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Jessica Norris, PhD, Owner,
Dr. Jess Norris Wellness Education and Do Bead Dooby Doo
When stress nearly stopped her, this scientist used the chemistry of essential oils and mindfulness practices to reclaim her wellbeing and grow her business.
In my adult life, I’ve tried to manage it all. The responsibilities of college. The rigors of graduate school. A demanding start up career. My marriage. Babies. Aging parents. And formidable medical diagnoses. And the shock of my father’s sudden passing. And launching two businesses…And, holy cow! I’m exhausted just writing about it.
Anyone else out there know what stress feels like? Of course, you do. We all have that monster to confront to some degree in our daily lives. Stress is more than uncomfortable. It’s a chemical, physical, and emotional beat down none of us want. It can be socially contagious, too. Ever been around someone whose stress level is so high and their ability to cope is so low that their outward—and typically, negative—response to it leaves you feeling wiped out, deflated or nervous? Having a background in biology and a PhD in chemistry, I understand the science of the stress response and how disruptive and destructive it can be if not managed well. Notice I said, “managed well” instead of “eliminated”? That’s because, as much as we’d prefer otherwise, we can’t avoid stress completely. But, we do have the power to deal with it in healthy ways. I know this first-hand. That’s why I’ve made it my business to help people go from anxious to Zen more naturally through the safe, effective use of essential oils and aromatherapy, just as I have.
Caveat:I am not a medical doctor or clinician; however, I am a scientific analyst who understands data integrity and how to obtain accurate wellness-related information. I’ve seen snake oil salespeople offering cures for almost anything that ails you. Their marketing schemes often lack credible, scientific research and support. It can put your health at risk. And that makes me seethe. That’s why I’m applying all of my personal experiences, knowledge, and extensive collaborations with experts in the healing sciences to help people enhance their wellbeing and better cope with the stress of work, illness, and other balance disruptors. I’ve taken a deep dive into the research and clinical science behind holistic treatments so that you have the right information about aromatherapy, essential oils, and how to use them properly.
Stirring my own stress stew
It’s funny how life can move us to bright places or dark spaces depending on how we respond to (or ignore) its clues. Sometimes, the clues are as obvious as a screeching siren. Other times, they’re as subtle as a gentle nudge. The journey to my personal transformation, and, eventually, to my wellness business platforms, started when my body stopped. Literally.
Before it did, I was moving in all directions. In 2008, I received my doctorate in chemistry from the University of Virginia and accepted a challenging role at a forensic science start up company in Charlottesville. I was burning the proverbial candle at both ends. My life centered on my 70-hour workweeks, and competed with other priorities, including focusing on my marriage and caring for senior parents, especially for my mother who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I was taking care of all the important things except myself. I ate poorly. Wasn’t exercising. No time. Somehow, though, in all that busyness, my husband and I found time to get pregnant, and my family was excited (and busily preparing) for the arrival of our first child.
The day I turned nine-months pregnant, I received tragic news: My father died suddenly of a heart attack. Here I am, about to have a baby and everything in my life changed immediately. I became my mother’s full-time caregiver. I had to handle all my father’s affairs. My blood pressure skyrocketed. After my son was born, I had a hard time getting out of bed. I felt depressed and anxious. I wasn’t functioning normally at all. My doctor gave me a pill. It didn’t work. Then, he gave me another pill. That one didn’t work either. So, he gave another pill. It all frustrated me. One morning, I was lying awake in bed and my body wouldn’t move. I knew I was suffering with post-partum depression. But there was also something else. I learned that, like my mother, I had MS. My diagnosis came seven months to the day my father passed away and six months after I delivered my baby. I wasn’t healthy. And while I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that it was the cause of my underlying condition, stress, at least, had triggered my MS and brought it to the surface.
Life had given me clues. The sirens were blaring. It was clear that I had to become a priority. It was important to take care of myself or I wouldn’t be able to function for the people who needed me most: my family, which I’d soon learn would require meeting the needs of my son who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Achieving scentsational wellbeing
One thing I’ve learned through all of my experiences is that, if you can control your stress, you can manage symptoms. If you can manage symptoms, you can control the quality of your life.
While receiving proper medical care, I also turned to complementary, holistic medicine to help me take charge of my own wellness. I practiced mindfulness—a sound medical technique known to help on the neurochemical level to control symptoms, hormone balance, breathing, and heart rate. I also discovered that, when used properly, there is validity to the science of essential oils and their effectiveness at managing symptoms of many conditions and disorders like MS, ASD, Parkinson’s Disease, and memory impairment from dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease, among others.
My essential oils retail business platform started from a hobby. When my MS was causing me to lose dexterity in my right hand, my neurologist recommended I do things that used my fingers. I found that I enjoyed making jewelry and I sold my pieces at the Manakin Market in Goochland County, VA. A customer asked me if I could make jewelry that used essential oils. Now, this was something I knew I could do and also ensure that the oils were administered correctly for my customers. Many had been using them in unsafe ways. Some were even following the advice of direct marketers who were mixing lemon essential oil in water, calling it a “refreshing drink.”I was horrified because these oils can burn someone’s mouth, esophagus, and stomach lining. They can also be toxic if used the wrong way. So, I designed a line of aromatherapy necklaces and handcrafted bracelets (called Do Bead Dooby Doo) made with semi-precious gemstone and lava beads for an upscale look. I also developeda line of essential oil blends that can be safely and effectively used for common ailments. With both steadily growing in popularity, I knew that I could use my knowledge to expand my business and offer an educational platform to help people manage their health—from complex illness to the everyday ailments—more holistically and stay safe. Today, I offer custom blends tailored to my clients’ unique health and wellness needs.
I mentioned that my son has ASD. I’ve invested a lot of time in understanding his condition and enhancing his wellbeing, too. I use essential oils that help him focus and manage other ASD-related challenges. I continue to use them myself to get through tough times as well. I don’t look sick. I’m managing my stress with the same complementary techniques that I teach to others. And that’s helping me sleep better and make healthier choices. When I’m calmer, I can think clearly. I can manage my time more efficiently. I can be more productive
Stress will happen. And the ways we respond to it can help or hurt us. We can lash out, or we can internalize it. Either way, NOT doing anything about it makes our lives toxic. Did you know that 75-90 percent of doctor visits are stress-related? People I talk to are looking for new ways to cope with stressful jobs, relationships, health concerns, financial issues, caregiving, and more. I want to meet wellness needs that aren’t always addressed in our society today. Above all, I want to continue to help people live their best lives.
I specialize in working with women and children who are searching for holistic and alternative methods of achieving optimal health and wellness. I apply my PhD in Chemistry and draw from my personal health experiences to study the science behind essential oils and mindfulness techniques to alleviate stress and the resulting symptoms that interfere with physical and mental health.