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.
Emmy-nominated writer and producer, Lauren Gussis, is no stranger to stress. Known for the Showtime series Dexter, the NBC series E-Ring and the Netflix Original Series Insatiable—she works long hours, travels frequently — all while being the mom to an adorable son. She experiences debilitating panic attacks, but has learned ,over the years, the right tools to help her get through those hard moments.
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, Hart is opening up about her own stressors, her signs of over-stress, and the small, everyday steps she takes to take care of her mental well-being.
Thrive Global: What are your stressors?
Lauren Gussis: What are the things that don’t cause me stress? I run INSATIABLE, a Netflix television show. Since it shoots in a different state than the one in which I live, it makes the work-family-life balance especially challenging. While the show is in production I have to fly back and forth between Atlanta and Los Angeles, juggling working with the writers to come up with story, writing and rewriting scripts, getting and taking notes from the network with dignity and grace, going to production meetings, being present on set to answer questions from actors and directors, and most importantly, producing quality content under strict budgetary and time restraints.
I worry about being a good boss, I worry about producing a great product, I worry about making sure that we are telling responsible, but compelling stories. I worry about making sure that everyone feels heard. I worry about pleasing the audience, the network, and the talent involved. And I worry about staying true to my vision. There have been times when we are beginning to shoot the episode the very next day, and I hear the script in the table read and it becomes clear a story isn’t working, and then we have to rewrite it nearly overnight, as not to slow down the production.
In the few hours I’m not working, I try to attend to my own personal relationships—the day to day challenges of being married (both practically and emotionally). But, much of the time things don’t get discussed, because there’s so much talk of work. Plus, my husband works for me as a writer on my show, which provides a whole host of other complications. Add to that, we have a six year old son — so when the show is in season, I work up to 18 hours a day.
I feel guilty when I’m not working, but I feel even more guilty about not being with my son. My son and I are very close, and to compensate for time lost we lay down with him to fall asleep and then let him come into our bed in the middle of the night—then I worry that he’s not learning self-soothing techniques. But I don’t want to give up that time with him, because sometimes I have to be gone for weeks at a time. I try to remember that I’m providing for my family and that he gets to see a strong woman pursuing her dreams, and I know he’s proud of me.
TG: What are the signs that you’re starting to reach your tipping point?
LG: I have very clear signs that my stress is out of control. Sometimes I get panic attacks. I get anxiety related nausea and vomiting. I have alopecia aerate which gets triggered by stress, so I have clumps of hair that go missing. Plus ,I find that my patience gets shorter when my anxiety gets bigger.
TG: What are the steps you take to positively work through that stress?
LG: I meditate daily with a mantra or three. “Believe in believing, the impossible is possible” for seven minutes, and then I state my intention for what I’d like to manifest. I also chant “Peace, love, positivity” for seven minutes; then I chant “Unity, faith, hope, love,” while I envision rainbow energy surrounding any problem I’d like to solve.
I reach out to friends for their experience strength and hope when I know they’ve gone through a similar situation. I ask the Universe for guidance (prayer.) I go to the ocean whenever possible. I get massages. I started seeing a somatic therapist who helps me deal with the stress that gets trapped in my body. She’s taught me to find the place in my body that feels calm, and focus on that.
I recently started taking boxing lessons. I’ve found that that’s a game changer in terms of stress release. I write a letter to my version of a higher power most days and turn over any fears and resentments I have; and then I write a gratitude list to focus on what’s going right. And every night before we put my son to bed, we each say what we are grateful for.
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