I am not a person you would describe as calm. I am more a frenetic energy kind of person. To keep my anxious tendencies in check, I do what any self-respecting millennial does when confronted with high-stress situations: self-care. For me, that means winding down with a bedtime routine, taking CBD and, obviously, all the skincare. (Never underestimate the soothing power of a stellar skin care routine.) And as a beauty and wellness writer, I am well versed in the benefits of taking care of both your body and mind. But the one thing I could never bring myself to practice was mindfulness.
I know the science behind it — a 2011 Harvard study found that it can increase the areas in your brain involving compassion while decreasing areas associated with stress. And a more recent study suggested that it could be beneficial for people with depression and reducing high blood pressure. I have written about the benefits of meditation, too, but I always brushed it off as something that Just Was Not For Me. I barely have time to meet all my deadlines, I lamented. When would I have time to sit around and just think?
It was sometime around trying to juggle all my freelance work/make time to exercise/cook healthy food/date in Los Angeles (pray for me)/nurture my friendships that I realized I was spreading myself too thin. In my quest to be a successful, healthy human with meaningful relationships, I was actually draining myself.
Then, like a sign from a goddess, a package filled with two crystals, a stick of palo santo and a month-long subscription to the Headspace app showed up on my doorstep. I am not generally someone who believes in timing or fate or any of the other things the Instagram poets I follow preach — but, honestly, this felt pretty fated. I was just about to start a trial position with a new company, which meant that my workload was going to double. Add in a splash of boy drama and some poorly-timed processed carbs, and I was more than ready to try something new, even though I retained my skeptical emoji face. I committed to two weeks of being more mindful, which meant using the Headspace app every day while surrounded by my two crystals and palo santo.
The first night, surrounded by my crystal pillars, the soothing scent of palo santo wafting through my one-bedroom apartment, I felt very much on-brand for someone who lives in Venice, California. I queued up my Headspace app, focused on my breathing and followed one of the basic guided meditations. It was actually … kind of nice. With the subscription, you get access to different guided meditations, and you can set the amount of time you want to meditate for. I started off with five-minute meditations and worked my way up to 15 minutes over the course of two weeks.
The crystals were not just for show. While the black tourmaline and fluorite pillars definitely add to the optics of this mindfulness practice, they also are said to help “detox” your body from negative energy. (Hello, I need all of this, excuse me while I go bury myself in them.) Black tourmaline, in particular, acts as a bodyguard against negative energy. And fluorite helps clear your mind of clutter and negative thoughts.
Incorporating the palo santo created a full-on sensorial experience. For the uninitiated, palo santo is a tree; the name translates to “holy wood.” Burning a stick of palo santo is often used in energy cleansing and healing rituals. It has a really rich, calming smell that — dare I say — I enjoy more than sage, another energy-cleanser. The more I used it, the more the smell of palo santo began to trigger relaxation in me. Now I light it even when I am not meditating because it helps me get to a place of calm and focus.
In the next few days, I carved out time in the evening to meditate. But I found that, while nice, it started to feel a bit like a chore — one more thing in my ever-growing to-do list. After an incident trying to meditate post a couple of glasses of boy-drama-induced wine at a friend’s house (I know, I know, it was very much a non-Bechdel test passing rom-com kind of night), I got the sense that meditating at night would be an unsustainable practice for me.
So, I switched it up and decided to meditate first thing in the morning. I decided to really lean into the optics of this exercise, as I am wont to do with most endeavors and switched out my usual cup of coffee for matcha. (Something about drinking matcha just felt more in-tune with this whole meditation/crystal exercise.) Morning meditation definitely aligned better with my schedule. It helped ground me for the day ahead. While I was worried at first that 10 or 15 minutes would take up precious work time, I soon realized that I spent at least that much time scrolling through Instagram in the morning. Meditation > Instagram feed.
It also created ripple effects. Before starting my day with meditation, I would check my email first thing in the morning. (Let me tell you, if you want to stress yourself out a lot, try going through your emails almost immediately upon opening your eyes. It will really make your cortisol levels skyrocket.) Unconsciously, I began waiting to check my email until after I meditated. This really helped me be in a less frantic place when I did make it to my inbox, and I found I was more productive and responsive to emails.
By starting my day with meditation, I found that I was more productive and focused. I was still stressed — one of the perks of being a Pisces and having anxiety — but it helped me cope with my anxiety better. I was able to deal with stressful situations instead of just responding to them with omg omg omg I can’t handle this.
Recently, a man I have been dating told me that one of the things he liked about me was that I was calm. Lol joke is on him, I thought… but then I realized, hey, I actually do feel calmer. Not only do I feel less stressed, but people are noticing that my energy is less frenetic. Maybe, with the help of a little mindfulness and some crystals, I am someone who can be described as the calm after all.