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.
Few moms may have “vampire slayer” on their resumé, but Sarah Michelle Gellar is otherwise riding out lockdown life like your average parent: playing board games, wrestling with screen time dilemmas and shooing her two kids, aged 8 and 11, outside. The actress — who married ‘90s heartthrob and frequent co-star Freddie Prinze Jr. in 2002 — is also finding purpose by helping to tackle hunger brought on by the pandemic, an initiative she says “feeds my soul.”
Here, the star opens up about her latest charitable project, friendship and the lessons she’s passing on to her kids.
What’s your go-to in terms of giving yourself a mental health break or relieving stress? Are you into working out, or journaling, or meditating?
Meditating would be great, but I have two children in my house so other than the bathroom, I do not have time by myself right now. My meditation is my sleep. I’ve been exercising; I think for me that’s really important. It’s also about getting out and getting fresh air. It’s so easy to just be on your Zooms all day and stay in your room or read a book or whatever those things are, and I make it a point to be outside. Even if it’s doing my Zooms [outdoors] — I’m fortunate enough to have a backyard and live in an area that has beautiful weather so I can be outside. I think it’s very important; you can get very depressed being inside all the time.
And [it’s about] really just trying to find appreciation and gratitude. As hard as this situation is, understanding that I am in a fortunate place where I’m not food-insecure, and certainly focusing on what are the things I can do to help people that are struggling worse than myself. I’m one of those people that needs to be busy and needs to feel that they’re helping other people.
You’ve partnered with Subaru in donating 100 million meals to Feeding America to help those who are food-insecure during the pandemic. How does giving back help you keep perspective during these difficult times?
Well, I think perspective is the key word in what you’re saying. You can’t for your own health and wellness, you can’t deny that what every single person is going through is hard. This is the hardest thing that I’ve ever faced in my life, and I’m not facing the situations that other people are facing. And perspective has always been really important to me, especially on the days where I feel frustrated and think, I’m not able to handle this.
And I think about what’s happening right now, and when you hear a statistic like 1 in 4 children have food insecurity right now and could possibly not know where they’re next meal is coming from, that breaks my heart on every level. What are those things that we can do as a community, as a country, to help that situation, because no child should ever have to worry where their next meal is coming from. And to be able to connect with a company like Subaru that really means what they say and is making such a difference, it lifts my spirits ... It feeds my soul.
How has your family been getting through the pandemic? Have there been any bright spots?
You have to find your own bright spots in this situation, and it goes in waves. I live in Los Angeles right now, which I think, in terms of lockdown, has been probably the most austere in the country. It goes in waves where you can see people at a distance. I’m a people person so it’s hard for me to not be social and not see my friends. But we’ve gotten so creative in other ways. The other day, one of my girlfriends, it was her birthday and we did a game Zoom and we sent around a Google document with questions and we made these little paddles for our friends who had to guess whose answer it was. It’s just how funny how full circle things come. I was the person at a baby shower or a bachelorette party years ago that would be like, “I do not want to play a game.” And now I’m so happy to do that, on any level that I connect with the people in my life.
There’s been a lot of bright spots. And the bright spots are having the time with my family. Normally, we live in a very busy society, and my husband and I both work and my children have an active social life, and they have classes and we’re always on the go. And now we’ve really sort of scaled back and enjoy having dinner together every night and playing board games. Just really connecting on a deeper level.
I think it’s also strengthened friendships — the people that were here for you, that checked in on you when they didn’t hear from you in a couple of days and asked, “Are you feeling down?’”... Whether it’s dropping something off in someone’s front yard to cheer them up, or the fact that we have that ability [to connect], I feel very blessed.
Do you have any wellness routines that you practice as a family, or are there ways in which you introduce your kids to concepts like self-care and self-esteem?
Self-esteem is such a tricky one, to be a youth these days. We’re so bombarded by these cultivated, perfect images on social media, and it’s a constant conversation that I have with my daughter. She’s at that age where’s she starting to explore different social medias and I want her to understand that it’s just a bit of someone’s life, and it’s filtered. You can edit everything, and that’s not what reality is.
I’ve always been fortunate that I’ve been able to block out so much of the negativity, because if I give credit to the negativity, I’m going to have to give the same amount of credit to the positivity, and I have to take that from the people around me. I’ve explained on numerous occasions to my daughter that that’s the most important [lesson]. It’s hard because she’s missing that valuable time with groups of friends where you learn how to navigate those situations.
My other wellness trick is, you have to balance the screen time. That’s for everybody — that’s for me, that’s for my kids. And it’s hard because the screen is what connects us right now but ultimately it has a tendency to disconnect us, because we aren’t together. We’ve lost those social skills and eye contact. Even if it’s taking a walk with a friend with double masks and being outside, or doing a drive-by where I wave out the window, making sure that I make that effort to have some connection that’s not just digital.
Is it difficult pulling that off with your kids?
I try not to be too hard on myself because it’s a big jump for us. Our kids didn’t have a lot of screen time before this, but I also have to understand that there’s very little that they can do, and that is how they connect. The word is balance, and making sure that we have big chunks of the day where all of the devices are put away and we’re outside on the trampoline, or we’re talking a walk, or walking the dogs, or playing a board game. Just really balancing it. But also not being so hard on myself so that, you know, if one of their friends wants to have a Zoom with them, [accepting] that that’s it for them right now [in terms of social contact] and understanding that that’s OK.
Are there any wellness trends you think are overrated?
I still drink my celery juice that I make myself or I get from the farmer’s market, so I don’t think that’s overrated. I have not put Gorilla Glue in my hair [laughs].
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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