Mental Health//

Actress Maggie Q on The Habit that Makes Her a Calmer Person

“This realization has been kind of been a miracle for me.”

Getty Images
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.

Maggie Q may have made a name for herself as an action movie star, landing roles in Mission: Impossible III, Live Free or Die Hard, and the TV series “Nikita.” But she knows that real life doesn’t come with a stunt double. We go through stumbles and setbacks, and there may be emotional bruises as a result. The silver lining? “We rarely grow when we’re happy; we grow when we’re hurt,” the actress and environmentalist has said

To keep everything in perspective, Q leans on her sense of purpose. “There has to be something in my day that’s not about me, my wants, my needs,” the actress, who recently launched her sustainable activewear company, QeepUp, tells Thrive. And according to science, Q’s self-care strategy — giving back and doing good — certainly bodes well for her well-being: Research has found that giving can lead to reduced stress, among other health benefits. 

Everyone can use some help with stress, but before we can fully cope, 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, Q is opening up 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 causes you stress?

Maggie Q: Things that I can’t control, like if I want to determine the quality of an outcome, and I can’t personally do it because other people are delegated to the task. Or if I have a deadline that I’m not meeting because of something that didn’t reach me or something that didn’t happen. That’s where I start to get a little bit anxious because I want the result that I want — and that’s not always possible. 

TG: What signs warn you that you’re approaching your tipping point?

MQ: I actually get temperature hot: I feel heat in my body. You know, like in those cartoons back in the day where you would see the red rise and then someone’s head would explode. I mean, my head doesn’t explode, but I do feel the heat sort of rise and at that point I go, “Oh OK, I’m turning a corner now.” I guess you could call that my boiling point!

TG: What small steps do you take to work through that stress?

MQ: The thing about control is that you think you have it, and you actually don’t. One of the things that I’ve come to realize is that whether something happens or it doesn’t happen, it’s the same.  Something is happening for me that is a part of this journey I’m on, and whatever that is, it’s meant to be. This realization has been kind of been a miracle for me. I’ll look at something that was supposed to have arrived at a certain time, or a person who was supposed to show up for me and they don’t, and I go, “Oh well, that’s the same.” Knowing that I’m being served at any point — whether it’s positive or it’s completely disappointing — has brought me to a state of consciousness that keeps me calm most of the time. Because there’s no expectation. I don’t mean that I’m not driven — I’m super driven. But expectation is dangerous. There’s a pivot point where you start to unravel because the expectation is either unrealistic, or it has to do with control. So looking at something and saying, “This is the same for me, whether it works out or it doesn’t” is a miracle. 

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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