JoAnna Garcia Swisher Is Trusting Her Intuition“I don't have to live in the gray and have this deep understanding for a million different things or weigh 400 different scenarios in my head.”
JoAnna Garcia Swisher made a name for herself starring in the coziest TV series (Exhibit A: Reba and Exhibit B: Sweet Magnolias), and she’s since expanded her reign with her growing lifestyle brand The Happy Place.
But Garcia Swisher also uses her platform to talk about the importance of mental health, her experience with anxiety, and how she’s teaching her two kids to identify and feel their feelings. “Now they'll say stuff like, ‘Well, my feelings are important. My feelings matter.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, they do, but you have to shower today,’” she laughs. “It's funny how they learn to advocate for themselves very quickly. I'm starting to see that it's becoming more natural for them,” she tells Wondermind.
Here, Garcia Swisher shares more about her personal mental health journey, from living with grief to trusting her intuition.
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WM: What’s invigorating you right now?
JGS: I've been doing a lot of reading, which has been really fun. I've been feeling really creative. My kids are happy right now, and I feel grateful for that because there's ebbs and flows to everything and I do spend a lot of time worrying about them or thinking about them. We’re in a little bit of a groove. They were really excited to go back to school this year, which was nice [because] I didn't have to motivate them out the door. … All in all, the ecosystem of our family at the moment is really positive.
WM: Your company is called The Happy Place and is all about cultivating safe and comfortable spaces. What would you say is your happy place?
JGS: When I'm at our house at the lake around the water, that is a very positive place. I can kind of restore there. And then [I’m usually] immensely and emotionally in my happy place when I am listening to my intuition, giving myself a little grace, and being kinder to myself. Then [happiness] comes naturally. … Also, when I am talking to my energy healer and therapist and actually actively pouring into my mental health is when I feel my most strong, and that usually is when I'm at my happiest.
WM: Can you share what energy healing is and what it looks like for you?
JGS: It's a little bit hard to [explain] even for me, someone who's so deeply embedded in it and believes in it so tremendously. … I would say it's when you're most connected to your physical body. Emotions, I believe, deeply impact your physical wellbeing. So for me, [it helps] when I have a pain in my body somewhere to kind of go back to the why of it all.
I work with an amazing energy healer, and I love her so much and she really understands. She's helped me bridge the gap between my emotional and physical wellbeing. … It really centers you and gets you in your body. For someone like me who struggles with anxiety, getting into my body is my biggest tool that I have to get back to the present. And that usually has a lot to do with connecting to my body and my energy and all of that.
Energy healers all around the world would probably be like, “That's really the worst way to describe it.” But for me, that's when I'm super connected to it, and it makes [life] feel a little less overwhelming.
WM: When did you first start to notice your anxiety and how it manifests for you?
JGS: I don't know that I ever really remember a time where I didn't deal with it. I was uncomfortable a lot, really worried, [and felt] the weight of the world. The journey to that discovery and how I manage it now is really about getting into the present because a lot of [anxiety] is that you're just living in the future.
Also, I think with life and experiencing different things, enduring them, surviving them, you kind of start to realize, OK, maybe I could survive that fear. … When I physically feel uncomfortable, having my little protocol of taking a break, reaching out, and those kinds of things get me out of that.
I think my journey in battling my anxiety has been about bolstering my inner self and having faith that I have the tools to get through it when I'm feeling uncomfortable and acknowledging that that's what that is, that I'm having a really anxious moment, that I'm feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes that alone is enough.
WM: Have there been any therapy lessons that have been particularly helpful for you?
JGS: I can get in the weeds a lot with things. One of the biggest tools I have is going back to my intuition and just your gut feelings about things and simplifying things.
I've lost both my parents in a very short period of time. I've experienced a lot of grief in the last few years, so that has been a journey unto itself. … Lately we've talked a lot about the trauma that I experienced in the actual moments of my parents' death. So I'm trying to revisit that. I keep going back to those places. Those two moments were very different but similar in the way that I was with both of them when they died. We've been dealing a lot more with that trauma lately, I think.
But really, just honoring myself and my feelings, and sometimes it can just be black and white. I don't have to live in the gray and have this deep understanding for a million different things or weigh 400 different scenarios in my head. It can just be a no or a yes. Those are some of the tools that I feel like I'm learning, and I think it's going to be some of my life's work on this earth, for my soul, to honor that.
WM: It can be really hard to trust your intuition too, especially when so many things make you second guess yourself.
JGS: A hundred percent. And I do really feel like it's so empowering [to trust yourself]. And with the idea of someone gaslighting you, we talk about it more and we're learning how to identify that. But I think a lot of that is really someone trying to throw off your intuition. You have this thought process, this reaction, this feeling about something. And when someone's not honoring that and turning it around on you, it's really easy to get confused. But intuition is so important, and we all have it. My mom always called it my “inner bells.” … I think the biggest thing is trusting it and having faith that it's foolproof.
WM: Have there been any words of encouragement or lessons that have helped you through your grief?
JGS: It's so deeply painful that you want to kind of get through it. And it's hard because you never really get through it. It just changes everything. Grief is so tricky like that because it manifests in so many different ways for so long.
One of the biggest things that I have tried to do is know that this is just a part of me now and allow it to enrich my life and be OK with all the different ways [it shows up]. Sometimes it manifests itself in deep joy, great joy, great gratitude. I have so much gratitude for my mom and my dad, and I think losing them will inform the rest of my life. It has changed the rest of my life, and there will be deeply sad moments and deeply emotional moments, but there's also these moments of just utter gratitude for what they gave me, the time that I had with them.
The idea that it's going to get better… it does get a little less fresh, but there's still those hard left hooks that always come. [It’s] just trying to get comfortable in the new normal because it will never be what it was ever again.
It certainly is a journey, but there is no real destination, which sounds daunting and heartbreaking, but I think if you can kind of surrender to it, it can enrich you in a lot of ways as well.
WM: What message would you like to leave readers with?
JGS: I feel so grateful that mental health is something that we talk about so much more these days. It is equally as important as getting your checkups and your Pap smear and your mammogram—and those are very important.
Having these conversations and being vulnerable with one another is the greatest form of connection. … It's all about being able to relate to one another because we sometimes feel really alone and hopeless, and those things are universal feelings. The more we can talk about that, the less alone you feel, the less hopeless you feel. No one person has all the answers, so, as a community, being there for one another is so very important.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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