Anxiety in “normal” times is hard enough, but anxiety during a pandemic is an overachiever’s nightmare. Beth Behrs knows this all too well. The Neighborhood actress, who shot to stardom on CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls , has been battling anxiety and panic attacks since she was a child. “I searched for years for the answer to anxiety,” she says. “I tried every diet that was supposed to help mental health. I tried all the natural exercise yoga things that are supposed to help. It’s exhausting.” Not to mention scary. “There’s so much uncertainty in the world that the hardest part was this feeling of not having control.”
Behrs, who has found solace and comfort in horses (she cofounded SheHerdPower in 2017 to help survivors of sexual assault through equine therapy), decided to take control of the uncontrollable. “I’ve never had downtime like this, and when I noticed that meditating wasn’t really helping anymore, I turned to music. Having an instrument close to my heart and playing music with it on my chest helps keep me present,” says the banjo player. That plus the sounds of Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, and Vince Gill helped her come up with an idea: a podcast focusing on creativity, healing, and wellness.
“I was like, Wait a minute—if music is healing for me, and also making me surrender to my feelings—even the hard ones—I’d love to talk to other creatives about music and mental health. How are they handling 2020? What about other traumatic or difficult times in their life?”she says. “It made me feel less alone, and I’m hoping it’ll make other people feel less alone.”
The podcast—called Harmonics—launches September 8 and features artists and creatives like best-selling author Glennon Doyle, Grammy winner Brandi Carlile, singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier, country artist Mickey Guyton, and Behrs’s Neighborhood costar Tichina Arnold. (Her dream guest is Dolly Parton, and Behrs says she won’t stop talking about her on the podcast until she agrees to come on.)
While Harmonics is a chance for Behrs to get advice from the people she admires most, it’s also a chance for her to share the ups and downs of her mental health. “I’m nervous for people to see that vulnerability from me because I’m usually twerking on Ellen, but it’s important, especially right now, to be authentic and make people feel less alone,” she says.
Dealing with her anxiety during the pandemic has actually helped Behrs make peace with it. “The thing that actually brings me the most calm is knowing the anxiety is never just gonna go away. I’ve learned to sort of tuck it under my arm, bring it with me, and not fight it,” she says. “I was faced with it so head-on during this pandemic because the things that normally bring me so much joy—like going to work—weren’t able to happen. But anxiety has motivated me to do my part in helping to erase the mental health stigma. I just won’t let it debilitate my life anymore.”
Ahead of Harmonics’ first episode, we asked Behrs to share the detailed steps she takes to manage her anxiety each day, how she gets rid of the #SundayScaries, and why an ice-cold plunge in the ocean is something she’ll never give up.
Glamour: Meditation has helped you in the past, but sometimes it didn’t give you the relief you needed. What else helped?
Beth Behrs: When I was a little girl, music and singing were my escape. Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” always made me feel better, and so I started to play that every morning while I made my tea before I went for my walk. And then I started putting on other records in the morning. Scientific evidence shows that our body can actually heal from music on a cellular level.
The banjo came next as a way to connect. I swear to God, when I picked up this instrument, I felt less alone. I still do. It’s challenging enough but not too challenging to the point where I want to quit. Instead, I’m completely present.
Crosley Cruiser Deluxe Turntable
$89.95.00, Pottery Barn
The Very Best of Dolly Parton
Where does one learn the banjo? Or know what kind of banjo to buy?
You can go on Ebay or Etsy and find super affordable banjos. You can also buy a guitar or a ukulele—it doesn’t have to be the banjo. But the coolest person in my book, Steve Martin, plays it, so that’s pretty awesome. [Laughs.] There’s lots of books out there, but I also highly recommend listening to musicians Our Native Daughters, Allison Russell and Rhiannon Giddens. There are some bad-ass female banjo players. I’m really into this old style called claw-hammer or frailing. There’s so many options. I’ve bought so many banjos during quarantine.
$199.00, Guitar Center
Songs of Our Native Daughters
What advice has stuck with you from your interviews for Harmonics?
In my conversation with Allison Russell, we talk about motherhood. I’m not a mother yet, but I asked her what she’s going to teach her daughter about death. She said something along the lines of, “I don’t know much about what actually happens after you die, but I know that love never dies, and so I just teach my daughter to love.”
So anytime I’m having a dark moment, I tell myself that love never dies. Just feel love. It’s one of those things I’ll never, ever forget the rest of my life. I told Glennon Doyle how I’m constantly searching for meaning in 2020, and she said, “Beth, you need to stop thinking so big and just go get a glass of water.” Honestly, I felt like she freed me from the chains of anxiety with that advice. When I start worrying about what the point of all of this is, I need to stop trying to find the spiritual answer and just go drink a glass of water!
Can you trace your anxiety back to a certain point in your life when you were younger?
I’ve always been an anxious kid. I was always scared. For as long as I can remember, at night I was always scared of break-ins or kidnappings. And for as long as I can remember, I was always, always, scared of not being good enough. It was the perfectionism voice. Especially when I got 2 Broke Girls. I felt so much gratitude to the point that I felt this overwhelming anxiety.
At the beginning of 2 Broke Girls, I got this skin virus all over my body from deep-rooted stress, which led me to find horses and mediation. Horses only respond to authenticity because they are prey animals, so when you’re authentic and true to who you are, that’s the key. Once I understood that, it empowered me to know I would be enough no matter what. If I missed a line in one take, it would be okay, we could do it again. Once I was able to deal with my need for perfectionism, it really helped my panic attacks.
What else helps alleviate your anxiety?
Cold-plunging in the ocean a few times a week! I’ll leave my house at 5:30 a.m., get there at 6, swim around a little bit—cold plunge—no wetsuit. I really found that cold showers do the same thing. At the end of a warm shower, I will turn the knob to cold for two minutes. There’s a book I read called Blue Mind, and it’s about the healing power of water because most of our body is water. At first I could only do 15, 20 seconds of cold water in the shower because it’s something you have to work your mind up to. Now I actually put on Talking Heads and dance for two minutes in the cold at the end of a warm shower.
You recently said that Sunday is your favorite day of the week, but a lot of people get anxiety because of the work week ahead. What’s your secret?
Rituals are really important. You can designate it to any day, but I think it’s best to do it on Sundays so you look forward to it. First, I start the day by allowing myself to have a sugary breakfast, whether it be pancakes, cinnamon buns, or a blueberry crumble. Make it a treat. I also get the hard copy of the New York Times. The rest of the week I read it online, but I love having it in my hands on a Sunday. I read every page while I play records, and my husband and I snuggle. I’ll also make tea, and then do the Sunday crossword, which I still do on the app because I’m not that good yet. And then I usually spend the afternoon with my horse. I don’t put any pressure on myself. I also don’t read anything for work if I can help it.
How do you end your day?
I love baths. That’s one of my favorite self-care things. I put in epsom salts. I’ll also go get herbs from my garden and put lavender, basil, etc., in the bath. I really feel like it grounds the bath and makes me feel super rejuvenated along with the salts.
Solimo Epsom Salt Soaking Aid, Lavender Scented
Speaking of gardening, I noticed on Instagram you have a beautiful garden journal. How does journaling about the garden help you relax?
Yes, I got it on Etsy! Etsy is my go-to for everything…banjo, garden, journals, horse stuff. It’s the best. Two days into the pandemic I got my first plant. I’ve really always been a brown thumb, but I started gardening because it’s touching the earth and making me feel like the plants are okay so we’re gonna be okay, kind of a thing. And I really wanted to document the journey so I could learn more about what was working. I still kill all the vegetables, but my flowers have thrived. I think I’m a flower-garden gal, which really isn’t the cool way to be since I feel like everybody else is doing vegetables, but I gotta say, I’m really into the flowers! I have beautiful sunflowers that are growing right now that I’m obsessed with and they make me so happy!
Gardening Tool Set
What else makes you smile right now?
I just got this Dolly Parton phone case that’s her as a saint. I met Dolly once, and it was the most hilarious encounter, which I tell on my podcast when I interview Brandi Carlile. Dolly is such a big part of the podcast, actually. She’s my hero, so there’s a Dolly question each episode. I need her to come on Harmonics, I just love her so much.
What’s your favorite Dolly Parton quote or saying?
“Tumble out of bed and I stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition.” That’s pretty good. “I see the light of the clear blue morning” is obviously the one that gets me through the hard times. “The sun’ll always come up…there’s always gonna be another morning…the higher the hair the closer to God.” She’s just the best.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. You can follow her on Instagram at @jessicaradloff14.
Originally Appeared on Glamour