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Anika Noni Rose on the power of taking ‘mental health walks:’ ‘Sitting in the gunk of it all is never healthy’
David Artavia
November 12, 2021·10 min read
In this article:
Anika Noni Rose
American actor-singer
Taraji P. Henson
American actress
"The Princess and the Frog" star is empowering Black women to tell their own stories in season 3 of her podcast, "Being Seen." (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
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.
Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose has come a long way since voicing the first Black Disney princess in The Princess and the Frog in 2009. Following a string of memorable roles, including in Dreamgirls, For Colored Girls, Ralph Breaks the Internet and Netflix's Maid, the multi-hyphenated artist is now shining a light on the injustices Black women face in health care — particularly those living with HIV.
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In Being Seen, a podcast produced by Harley & Co. and created in partnership with ViiV Healthcare, now in its third season, Rose interviews thought leaders like Taraji P. Henson, Ledisi, Dominique Jackson and Roxane Gay in pursuit of capturing the essence and power of the Black female experience in America. Here, Rose explains how she's found her voice in her artistry, her hopes for Black woman storytellers and why empowering more women of color in all industries should be a top priority.
It's been quite the year, and taking care of our mental health has never been more important. Do you have a self-care routine?
Sometimes my self-care routine is hiding [laughs]. But it's true! I'm a big walker. I walked through COVID, through the quarantine. I did what I affectionately named “mental health walks.” I wasn't sleeping. Who was? If you were, God bless you. Let me know your secret. I would wake up really early, around five o'clock in the morning. I could lay there and be stressed out and think about all the things I could not do anything about in that moment, or things that I wanted to be the case, or things that I was tired of, or things that I didn't like about myself and wanted to change, which I did a lot of thinking about during the quarantine because that's the time to do it. But I feel like if we weren't being introspective in that time, what does it take? So instead of just laying there, having circular thoughts and getting hungry, I got up and walked.
I would hit my 10,000 step mark before I got back to the house. That's the kind of walking I did. And sometimes, I cried. Sometimes I listened to music. Sometimes I would call people in different time zones because it was a good time to talk to them. Sometimes I just focused on walking, and completing the walk. And that was a goal. Even when things were really bad in my spirit or in my heart, by the time I got home, something was shaken loose. And that's what I needed it to be, because sitting in the gunk of it all is never healthy. I also have a therapist, so you know, when the mental health walk is not enough, I talk to somebody who is not a friend.
What would you say the benefits of talking to a therapist over a friend are for you?
Just someone who doesn't have any skin in the game, someone who can be objective and who's trained to be helpful in situations where you feel like you're gonna pull your hair out and perhaps run down the street naked. Quarantine was the wildest thing ever. Quarantine on top of George Floyd was more wild than you could even imagine, with people dying around you every day. It was beyond. We have to find the things that allow us to process that without causing ourselves further harm.
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