Mental Health//

How Actress Holly Robinson Peete Slays the Dragons of Her Mind

Her tips for dealing with life’s curveballs are inspiring.

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Getty Images

Welcome to Thriving Mind, a resource to help you understand your individual signs of stress, take small steps to recharge, and unlock better mental health.

Holly Robinson Peete is used to letting people in on the “messiness” of life.  Until recently, the actress and her husband — former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete — had their own family docuseries on Hallmark, “Meet the Peetes,” where they didn’t hold back about their challenges. “We have issues, we have problems that we resolve together and there’s a value in showing and sharing that, especially when it comes to our special needs son,” Robinson Peete has said.

With a demanding career, four kids — including a son who has autism — and other struggles in her past, such as becoming the main caregiver to her late father who battled Parkinson’s disease for 20 years, stress has been a real part of Robinson Peete’s life. But she somehow found a way to keep her head up through it all: “We survived our son’s autism, we survived the NFL, and the depression of athlete retirement,” she says.

Of course, before we can fully cope with our stress, we need to develop awareness of what our stressors are in the first place — and actionable steps that support our mental well-being. A new Thrive Global survey of over 2,000 Americans ages 18 to 85 shows just how desperately people want and need that knowledge: 91% of respondents said not knowing or ignoring their personal signs of overstress had a negative impact on their mental well-being, 72% wish they knew more small everyday steps to improve their mental health, and nearly half said when it comes to managing their stress, they don’t know where to start.

Because there is power in sharing our stories, Robinson Peete opened up to Thrive about her own stressors, her signs of overstress, and the small, everyday steps she takes to take care of her mental well-being.

Thrive Global: What are the things that stress you out?

Holly Robinson Peete: My kids. I ask myself: How are my kids doing? Are they fine? They say you’re only as happy as your least happy child — and I have four of them. So, there’s always some drama going on. This morning was rough morning, but I’ve found it’s so important for parents to practice stress management. When you put stress on your kids, when they see you stressed, they get stressed and then nothing good happens after that.

TG: What are the signs that you’re starting to reach your breaking point?

HRP: My breathing clues me in. If I’m not taking deep, deep, breaths, and my lungs aren’t expanding, I can usually tell something’s up. It’s not hyperventilation, but it’s those shallow, quick breaths and I realize, OK, Holly, you’re not taking a complete breath.

TG: What steps do you take to recharge your mental batteries?

HRP: The number one thing that helps me is meditating so I can calm my mind and get ready for the drama of the day. Because there’s always going to be something — I wake up ready for battles. So for me, it’s meditation, it’s also yoga when I can do it, and sometimes it’s just putting on some headphones and listening to an app. There are so many great ones out there that help calm anxiety and stress. And even if you take 15 or 20 minutes a day just to get your mind right, to take on the dragons you have to slay, I think that’s really helpful. And I’m trying to teach my kids how to meditate. I think that’s such a great tool to give your children: the ability to manage their stress. 

And then there’s sleep, which is also important. My nighttime routine often involves listening to a sleep story, and my husband cracks up, because there’s one where Matthew McConaughey is doing the sleep story, and he tells me, “I don’t know if I’m OK with you going to sleep to Matthew McConaughey whispering in your ear.” I’m like, “Honey, as long as I get to sleep — all you want is your wife to be rested. Don’t worry about how I get there.”

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