I Tried Meditation For Anxiety Like Camila Cabello & Here's What I Learned
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As far as celebrities go, Camila Cabello is pretty much an open book — especially on Instagram, where she addresses her anxiety and gives insight into how she copes with it. In recent posts, Cabello talks about how she maintains her mental health by meditating regularly, and has even encouraged her followers to try it out as well. As a big fan, I can't not listen to the "Señorita" singer when she suggests something, so I tried meditating for anxiety like Camila Cabello.
Back in March, Cabello posted an Instagram about having "severe anxiety," and shared her tips for dealing with it. "It was meditation — it was practicing every single day multiple times a day that has been healing me, and, more than just helping me manage strong emotions like anxiety and stress," she wrote in the caption.
When it comes to managing my anxiety, I’ll try just about anything. In the last year alone, I’ve tried CBD oil, listened to podcasts about mindfulness, journaled, and read more self-help books than I can even recall — all in the name of gaining more control over my uneasy thought patterns. While I’ve dabbled in meditation here and there (my therapist recommended it for dealing with the effects of C-PTSD), it’s a habit that unfortunately never really stuck.
According to Cabello, that might be why I never truly felt the benefits of meditation in the past. In an Instagram Live conversation and guided meditation with meditation instructor Jeff Warren, Cabello said consistency in her practice has been key to her results. So this time, rather than winging it, I followed Cabello’s lead and made time to meditate more than once daily and using her go-to app, Calm, to guide me.
After downloading the Calm app, I decided to try Warren's "How to Meditate" series, which Cabello and her boyfriend Shawn Mendes both called the most "life-changing" meditation program they've done.
I ended up plowing through two 12-minute sessions in a row, and because I liked Warren's laid-back narration style so much, I decided to exclusively stick with Warren's series for the duration of my experiment.
During the second meditation, Warren spoke about finding your “home base” — a place to come back to when you get distracted, which can act like a reset button and help you to refocus on meditating. I chose my breath for my home base, because Cabello has emphasized how much focusing on this simple act has been so helpful for her:
"I used to live so much in my head, constantly trapped in my overthinking and being in my head as opposed to the present moment — and lately just going back to my breath and focusing on it puts me back in my body and back in the present," she wrote in an IG post in August 2019.
While I really wanted to meditate in the morning, I woke up too late and had to start working before I could get my "OM" on. By lunchtime, my stress level was building, so I made time for one of Warren's meditations around 2 p.m.
Unfortunately, I was more distracted than ever, which made meditating tough. I'm a perfectionist, so whenever I am distracted during a meditation session, I get discouraged because I feel like I’ve “failed." During her chat with Warren, Cabello revealed she and Mendes are also pretty hard on themselves.
"We both have a tendency to berate ourselves for not doing our best in this area, and we messed up in this area. I think a place where meditation really helps is in non-judgment and self-compassion."
This lesson was a simple but super-important one: In order to get the most out of meditation, I'll need to be a little gentler on myself and allow the experience to be what it is, rather than holding myself to certain standards.
The focus of this session was “inner smoothness," aka staying grounded and balanced, no matter what’s happening around you. The goal was to build up my "awareness muscle," a concept well-known in the meditation community that refers to being more connected to your thoughts and feelings.
In her convo with Warren, Cabello likened meditating to going to the gym and gradually strengthening your muscles with each exercise. With this analogy in mind, it was on this day that I actually felt my awareness muscle growing.
Watching Cabello and Mendes excitedly tell Warren how much meditation has improved their lives made me realize that having a shared activity and goal has been a bonding experience for them. So, on Day 4, I invited my boyfriend to meditate with me.
The theme of the meditation centered around caring about others, and it involved picturing specific people you know (including yourself) and silently repeating loving mantras, like “may you be happy," “may you be strong,” and “may you feel like you belong.” I was caught off guard by my intense emotional response to this exercise. I even teared up at one point.
I left this meditation bursting with so much love for everyone in my life. Best of all, I got more out of the meditation because I was able to reflect upon it out loud with my partner.
One word that keeps coming up during this meditation series is "acceptance." In Day 5's session, Warren talked about accepting a distraction — whether it’s a noisy neighbor or a thought that pops into your head. I’m a bit of a control freak, which means I often have a hard time when my carefully constructed plans do not pan out, and this meditation helped me be more open to accepting life's imperfections.
As they say, sometimes progress means taking two steps forward and one step back. On this day, my mind was all over the place. That said, I was able to recognize and release the thoughts that weren't serving me, so I call that a win. I now know the objective of meditation isn't to banish any worry-rooted thoughts I have, but instead to create some mental space from them so I don't get totally consumed by anxiety. After six days of meditation, I was definitely seeing why Cabello is so into the practice.
On the final day of my meditation experiment, I learned an important lesson about my anxiety. In acknowledging that it's normal for your mind to wander, Warren urged listeners to consider whether their thoughts typically go to the future (such as all the things you need to accomplish) or the past (memories). While I’ve experienced both types of musings, I definitely lean toward ruminating on my daily to-do list. It’s as if my brain has been programmed to think whatever’s happening in the moment (even meditation) couldn’t possibly be as important as what could happen an hour, day, or week from now.
At the end of Day 7's session, Warren said meditating means learning to observe your mind without trying to change it. The amazing thing is, I realized that by doing this, you actually do experience change.
As Cabello told Warren: "It's literally like changing glasses — seeing the world through one shade, and then changing them and seeing the world through a different lens."
Meditation hasn't eliminated my anxiety entirely; to expect that, especially after just a week of doing it, would be unreasonable. That said, it has given me a heightened awareness of my anxious thoughts, which can help me rein them in more easily. Because of that, I'll definitely continue this daily practice in hopes that I can be more present, mindful, and compassionate to myself.