The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.
For singer Kelly Rowland, heart health is not just crucial, it is personal. After losing her mother to cardiac arrest in 2014, Rowland has made it her mission to educate others about the importance of taking care of themselves, especially with cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death of women in the United States. And in partnership with the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women movement, Rowland is set to virtually sit down with surrogate mom (and mother of fellow Destiny's Child member Beyoncé) Tina Knowles-Lawson on Feb. 24 on Instagram Live to raise more awareness as American Heart Month comes to an end.
In addition to honoring her mother's legacy, Rowland knows that it is more important than ever for her to take care of her health as a mom herself to sons Titan, 6, and now Noah, who was born just last month. Here she speaks to Yahoo Life about staying active, being pregnant during the pandemic and her trick for keeping her cool when she starts to get "worked up."
Why is heart health so important to you, and what role does being physically healthy play in your overall mental health?
I lost my mother years ago to cardiac arrest, so heart health is everything to me, especially because I have kids and being a Black woman, and how high the numbers are in the Black community. So for me, just getting the education and knowledge about heart health, and knowing what’s going on with your body and your heart [is important]. I remember walking in the Red Dress runway show they used to do in New York and how much I learned about heart health then. I just love the fact that there’s an opportunity to express how important heart health is through fashion, through beauty and now it’s a conversation with women that I’m about to have with my Mama T, Tina Knowles-Lawson. I love the fact that there’s a generation between us and she gets to talk about it in her age demographic and mine, and it’s just necessary.
Video: Kelly Rowland on new album and son Titan
I’ll never forget being able to go to the doctor and the freedom of knowing everything that was going on with my body. And it is attached to mental health because it’s less anxiety, because if there is something that comes up, you’re able to hopefully fix it or understand what’s going on and see the right people to fix it, or you continue doing what you’re doing. If you’re making good decisions when it comes to food, [doing] a little bit of exercise here and there, being able to meditate, it helps of course.
What ways have you been taking care of your heart health in the midst of the pandemic?
Exercising for sure; I'm not going too crazy with food, although it’s so easy to because you’re just in the house. It’s, like, just go outside, take a walk — especially when I was pregnant, there was really nothing to do but take a walk, hang out with my son and my husband. Exercising really helped, but opening that refrigerator, you had to make sure you were making the right choices with food. During the pandemic, I think that sometimes there’s a connection with food and comfort, and you have to be careful with that.
I just wanted to make sure I was making good decisions for the baby. I was eating for the baby while I was pregnant, so I made a lot of good decisions and I was learning how to [cook] fresh vegetables, fruits and things like that. I wanted to change everything up and I’m happy that I did because I feel like it brightened my mood and it did wonders for my labor. It was just a different experience and you have to be cognizant of that, especially when it comes to decision-making about food. You have to take care of your body — you only get one. Take care of it, love on it. That way it’s going to love on us.
What are your go-to techniques for fighting stress and anxiety?
For me it’s meditation, it’s breathing and it’s counting. If I feel myself getting too worked up, I literally have to either count backwards or forwards and it helps to kind of take my mind off of everything. I actually practice that with my son and we do it together.
Do you have any small self-care rituals that you use to brighten your day?
I love getting in the bathtub. I love having candles around me, and flowers always calm me for some reason, but I love a nice relaxing bath and I listen to music. My bath will be covered in rose petals and salts, and I love bubbles. I love a good bath salt, something to relax the body even more. Lavender oils, milk, all these different things.
You were pregnant and gave birth during the pandemic. Did that take a toll on your mental health, given the uncertainty of the first few months? How did you work through that?
You would think that it would, but for some strange reason, it actually helped me... I was already inside the house, I was spending all this time with my husband and my son, learning even more [about] their love language and what we needed as a bond. It was just a check-in time with family, which I really loved. So as stressful as it is for me to become a teacher and trying to figure out school, I was more stressed about my son not being able to see his friends because he’s such a social creature. And I was really concerned about the kids and them being taken out of their element of learning and being around other kids. I was fine because I found it a way to be creative, and I’m grateful for that. But everything else was tough on me [in terms of] Titan.
You worked out consistently throughout your pregnancy. What motivated you to keep going?
One, I knew that that was going to get the baby down and two, I knew I still wanted to have fun and it was nothing else to do with COVID. It’s like, if I’m gonna dance, I can dance in my backyard and be silly and have fun. I think that was really important to me, was just to be able to deal with frustrations, or a little anxiety, that definitely can be worked up at times. Just dance it out.
How have you and your husband been helping your son adjust to the changes of the pandemic and a new baby?
We’re all trying to figure it out, if I’m being completely transparent. My son had a full-on meltdown the other day and thank God I have a very dear close friend named Joe. I called Joe — he’s a therapist — and he just talked me through it. He had such great points. Titan, his whole world has changed and what I forgot to think about is for myself and my husband, the world has changed too. All of us have to get used to this new normal and it’s a beautiful new normal, but it’s definitely a different dynamic because Titan is so used to all of the attention, but now it has to be split. It’s about learning everything all over again, but in the most beautiful way because we have a great addition.
What mantra do you live by?
We make time for things we want to make time for. You make time to be great, you make time for your kids, you make time to make better decisions, you make time to eat better, you make time to take care of yourself, you make time to love on yourself — you make time for the things you want to make time for.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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