Jessica Chia On Why She Meditates in the Bathroom Stall at Work

The senior beauty editor at Allure discusses the book the changed her life and what gives her energy.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Jessica Chia: Brush my teeth and put my contacts in. I can’t see a thing without them. And then I don’t wash my face, because a French facialist (at Joelle Ciocco in Paris) once told me it’s too aggressive to wash both at night and in the morning. It actually makes dermatological sense—at night you’re getting all of the irritating, inflaming particulate matter off of your face and in the morning you’re just disrupting your skin’s perfectly-healthy microbiome for no reason.

TG: What gives you energy?
JC: Not coffee—it makes me edgy and anxious. Having a really good conversation with someone is my coffee. Like, one in which you get each other and just walk away feeling like you can take on anything. This can be professional, romantic, platonic, familial. A frequent combination of all is ideal for me. I also get a lot of energy from zen nights alone in my apartment. I’ll redecorate my room, rejigger my 401K…there’ll be no limit to my productivity if I have my Diptyque Baies Hourglass Diffuser (unlike a candle, it allows me to zone out without worrying about starting a fire) and a good Spotify playlist on shuffle.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
JC: Meditate in the bathroom stall. It’s worth getting over the awkward worry that someone thinks you’re in there too long. When you’re done doing what you need to do, hold your right nostril closed with your pointer finger, and breathe in deeply through your left nostril. Hold that breath in as you lift your pointer finger and hold your left nostril closed with your middle finger, and breathe slowly out of your right nostril. That’s one. Now do it ten more times, just focusing on your breath and nothing else. It doesn’t take more than a couple minutes and puts you in a better headspace when you get back to your desk.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
JC: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I can’t say I totally agree with objectivist philosophy (that helping others is a societal construct meant to distract you from fulfilling your full artistic potential), but it makes a great point that pouring your energies into your life’s work or craft will ultimately benefit you and society. In that way, being selfish is unselfish. Totally mind-blowing after watching a lot of 90s-era movies where the workaholic adult realizes that they’ve been missing out on life. Of course, it’s all a balance. I call my mom every day after work and make sure I set aside vacation days to visit the little ones in my family that don’t quite understand why I work in New York City.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
JC: It’s gotten worse over time. In college, I would leave it home a lot during the day, even, and not mind. I did that recently and had a panicky feeling all day at work. Still, I put it on silent (and away from my body) when I go to bed. I don’t want to put anyone in a position to get between me and my precious seven-ish hours of sleep a night.

TG: How do you deal with email?
JC: I try to keep my inbox as close to zero as possible, and file, file, file everything else. There’s a folder for every issue we’re working on (in another industry, that would be a folder for every project), a folder for protocol emails I’ll need to reference again and again, a folder for emails that spark ideas, a folder for business travel-related emails, and my favorite: a folder for emails that made me smile. I also don’t check it constantly. I just plow through a bunch whenever I get time, and definitely at the end of the day to make sure I don’t miss anything.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
JC: Look through my RSS feed. I use Feedly, which is connected to my Google account and I’ve loaded with all the beauty and media industry news sources I need to check daily. It siphons just the new stuff from each site so you can quickly (say, in 15-20 minutes) go through all of it. I’ll open the five or so articles that interest me and then come back to those windows as I have time throughout the day.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
JC: The last time I felt truly burned out was when I was in a role in which I was writing about beauty at a magazine where one editor-in-chief thought beauty was an unimportant category. Constantly hearing “Our readers don’t really care about beauty” was such a bummer, and really killed my drive to think of creative and new things. That was three or so years ago, and I haven’t felt it since. I’ve been very fortunate since then to have bosses who value the type of content I produce and encourage me to run with it. I’ve had crazy workloads, not-so-great work-life balance, weird personal-life things going on in the interim, believe me. I’m just so smitten with beauty editorial that I really haven’t been as negatively impacted by those ebbs and flows as I was the general negativity and discouragement I was facing before.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
JC: As a writer, I get critique back on my work every single day. Complete rewrites of stuff I thought was gold, or a revise riddled with notes when I thought I’d reported the bananas out of the topic. It can still sting sometimes, especially if an editor writes something especially pointed, but I’ve learned to overcome it by swallowing my pride, reminding myself “this isn’t personal” (it isn’t), and making each requested change, one by one. I actually just finished doing a revise, as I type this. When I’ve finished making all the changes, I invariably see the vision there, and, more often than not, like the finished product better. Plus, it’s still my work at the end of the day—I see it as a privilege to get a chance to fix my own mistakes.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
JC: In Anne Lamott’s book, Bird By Bird, she tells the story of how her little brother had to do a huge research report on a wide variety of birds, and waited until the night before to start it. He was panicked, and asked their father for advice. His advice was to take it “bird by bird.” It’s the same with work, and life. There are always so many things to do, and never enough time, but the only way to get it done, sanely, is to take it bird by bird.

Jessica Chia is currently the senior beauty editor at Allure, where she edits the monthly Beauty Reporter section of the magazine and helps shape the beauty and health coverage across the brand’s digital, social and print platforms. She is also a certified aromatherapist and was named to Folio’s 2016 list of 30 Under 30 Honorees, which recognizes rising talent in the media industry.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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