The Tiny Tip That Improved Ashley Tisdale’s Mental HealthThe actor, singer, and founder gets candid about anxiety, depression, and being a mom.
It’s safe to say Ashley Tisdale is having a moment. From the timeline resurfacing the bops of her pop stardom to Tisdale’s return to Phineas and Ferb with her familiar “Mom!” shout, she’s getting her much-deserved flowers.
And, in case you haven’t perused Target in a minute or seen all the praise on TikTok, Tisdale recently launched the Being Frenshe product line, inspired by her mental health journey and the self-care rituals she honed during the pandemic. Think candles, linen sprays, perfume oils, lotions, body wash, and more. “I've learned when we were home so much to just create the environment that you want to create for yourself,” she tells Wondermind.
Here, Tisdale shares more about the scents that hold special memories for her, how her childhood might’ve played into her anxiety today, and the little self-care change that made a huge difference for her.
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WM: How are you doing lately? How's your mental health?
Ashley Tisdale: I'm doing good. I feel so much better than I did last year. I went through a lot last year. I had a little bit of postpartum and my hormones had to be balanced. I think when we read about postpartum, we think it's within the first year of having a baby, but that can sometimes last [longer]. When she turned 2, I finally felt so much better. ... So, for me, this year has definitely been a lot better. I still have my moments of anxiety, but I feel like my tools really helped me.
WM: How do you take care of your mental health on a regular basis?
AT: On a regular basis, I do a lot of meditation. I sometimes might not have time in the morning, but I try to wake up before the baby to meditate. It really helps start my day off on the right foot.
I also have gotten into [something] my therapist mentioned. It’s like [taking] sips [of self-care]. I am someone who loves to work, and once I'm in the office, I'm working, doing Zooms and meetings and interviews and stuff. I used to just kind of sit there and get overwhelmed by it. And [my therapist] was telling me how it's so important that [just like] how we drink water throughout the day and we do sips of water, it's important to take those kinds of moments for yourself throughout the day. Otherwise your nervous system is all kinds of crazy and it's really hard to sleep at night. … So I really learned to do that. Honestly, it could be a five-minute “me moment,” I call them, but it's just me going out and sitting in nature or meditating or taking a moment to myself to be away from the computers and technology.
That has helped me tremendously because I just didn't know that insomnia actually happens because of how our day has gone with our anxiety. I used to think it was because of the burst of energy you get at night. But really, it’s that your nervous system is way off throughout the day. So I now know that those moments are really important to have.
I love to work out, but I'm not someone to be in the gym and be on a treadmill. If I'm going to work out, being in nature is so helpful for my mental health. So I love to do hikes, and I love to walk.
WM: Self-care sometimes feels like it's such a big task, but if you frame it as sips, that feels so much more doable.
AT: Especially being a mom and I'm always obviously thinking of myself last, it was like, Oh, I really do need to take these tiny moments. They don't have to be this huge moment, and they don't have to fit in a meditation if I don't want it to. Just sitting and being outside is enough.
WM: Scent holds important memories and meanings for us. Are there any scents that have a significant meaning to you?
AT: The power of scent is really wild with how we can store so much. I could smell something and it can remind me of when I was 10 years old. There's a candle that I used to burn a lot a couple years ago, and I had lost my dog Maui [around that time]. If I burn that candle still today, I will think of those moments when I was with her in her last year.
And when we launched the line, Citrus Amber was the body wash that my husband and I were using because we were in Malibu for the summer and [my daughter] Juju was 1. We were taking so many showers [because] we were in the sand at the beach.
That was our favorite summer. … We always talk about it now, and that's why I like to use Citrus Amber. It takes me back to that moment.
WM: You’ve mentioned experiencing anxiety and depression. Do you mind sharing how those conditions manifest for you and how you've learned to live with them?
AT: Growing up, I didn't know I struggled with anxiety and depression because I never really had someone saying that's what I was suffering from. I remember having panic attacks, but no one was like, “You're having a panic attack.” They would just be like, “I think you're hyperventilating.” And it was like, “OK.”
It would be before performing on tour and stuff. I don't know where it came from. I can only guess that it's because of my lifestyle and being in the business since I was 3 years old and the pressure and the stress, and I'm a perfectionist.
How it comes out for me is feeling kind of stuck, whether that's in a plane or in a meeting. Also, I think the pressure of being a performer and thinking that something might happen [plays a role] in what-if thinking.
I got to a point a couple years ago where I knew something was wrong. It was kind of at its worst. I was literally physically shaking. I was on set doing a pilot, and I was like, “What is going on with me?” And my mom was like, “This is anxiety.” And I was like, “No, no, no.” I thought there was something going on. I thought something was wrong with my head. I had an MRI, like I was really searching for answers, thinking there was something wrong with me when I truly was just experiencing anxiety.
So it was at that moment that I really acknowledged what I had. And I had gotten a book that a makeup artist had told me about called Attacking Anxiety and Depression. … It was really life-changing for me because that book shows all these different symptoms that you go through, and each chapter is talking about that symptom. I felt really seen and heard for the first time. It was then that I was like, I need to do the work on this.
I have a therapist and I would go over things with her, but that book was really the thing that even still today—and especially over the last two years after having the baby when I was feeling these things—I go back to. … It is so old school, and they come with these CDs, but it's like this group talking about what they've been through.
[Around that time] I actually was doing an album, and I named it Symptoms, and I talked about each symptom of what I was experiencing. In that moment, I had [also] lost someone to depression. I just was like, Man, if I'm suffering from this and I really had no idea and finally obviously recognized what I was going through, I need to help others. I want to make sure people feel less alone in what they're going through.
But a lot of the stuff that I would feel was really debilitating [and made me feel] just shut down in my body. It is an internal thing for me. People always say I'm very calm and they don't realize that I'm suffering from anxiety. Mine is more of a quiet internal thing. Maybe how I grew up with being a performer was to just internalize it and not show everybody what I'm experiencing.
WM: You've also shared that you've experienced alopecia as a result of anxiety and stress. Has anything helped you deal with that?
AT: For me, I think that a lot of the alopecia is when I'm having internal stress and I don't know it. … I experienced it a lot [in the center of my hairline], and I experienced it behind my ear. So it is hard obviously in those moments because you're just like, Oh my gosh. What is that? … When I'm going through something like that, I just start to realize, OK, this is a cumulative stress that's been happening for a while, so I really need to stay on top of my meditations.
I've gone through postpartum hair loss and all of that stuff, so I'm no stranger to it. But the alopecia started when I was 25, I think. … I always try to dig deeper to find out what else is going on emotionally and try to start there. And to be honest, when my alopecia comes back, it's very minimal. … It’s just more of a warning sign for me to really shift things.
WM: If you could go back and give your younger self some advice, what would you say?
AT: Be easy on yourself more. I was really hard on myself for a long time, and I think it's the self-talk that is the most damaging to ourselves. We should talk to ourselves the way we do to our best friends when we feel like we failed at something. When we feel like we've done something wrong, the internal talk shouldn't be beating yourself up. If you went to your best friend, her first response would be like, “Oh my God, you're fine.” It'd be more comforting. … So I would say just be easy on yourself and give yourself more love, because we all deserve that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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