your friend when you are preparing for any big event and I wasn’t getting good, restful, restorative sleep.  Studying in the mornings and early afternoon proved to be much more relaxing for me and I retained more information.

The day before the ARC exam I did not study.  Yep, you read that right, I did not study.  I took the day to relax, pamper myself, get outdoors, center and try to de-stress.  My thought was this, “If I don’t know the information after four months of intense study I am not going to do myself any favors by trying to cram it into my head now.”  Another mantra I repeated was, “You’ve got this!  You know more than you give yourself credit for.”

The day of the exam I made sure to eat a healthy, protein packed breakfast.  I applied a dilution of sandalwood to my wrists and inside my elbows.  I did this because if I became overwhelmed during the exam I could inhale deeply from my wrist the aroma that best calms me.  Wearing a piece of aromatherapy jewelry with your chosen essential oil can also achieve the same effect.

Once I entered the test site I chose a seat that was away from possible distractions, e.g. windows to the outdoors, under an air vent, next to anyone wearing perfume.  The proctor of the exam will provide you with a pencil and paper, use it.  As I was going through the test I came across questions I didn’t fully understand or just plain did not know.  Instead of focusing on those questions I wrote the question number down on paper and returned to it after I had completed the exam.  I discovered that often the answer to a question I didn’t know was found in another question later in the exam.  Answer all questions, even those you have no clue about.  An educated guess is better than no guess at all, because let’s face it, you have a 25% chance of answering the question correctly with a good guess as opposed to the 100% fail of not answering!

ARC allows you three hours to take the exam.  Three hours is adequate time to answer the 250 multiple choice questions.  I encourage you to take your time.  It is not a race!  You do not get points for finishing first or quickly.  Take offered breaks in order to stretch, move about, rehydrate and use the bathroom.  If you are physically uncomfortable during the exam you may begin to focus on your discomfort and not the task at hand, so be as comfortable and relaxed as you can be.

My last bit of advice is to try and enjoy the experience as much as you can.  Inhale, breathe, allow your essential oil to work for you.  And, above all else remember, “You’ve got this!  You know more than you give yourself credit for.”

✿´´¯`•.¸¸ Fragrant Blessings ¸¸.•´¯`´

          Haly JensenHof, MA, RA 

Aromatic Autumn

I hear a lot of people comment how autumn is their favorite time of year. I can’t make that statement because I find every season is my favorite season for its own unique reasons. The reasons I like autumn include the warm, lazy, dreamy afternoons; the crisp cool nights; the vibrant colors of the leaves and the harvest of crops in preparation for winter. Continue reading “Aromatic Autumn”

Uses for Prairie Evening Primrose (Oenothera albicaulis)

Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is what most people think about when they think of primrose. I guess living on the high desert prairie of Wyoming, I think of the Prairie Evening Primrose (Oenothera albicaulis). There are differences between the two in regard to appearance: evening primrose produces a beautiful yellow flower, while the prairie primrose produces a lovely, delicate white flower. Personally, I like the white flower best. Continue reading “Uses for Prairie Evening Primrose (Oenothera albicaulis)”

Memorial Day Remembered

It is unfortunate, but too many Americans have forgotten the true meaning of Memorial Day.  Sadly, most people view the three day weekend as a time to break out the BBQ grill, go to the lake, watch sports on television, and kick off their summer activities.  I wish all Americans would take time to recognize and reflect on why they are having this holiday weekend.  I am asking all Americans to take time to honor the Americans who took up the call, bravely served this country, and ensured that the rest of us have the liberty to enjoy our leisure activities.  In this Monday Musing I will provide a little history of Memorial Day and the meaning of the flowers we decorate veterans’ grave sites with.

 

A Little History:

Following the Civil War General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic stated, “’The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,’ he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.  On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.”[1]  I have noticed an unsettling trend over the past ten years.  Fewer and fewer of us are decorating the grave sites of our fallen veterans, which is an indication that fewer and fewer of us remember the meaning of Memorial Day.

 

The Flowers:

The flowers chosen to decorate a loved-ones headstone is personal. The flowers chosen can be the favorite flower of the deceased or a favored flower of the person showing respect to their loved-one.  Or, as in the case of the red poppy, the choice is one of tradition.

 

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by John McCrae, Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

 

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.1

 

Both poems focus on the bloodshed of World War I.  But just how does that bloodshed relate to the red poppy?  “In the World War I battlefields of Belgium, poppies grew wild amid the ravaged landscape. How could such a pretty little flower grow wild while surrounded by death and destruction? The overturned soils of battle enabled the poppy seeds to be covered, thus allowing them to grow and to forever serve as a reminder of the bloodshed during that and future wars.”2

 

Ms. Michael then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear a red poppy and she sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.1 Now many veterans’ service organizations sell red poppies on Memorial Day and they also decorate the headstones of veterans’ with red poppy wreaths.

 

Geraniums (Pelargonium) are often seen decorating the headstones of lost service men.  Geraniums are hearty fragrant flowers that have been traditionally used by our family to decorate gravesites.  Scarlet geraniums have two meanings; silliness or comfort.  Some novelists, Harper Lee, Louisa May Alcott and E.M. Forster used red geraniums to describe domestic scenes.3  I like all of the symbolic meanings for geranium, because silliness does not need to have a negative connotation, and imagines of domesticity bring comfort.

 

Every Memorial Day we take purple lilacs to the site of my father’s grave marker.  Dad liked lilacs; the aroma the lilacs emit, their color, and their appearance, which for many people marks the beginning of spring. Two colors of the lilac are especially meaningful. The white lilac represents youthful innocence and purity. Purple lilacs often symbolize first love, while in some contexts purple lilacs can suggest protection. Walt Whitman’s poem, “When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” lilacs represented life after death.4  The meanings of the purple lilac give me comfort too; protection, love, and life after death all seem to fit my Dad.

 

The Flag:

Finally, the American flag.  The Stars and Stripes should also be displayed on Memorial Day.  In our little town cemetery the flag and red poppies adorn the grave sites of every veteran laid to rest in Valley View Cemetery.  The flag is also proudly displayed on our flag pole at home.  “In traditional observance, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living; who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.”

 

Please, even if it is for 60 seconds, take the time to remember our veterans on Memorial Day.  Say a silent prayer for the safe-keeping of our active service men and women, say a prayer for those who died in battle, say a prayer for those who bravely served and returned home.  Visit your local cemetery and walk quietly and respectfully among the headstones in the veterans’ section.  Lay a wreath of poppies or vase of flowers on the gravesite of a fallen veteran.  Please remember Memorial Day and its true meaning.

 

Haly JensenHof, MA, RA

I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions.  You can contact me at yourhealthscents@gmail.com or find me on Facebook atfacebook.com/yourhealthscents

Fragrantly helping you achieve health and well being!

 

 

[1]http://www.usmemorialday.org/?page_id=2

 

2http://www.cal-mum.com/poppy.htm

 

3The Meaning of a Red Geranium | Garden Guideshttp://www.gardenguides.com/130990-meaning-red-geranium.html#ixzz32YkoZlMu

 

4What Is the Meaning of the Lilac Flower? | Garden Guideshttp://www.gardenguides.com/128093-meaning-lilac-flower.html#ixzz32YnJgic3

Herbal Scents of Spring

I think it is safe to say that spring has finally arrived in Wyoming. There is something about being outdoors, working with plants, and getting your hands immersed in the soil.  It is uplifting, soothing, calming, and in my case, exhilarating.  Whatever problems or concerns I have seem to completely disappear when I am in my garden.  As I tend to the plants I don’t think about bills that are waiting to be paid, home repairs that need to be done, or the political state of the nation.  When my hands are tending to the plants my mind is focused on the various aspects of that plant.

The day before Easter I was able to get outdoors and work in the flower gardens, herb gardens, and orchard.  As I worked in the various herb plots I noted the aromas being emitted from each plant.  Join me on an aromatic walk through some of my herbs.

blanket of thyme 300x200Thyme~ (Thymus vulgaris) is a prickly, low lying, squat herb that produces delicate purple flowers.  As I look at it I think of a stout, squat and robust Nisse.  A Nisse is a little gnome-like being of Denmark, who helps the farmer with his chores. I have admitted before that I talk to my plants, and when I see the thyme I often greet it with a, “Hello there, little Nisse!”  On this particular day I greeted the thyme plants and told them I was going to give them their annual trim.  As I worked to trim the brittle dry fronds away I began to smell the distinct aroma of thyme.  Close your eyes and think about the scent of freshly cut thyme.  I describe it as an earthy, heavy, pungent, spicy, masculine aroma.  To me it has a faint musky scent as well. Thyme essential oil does not quite have the same aroma as the freshly cut herb, but it is very close.  Thyme essential oil is antiseptic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, expectorant, and a hypertensive.

spearmint 350x200Spearmint ~ (Mentha spicata) is an herb that has tall stems covered in dark green leaves.  When it flowers the spearmint blossoms are light purple clusters in a “spear” shape.  It is not just the spearmint leaves that emit an aroma, but the stems also release an aroma.  As I was cutting away the brittle, dry, brown stems of last year’s growth they were emitting the strong scent of spearmint.  The smell became so strong it was like walking into a wall of spearmint.  The aroma of spearmint is sharp, minty (of course), herbaceous, and a bit biting.   Spearmint essential oil is an antispasmodic, insecticide, stimulant, and good for itchy skin and stomach issues.


lavender 300x200Lavender ~
(Lavandula angustifolia) is an herbaceous, flowering plant that grows best in rocky rather dry soil.  It sends up stems covered in somewhat spiky, grayish-green, pinnate leavesand shoots with clusters of tiny purple flowers.  Just brushing against the foliage of a lavender plant will release its heady aroma, but when the plant is being trimmed the aroma is quite noticeable.  The scent of lavender reminds me of fresh linen, bright white sunshine, with a little bit of a medicinal aroma, which I attribute to the linalool content of lavender.  Depending on the conditions of the soil, harvest, and distillation of lavender the aroma of the essential oil can be different from one bottle to the next.  Lavender essential oil is antiviral, antibacterial, analgesic, diuretic, a hypotensive, sedative, antispasmodic, and a deodorant.

tansy 300x225Tansy ~ (Tanacetum vulgare) is an herbaceous flowering plant.  Its leaves are very fern-like and delicate looking.  Tansy produces small clusters of button-like yellow flowers on long brown woody stems.  I love the smell of Tansy!  I can become a bit drunk on the scent of fresh tansy.  It has such a cool, fresh, green aroma!  When I smell tansy I actually see the color variations of green.  Tansy and I are having a battle of wills right now.  I am trying to relocate it to another area of the property but Tansy is quite persistent about growing where it was first planted.  If you plant tansy, be certain you love where you put it because trying to eradicate it is nearly impossible.  Tanacetum vulgare is not used in aromatherapy due to its high concentration of thujone, a chemical that can cause problems with the nervous system.  Blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum) is sometimes used in aromatherapy.  I do not use tansy at all in my practice, but I do like the happy yellow flowers and fresh green aroma of the plant in my garden.

These are just a few of the herbs I have growing in my garden.  I am anxious for summer to arrive so I can share with you the herbs and flowers that emerge when the weather is warmer; plants like chamomile (Matricaria recutita), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), borage (Borago officinalis), and melissa (Melissa officinalis).

Until then, have a fragrant spring!   

✿´´¯`•.¸¸ Haly JensenHof, MA, RA ¸¸.•´¯`´✿

Fragrantly helping you achieve health and well being!

For more information, or if you have questions, please contact me at yourhealthscents@gmail.com.  I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions.

You can also find me on Facebook at facebook.com/yourhealthscents

 

The First Days of Spring

This last week we observed the Vernal Equinox or most commonly known as the first day of spring.  Spring seems to mark a new year and new beginnings. I know the Gregorian calendar observed the new year on January 1, 2014; and the Chinese new year was observed on January 31, 2014. However, I think of a new year beginning when I can see buds on the apple trees, flowers pushing skyward from the soil, and green leaves, herbs and grasses emerging.

There is the ideal image of spring, which always seems to entail inviting pictures of sunshine, flowers, bunnies, and young girls dancing in the green grass.

Then there is the reality of spring, or at least spring in Wyoming, which entails wind, snow, dark skies, blizzards, sleet, rain, no green grass, and temperatures that fluctuate between 70 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit!

During the early months of spring I start new herbs and grasses in the safety and warmth of my home.  I begin planning and preparing new garden plots before the snows completely melt.  Spring is a time to think and dream of possibilities!

Spring seems to symbolize new beginnings and change, not just for plants and animals, but also for humans.  Spring is typically a time when new marriages begin and babies are born.  Spring is also a time of new growth for plants and animals.  It can also be a time to start new growth or change for ourselves: physically through exercise and/or diet change; spiritually by seeking or following new spiritual paths; and intellectually by expanding our knowledge bases.

This spring I am going to increase my knowledge of plant medicine.  I have already composed a list of books I want to read on aromatherapy and herbalism.  I believe the two practices compliment each another quite nicely. They both honor and respect plants.  They both acknowledge the benefits of plants to our well being.  Additionally, aromatherapy and herbalism practice many of the same methods: tinctures, hydrosols, infusions, flower essences’, etc.  My hunger for knowledge seems to indicate a new beginning for me, personally and professionally.  What will this spring/new year bring to you?  What will your new growth entail?

Whatever your spring brings you I hope it involves new growth!  And yes, lots of bunnies, sunshine, flowers and dancing in the green grass!

✿´´¯`•.¸¸ Haly JensenHof, MA, RA ¸¸.•´¯`´✿

Fragrantly helping you achieve health and well being!

For more information, or if you have questions, please contact me at yourhealthscents@gmail.com.  I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions.

You can also find me on Facebook at facebook.com/yourhealthscents

Winter’s Pace

Are you finding yourself less motivated?  Don’t feel much like socializing?  Feeling a little bit down?  It is winter, and during winter everyone has these woes to some degree or another.  As a mental health professional I feel comfortable stating, “This is the natural rhythm of winter and not always some fancy diagnosis like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or chronic depression.”

The natural cycle of the seasons demands that animals, and humans, slow down during winter.  Winter is a time of drawing in, conserving energy, reflecting, and dreaming.  It is a slowing down of every living thing: human, animal, plant and insect.

There is a reason animals hibernate during winter, and if they don’t fully hibernate they are less active.  Animals know winter is a time to conserve energy.  During the snowy winter months animals expend energy doing one thing, and one thing only, foraging for food/calories.  Animals instinctively know that during the cold darkness of winter the goal is to survive until spring when their activity levels will rise again.

Why is it that we humans want to disregard our natural rhythms and instincts?  Instead of allowing ourselves to slow down we tend to put a label/diagnosis on our natural cycles?  There is nothing wrong with wanting to pull in, withdraw, and slow down during winter.  Embrace this time.  Allow yourself the time to relax, indulge in self-care and dream.  Dream of the spring to come and all of the activities you will undertake when the weather warms up!  Believe me, once spring arrives your focus will become more outward, you will be more active and engaged.

There are things you can do during winter that will help you through the doldrums.

♦ Diffuse warm, soothing, comforting essential oils.  Try the following diffusing blend to create feelings of warmth and comfort.  Add the listed oils to eight ounces of distilled water and diffuse in your ionic diffuser or warming pot.

~ 5 drops Caraway (Carum carvi)

~ 3 drops Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

~ 2 drops Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

♦ Get out doors! Even if you take a few minutes to stand on your doorstep and breathe in the cold crisp air you will feel invigorated.  Take a short walk around the block and notice the beauty of winter.

♦ Eat hearty and healthy meals.  Foods such as legumes and lean meats keep you full and provide necessary energy.  Avoid fried foods and sweets.  You don’t have to go completely without your favorite treats; sometimes a warm brownie and glass of milk raise your spirits, but eat them in moderation.

♦ Get plenty of rest.  It is amazing what a good night’s sleep can do for your emotional outlook and your physical wellbeing.  Since the nights are longer going to bed early is natural.  Sleeping more is another natural part of winter’s pace.

♦ Drink plenty of water.  The need to turn the thermostat up causes the air to become dry. This and the cold winds dehydrate us.  Make sure you are getting enough water.  If possible drink water without ice.  Ice water forces our bodies to work harder to remain warm.

According to the Chinese Five Element system, water is the element of winter.  When this element is out of balance we are more prone to sadness, stiffness, pain and impotence.  When the water element is in balance, we are more able to rest and nourish ourselves and others.  With water in balance we are also more able to clearly reflect and express feelings of love.

♦ Engage in some form of exercise.  During winter our choice of exercise can also be less vigorous, which is also part of winter’s pace.  When the weather is cold we aren’t as likely to engage in marathons.  Exercise in the form of yoga, Pilates, and walks are ideal.

Being able to slow down and accept a slower pace during the winter months can be freeing.  Take your cue from nature; hibernate and rest when it is cold.  Realize that once the green shoots of spring start to emerge so too will your desire to be more active.

Happy hibernation!

✿´´¯`•.¸¸ Haly JensenHof, MA, RA ¸¸.•´¯`´✿

Fragrantly helping you achieve health and well being!

For more information, or if you have questions, please contact me at yourhealthscents@gmail.com.  I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions.

You can also find me on Facebook at facebook.com/yourhealthscents

 

 

 

Inspiration needed

Every week I write about something related to aromatherapy, herbalism, health issues, and nature; however, this week I am lacking inspiration.  My lack of creative ideas could be due to a whole host of things: the weather, my overwhelming “to-do” list, editing duties, meetings, or a simple case of the blahs.  Regardless of the cause I need some help, so I am turning to you, my loyal clients and followers.  I am asking you to share your creativity and ideas!

I consider myself to be a very creative person, who typically thinks out-side the box, and who has an endless supply of ideas.  I do have a list of topics I can write about, but this week none of those topics has really said, “Write about me! Write about me!”  The interesting thing about writing is; writing is like a germinating seed.  The seed (idea) is planted, it is tended and nurtured carefully, it begins to sprout and grow, it becomes more defined, and eventually it is a fully formed being ready to be presented to the world.  Right now all of my ideas are in the stage of being carefully nurtured, not yet ready to face the world.

So I want to know what you would like to read about.  What topic related to aromatherapy, self-care, health, nature, etc. would you like more information on?  Do you want information on certain essential oils?  Do you want simple generic recipes? Do you want more history of aromatherapy?  Please send me an email: yourhealthscents@gmail.com and tell me what you are interested in.

I just can’t leave you without providing you with at least some tidbit though.  I have used essential oils to help me try to spark my mind, and thus my creativity.  I have directly inhaled and diffused essential oils that are known to be cephalic, stimulating, and promote concentration.

Essential oils that help with memory, clarity, and concentration:

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Lemon (Citrus limon)

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to focus and create try diffusing the listed essential oils to help spark your creativity.  The essential oils I have listed have helped me to become focused enough to narrow down the topic for next week’s Monday Musing to three ideas.

I am really looking forward to your ideas, so don’t hesitate to write me!

Have a creative and pleasingly fragrant week!

Haly JensenHof, MA, RA

Fragrantly helping you achieve health and well being!

For more information, or if you have questions, please contact me at yourhealthscents@gmail.comThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions. You can also find me on Facebook at facebook.com/yourhealthscents