There's No Doom-Scrolling For Marsai Martin
The Black-ish star is booked and busy, but she manages through meditation, self-care, and staying centered.
Marsai Martin is a force to be reckoned with. You probably know her face and its myriad of GIF-able expressions from the hit ABC sitcom Black-ish or the 2019 comedy Little. Not only did Martin co-star in the latter alongside Regina Hall and Issa Rae, but she produced the film as well, earning herself the distinction of being the youngest person to ever produce a studio film at age 13. But even though Martin has accomplished more in her 17 years than most folks achieve in their entire careers, even this booked and busy star struggled during lockdown, just like the rest of us.
“Of course, during that time, everybody was trying to figure out something,” she tells me over the phone. “I slowly started to learn meditation. [I was] trying to dive into more of my inner self and make sure my mind was at ease during those really tough times.”
Now, Martin meditates at least once a day. It’s the first thing she does when she gets up and it plays a major role in her wind-down ritual in the evenings. While Martin does have a few favorite techniques (more on that below), the NAACP Image Award winner is constantly looking to expand her knowledge base when it comes to this calming and restorative practice.
“Like any other process, I'm constantly still learning,” she says with the kind of introspective wisdom I’ve yet to cultivate in my 30s. “Working with Pinterest and doctors and people who know different techniques helps a lot as well.”
Martin partnered with Pinterest for Mental Health Awareness Month in May and made a series of videos, cheekily called, “Mind Your Wellness.” In them, Martin experimented with self-soothing techniques like using singing bowls and brewing bedtime teas. Based on the videos, which cover everything from dopamine dressing to gratitude mantras, it’s easy to see that Martin prioritizes her mental health, something we spoke about at length during our phone interview, and something that everyone, everywhere, should probably be doing a bit more of.
“When it comes to work or anything that can quickly get me stressed out, I keep in mind that mental health is everything and I make sure to slow down and be present,” she says. Easier said than done, but Martin makes it a point to create space for herself throughout her busy days. She calls them pockets of peace, a phrase she discovered on TikTok. Unlike doom-scrollers — no shade, I do it too! — Martin uses the popular app to create intention and plan ways to create more gratitude, more mindfulness, and, yes, more pockets of peace, in her life.
Ahead, Martin shares her favorite ways to meditate, the TikTok videos that help her chill out, and her fervent wish that we all take a deep breath and try to trust ourselves and the universe.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Elite Daily: How stressed are you on a regular basis?
Marsai Martin: I try not to get stressed, but depending on my work schedule, it is pretty easy to get to that point. Music and trying to rest, when I have time, helps me a lot.
ED: What's the best de-stressing advice you've ever received?
MM: I would say it's from my parents and they say mental [health] is everything. Your mental health and your mindset are the things that you have to take care of the most.
ED: Talking about mental health makes me think about self-care in terms of self-love rituals that don't require products or buying expensive things. How do you practice self-care without stuff?
MM: I try to practice self-care without stuff all the time. When it comes to meditation and putting your mind at ease, that doesn't take a lot at all. I journal a lot. Having a little journal to write all your thoughts and pockets of peace [in] helps. I would also say that rest is everything, and not even thinking about anything, [but] just taking time to yourself is definitely the biggest thing that doesn't have any expense.
ED: Do you have a favorite method of meditation that you're into?
MM: In meditation, it's all about breathing. One person showed me the five counts where you [breathe in for] five counts forward and then [breathe out for] five counts backward while being in a comfortable position. I usually do mine sitting on the bed as soon as I wake up or before I go to sleep. It's super easy, very simple, and it doesn't take much time, but making sure I do that on an everyday basis has been helping me.
ED: You mentioned journaling and pockets of peace. What is that? What is a pocket of peace?
MM: I got that phrase from a person that I follow on TikTok. Her name is Nabela and she is amazing. Seeing her show her pockets of peace and showing how she moves [through] her day has really helped me because I feel, sometimes, that we focus on the negative more than the positive.
We mainly focus on the worst parts of the day or what took a toll on you and a lot of people don't focus on the positive things. So writing down the things that I'm grateful for, the moves that I want to make, or certain goals that I have in life gives me motivation. I write down a lot of those notes, little pockets of peace, and different bullet points in my journal.
ED: Are there any TikTok trends in terms of wellness and self-care that you’ve been interested in?
MM: It's not a certain trend, but more when people show how they start their everyday lives that impacts me a lot. I love those “a day in the life” videos where someone wakes up, makes up their bed, cooks something for themselves, and goes on a walk. Starting your days like that and documenting it puts into consideration what I can do before I go to work, or before I go into a somewhat stressful, very productive type of day.
ED: Are there any specific accounts you follow that provide those peaceful morning routines? Or is it just something that you like to look for?
MM: It's just something that I like to look for.
ED: The algorithm knows what you like.
MM: Yes. I'm on that side of TikTok, for sure. They usually just pop up in my feed and then I like to add to favorites or save them or even put them into consideration for what I want to do for the next day.
ED: So that said, what time do you start your day? And what does your morning routine look like? Have you been able to build something that gives you a level of peace and de-stressing?
MM: My days are kind of all over the place most of the time, but I usually like to wake up around 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m., especially when it's a work day. The first thing I do is my meditation. I make sure I do my five counts, and then I start writing in my journal, mainly about the dreams that I had because dreams mean a lot to me and I know they have a meaning. I write those down, and then I kind of get started. I make up my bed. I make sure my room is straight and then my whole getting dressed process has music. [It’s all about] putting myself in the right state of mind before I go out in the world.
ED: I love that. What are you listening to right now?
MM: Oh, my gosh, I listen to so many things. I'm very versatile when it comes to my music. I love The Internet. They have the most amazing albums and their music is so smooth and very calming, but it can also get you upbeat and into the right vibe if needed. I love Mac Ayres. Mac Ayres is super, I don't really use the word underrated often, but he's very underground and I love, love, love his music. Those are the two main people that I constantly listen to on a day-to-day basis.
ED: You mentioned mindset and we’ve talked about meditation. Are there any other things that help you keep a positive mindset? What helps you stay positive?
MM: I'm a Leo, so I love to dress up. I feel all types of confidence when it comes to my clothes and the way I take care of my skin. It all goes hand in hand and it's not for the people around me, it's definitely for myself and that is definitely what I like to take pride in.
I have always been a big fan of swimming and painting and those keep me afloat as well, especially talking to people that I'm close with, just a normal conversation, maybe by the pool or maybe having a picnic. Those little things definitely mean the world to me.
ED: This is kind of a funny question, but how do you remember to drink water?
MM: I'm still trying to figure it out. Drinking water is one of the most tedious things for me. I have to make sure I drink it, but I'm always working, so it always catches me off guard. I need to have those gallon things where it tells me to keep going. Those motivational quotes mean a lot and I have to believe them.
ED: We talked about self-care without stuff. Now let's talk a little bit about self-care with stuff. What are your favorite tools for relaxation? It could be candles or moisturizer, bath bombs, yoga blocks, etc.
MM: All the things that you really just said, that's them. I love a good bathtub. I love a good bathtime. Having the Epsom salts and bath bombs are my favorites. I guess when it comes to journaling, that's something that you can purchase as well that's definitely one. Also, working with Pinterest, they have opened up so many new things to me like team meditations and sound baths.
ED: Do you have any favorite bath products or brands or do you just love to try everything?
MM: I love to try everything. I love a good candle. Candles are my vibe and I usually have those around. I love different Epson salts, there's not a particular one, but I love the smells of lavender and eucalyptus.
Lavender And Eucalyptus Bath Salts
When you also take deep breaths [of those], you are just breathing in the relaxation and I love those types of spa-like scents.
ED: What does your current nighttime routine look like? How long does it take you to get ready for bed and what helps you wind down?
MM: It takes me a good 30 minutes to get ready for bed. As soon as I get home, I usually take a shower with some music or I take a bath. It depends on the day. I get out of the shower, lotion myself with shea butter, and put peppermint oil all around my bed. Then I usually just go to sleep.
ED: How long have you been using essential oils?
MM: I've been doing it for a long time. [It started when] my mom showed me different oils to use in humidifiers. I think I was 13 or 14 when I first started getting into the relaxing scents, especially when appointments and my career and meetings started to pile up. That was for sure when I got into it.
ED: What other ways do you stay centered given how busy you are and how much you have to juggle?
MM: I'm always open to different ways to stay centered, but I just try to make sure that I have [an] open dialogue with everybody — with my parents, with my closest friends. I think what gets us the most stressed is when we bottle in our emotions. That’s a very lonely feeling, to be honest. When you feel like nobody's with you or you're the only one who's feeling this way, it can feel very heavy so one way I stay centered is by trying to have open communication.
ED: You are so introspective. What’s your advice for someone who is young who maybe feels disconnected from themselves and is trying to get to know themselves, but maybe doesn't know where to start?
MM: I would say don't put that pressure on yourself to know who you are right now. I'm pretty sure everybody in the world is still trying to find their footing in this thing that we call life because life is the hardest thing we'll ever have to go through. I don't care what anybody says, the hardest thing that you're going to have to go through is life so don't put that pressure on yourself to know right now.
Of course, goals will come, but just kind of follow your feet. If you have to journal about the things that you think about or things that you need to get off your chest, you should probably do that. Then you can see your growth, years from now. I think that is something that has definitely helped me a lot, but, like I said, I just wouldn't put that pressure on anybody, especially at our age. We're going into adulthood and it’s the craziest transition. I would just say be patient, not with just the people around you, but be patient with yourself, and eventually, things will come as they may.