When she entered high school three years ago, Maya Mehigan noticed a significant uptick in her stress level compared to middle school – despite having completed a demanding Moody M.S. International Baccalaureate program.
Her friends and classmates, she recalls, were also feeling the added pressure and finding it challenging to balance academic workloads with extracurricular activities.
Fortunately, Mehigan didn’t have to go far to find ways to relax whenever her schedule of school, job and athletics became overwhelming.
“I found that one of the ways I best cope with my stress is through candles,” she says, noting that sometimes all it takes to calm herself is to use a scented candle, or aromatherapy, as she studies.
Realizing that so many of her fellow Glen Allen H.S. students were also struggling with school pressures and anxiety sparked an interest in stress management for Mehigan, who made mental wellness the focus of her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Working with a local clinical psychologist, she created a website (teenmentalwellness.weebly.com) comprised of stress-relief tips geared to teens – as well as devising bookmarks she distributed to promote the site.
“I took my website and turned it into a campaign,” she says, “sharing the resource with schools, clubs, and libraries so more teens can benefit.”
The site is free and available to help anxious, stressed-out people of all ages, she adds – not simply teens.
‘Will we ever go back?’
As it happens, the timing of her mental wellness project could hardly have been more fortuitous.
In March, with the onset of the pandemic, student stress and anxiety heightened dramatically as schools locked down and social activities and sports ceased. Mehigan and her peers have now entered their senior year of high school – a high-pressure phase of life long before COVID-19 – buffeted by far more stressors than usual and still unable to attend classes in person.
“There’s so much uncertainty,” Mehigan says. “When will we go back?
“Will we ever go back?”
She adds that college entrance exams such as the SAT have had to be cancelled and rescheduled multiple times due to COVID restrictions, and many of her friends have had to apply to college “blind,” or without ever visiting the campus of a prospective school. What’s more, she says, seniors are missing out on cherished traditions and activities – such as the recent senior convocation, which had to be held virtually.
On the other hand, the virtual school days that resulted from the lockdown have freed up time Mehigan once spent traveling back and forth to a full school day, followed by extracurriculars – and she has taken full advantage of the extra hours left by her lighter schedule.
“I’ve always been a fan of do-it-yourself craft projects, so back when the pandemic started, I began creating my own candles,” she says.
As a child, one of her favorite craft activities was making soap, which she sold to benefit a local charity.
“So it was easy to move on to candle-making.”
Realizing that others in the community might be interested in aromatherapy as stress relief, she formed a candle company and named it MindBloom.
After her experience with soap-making, she knew that she wanted her candle business to be philanthropic. And with her keen interest in teen mental health, and her desire to educate younger teens in stress-relief techniques as early as possible, Mehigan had no trouble zeroing in on the organization she wanted to support. “I reached out,” she says, “to the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation.”
Founded to honor the memory of Cameron Gallagher, a Henrico teen who died of heart failure in 2014, the CKG Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and eliminating the stigma surrounding teen anxiety and depression.
In September, which is National Self-Care Awareness Month, CKG and MindBloom launched their charitable partnership. CKG Foundation celebrated the partnership by holding a social-media-based candle giveaway as part of its 7-Day Self-Care Challenge.
Since establishing MindBloom, Mehigan has sold more than 200 candles, and is donating profits monthly to CKG. The candles come in scents such as lavender rose (a favorite), orange vanilla, and eucalyptus – and she just released a new fragrance, pumpkin spice. “I plans to release two holiday scents, too,” she says.
But mental wellness is not the only passion that Mehigan is able to indulge through her candles. Another cause near and dear to her heart – and the likely focus of her future career path – is the environment.
Ultimately, she hopes to pursue courses in environmental studies and public policy, and a career in shaping environmental policy and law. For now, however, the teen entrepreneur takes care to build her business around a product that is all-natural, non-toxic and earth-friendly. She emphasizes that her candles are made using soy wax and pure essential oils – unlike commercial, mass-produced candles, which are made with paraffin and other environmentally-harmful ingredients.
Judging from the feedback she receives, her customers appreciate that the candles are made with the earth in mind. But the appreciative comments don’t stop there. A family friend was so impressed by the charitable connection, for instance, that he bought candles as corporate Christmas gifts. And a delighted bride who heard about the candles ordered them for her entire bridal party.
Occasionally, customers also share stories of their mental health struggles or those of a family member, and tell Mehigan how much MindBloom’s mission means to them.
“I know that stress,” Mehigan says. “I see it every day in my friends and in myself. So It’s really rewarding when they reach out – to know they share the same passion I do.”
MindBloom, she believes, has been beneficial not simply as a mental health resource, or a source of support for anxious teens; it has benefited its founder as well.
“It really has helped me find my passion,” Mehigan says of her efforts to develop MindBloom and promote mental wellness – not to mention helping her satisfy “my passion for helping other people at the same time.”
For details about MindBloom candles, visit MindBloomShop.com.