It goes without saying that we’re living through some pretty stressful times. And even in less crazed ones, the responsibilities of everyday life can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why we’re always looking for ways to relax and unwind after a long day or commute — from nestling under a cozy blanket, to a good at-home massage, to a nice, long bath. But as anyone who has taken a trip to a spa or any wellness-focused practice knows, a calming space is often key to getting the most out of any stress-relief treatment. “Beyond the treatment itself, creating the right type of calming environment is key for ensuring relaxation,” says Gabriel Sher, a practicing acupuncturist of two decades and the director of acupuncture at ORA, a newly opened New York City–based acupuncture space.
When it comes to things you can buy to make your own space even more of a soothing retreat, we asked Sher — who has learned a lot about stress relief in his professional career — about the stuff he uses to create a calming environment at his clinic and his home. Read on for the seven things he told us about, including his favorite white-noise machine, essential-oil diffuser, and lavender eye mask.
“In New York City, there’s so much noise everywhere. I like the Yogasleep because it provides a steady, calming sound that blocks out everything from the outside world. It’s a very calming white noise. I use them in all of my acupuncture rooms so people don’t have to hear other voices or the sounds of people walking by. It’s a very good machine, and you can adjust the noise volume, so you can make it very quiet or very loud. If you’re living in New York, it’s a must-have.”
“The palm plant is very calming and a way to bring some nature inside. It’s really good for anxiety — it removes toxins from the air, and it moistens the air. While I like humidifiers a lot, they can create so much bacteria. They’re very hard to keep clean. Whereas plants will do the same thing and keep a lot of moisture in the air, naturally. And I always recommend the palm because it’s very easy to care for.”
“Lavender is very calming in nature, especially before bed. I love the smell of this, and these candles burn the perfect amount of lavender. The smell is not too overwhelming, and the candle burns for 70 hours. A patient turned me on to the brand, and now I burn them at home all the time. I also appreciate that the candle is made in Brooklyn. It is a little pricier, but they’re extremely well made and I think they’re worth it. When it comes to sleeping better, you really want to create the right, calming environment. Keep your phone away, turn on your white noise machine, burn a lavender candle.”
“I have this diffuser in my office. I love all the options it has: high or low mist, lights up if you want, and there’s a timer if you want to set it for a specific length of time. If you keep it on continuously, it turns off automatically when the water runs out. It makes no noise, it’s really quiet. I fill the diffuser to the max line and add ten drops of essential oil. I prefer Young Living essential oils and, again, I always use lavender. It’s the most relaxing, the most unobtrusive smell. A lot of people can be sensitive to strong smells, and I find that lavender is not irritating and creates a soothing vibe that everybody enjoys.”
“I use this eye mask at home, and it’s the one I suggest my patients buy for themselves. It has a really nice material with organic lavender and flax. I like to use it while meditating or just when I’m lying down relaxing. It’s really good for anxiety and headaches, or just to calm down at the end of the day. You can even heat it up, which I find very soothing.”
“At ORA, we have our own custom tea blends available in-store. I love Line of Defense, which is a non-caffeinated chai blend designed to help you stay centered and to alleviate nervous tension and digestive unrest. It has red vanilla rooibos, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, schisandra, gotu kola, orange peel, and hawthorn berry. To brew, I use a reusable tea infuser and steep one tablespoon of loose tea in eight ounces of boiling water for five minutes. I am a huge loose-leaf tea drinker, and my favorite infuser is the OXO Twisting Tea Ball. It’s not expensive and so necessary for tea drinkers. It scoops out the perfect amount of tea to brew, holds the leaves very well while brewing, and makes it super-easy to remove the leaves once your cup is ready.”
“This is my go-to formula for sleep and anxiety. It takes the edge off. It works like melatonin, same concept, and it’s not habit-forming. It helps with overthinking, anxiety, and being in your head too much. It’s probably my favorite formula in Chinese medicine. You take it regularly, every day, mixed with warm water.”
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.