In TZR’s franchise Scare-Free Sundays, industry leaders discuss the all-too-common weekend anxiety (aka Sunday Scaries) that can rob one of the relaxation and rest they so desperately need to properly take on the week ahead. Here, we sit down with actor and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow for her tips on how to keep this weekend work stress at bay.
When I think about someone who epitomizes health, the name Gwyneth Paltrow immediately comes to mind. The Goop founder has made a name for herself as solicitor of wellness, becoming an early pioneer in the space thanks to her penchant for trying all manner of new (and sometimes weird) practices: think jade eggs, ice plunges, ear seeding.
So when I had the opportunity to grill Paltrow on her personal health and wellness tips, I jumped at the chance to hear her latest thoughts and opinions. In sitting down with the easy, breezy veteran actor and entrepreneur on an especially warm fall day in Santa Monica, I was initially surprised to learn one thing: Gwyneth Paltrow is stressed.
While, for some, this may illicit a “well, duh” response, I was actually naively astonished that an individual with every trendy technique, treatment, and wellness guru at her fingertips (not to mention a health empire last estimated at around $250 million) would still experience a twinge of anxiety. I stand corrected.
In fact, Paltrow (who was touting her latest collab with fitness and wellness brand Copper Fit) explains that she’s become very intentional about giving herself a break for the sake of mental health to keep her work stress and anxiety at a minimum.
“For me, I really take the weekends to not think about work, as much as possible,” she says. “Of course, there are certain things that come up, but I really do try to carve out time, especially on a Sunday. I won’t do email, I will just be with my family. I’ll just remember what it is to be a person in a body. And that, to me, really takes my anxiety down, when I really draw clear delineation between work.”
The actor goes on to say that she picked up some healthy tips on work-life balance while living abroad, and that Americans could learn a thing or two from the Europeans’ more laid-back approach to careers. “I really realized that people in Europe, they really strive to have this quality of life where they’re like, ‘I’m not defined by my work. Work is something I do during the week and then there’s me,’” Paltrow says. “So, I try to bring that consciousness to it because it does make a big impact. Because, really if you think about it, it’s like we get so much work anxiety because we think if we’re not good at work then it means we’re not good people, we’re not valued. And it’s like work is just work. The important thing is who we are.”
Preach, Gwyneth. Ahead, read more about Paltrow’s approach to OOO days and how she tackles anxiety and the dreaded Sunday Scaries.
In seeing your latest collaboration with Copper Fit, I’m curious about the role fitness has played in your mental health journey?
For me, the two are inextricably linked. I need to move my body in order to be calm and clear headed. And that can be just walking. If I’m in a city where I can walk after dinner, walking after dinner really does that for me or my workout in the morning really does that for me. Also, my meditation practice, I meditate every morning for 20 minutes. That’s something I started doing during COVID with my husband; he learned how to meditate and so we sit in the morning and do it. And that has been really impactful because it’s getting you out of your mind and into your body and your spirit more. So, I think it’s a holistic approach.
And gut health really impacts mental health, as well, so, there’s the food component. And the sleep component. Science used to look at someone with depression and think, OK, there’s something wrong with the brain. And now they’re saying there’s an access between the gut and the brain. So, what’s going on with the gut? And we’re starting to regard the human body as a holistic ecosystem, which it is. And so, everything impacts how we feel and so I try to take a very holistic approach.
OK, let’s dig into work anxiety a bit. What are some common or typical anxieties or concerns you face ahead of a busy work week?
I think, for working women or working mothers, we always have that element of extra anxiety because, sometimes, if we’re working then we’re not with the kids — so there’s always that extra layer. Also I think we have imposter syndrome, we get overwhelmed cause we are doing so much at the same time. So, I think for women, there are a lot of layers to our work anxiety.
What does your Sunday evening routine look like? Do you do anything in particular to mentally prepare yourself for the week ahead?
I’m usually scheduled many weeks ahead. I do tend to, at some point over the weekend, look at my week ahead so that I really know what I can expect. And then I make sure that, for example, I get a massage every week; it was like this thing that I brought in a few years ago to know that I can give something to myself and carve out that time. And also know that it’s OK to schedule breaks and to stop working at 5 p.m. and tend to your life and your kids or whatever the case may be.
Do you have any strict rules you abide by during the weekends or OOO days to avoid working or thinking about work?
Well, I started doing something recently, which I was thinking about doing on Sundays. When I take a vacation, I take email off my phone — and it’s been a game-changer. But I have been really sticking to not doing email on Sundays. So, I haven’t taken it off my phone yet, but that’s always an option. And then Sundays, for example, I started doing a thing where I make myself be lazy and I’ll just lie in bed and watch something or I’ll read a book. I’ll do it until I start to feel guilty, like I should be doing something else or I should be making dinner, and then I’ll just stay where I am and really just think, I’m resting, I’m healing, this is so important to be just quiet. And so I do that every Sunday now, cause I’m not a good napper. But I just lay in bed and watch some TV and be really lazy — there’s luxury in being lazy.
Wait, what’s your go-to TV binge right now?
I’m watching this show on Hulu called Tell Me Lies. It’s like a YA. I don’t know why I’m so into this show. It’s like I’m going back to my youth.
When do your Sunday Scaries creep in? What are they like?
I mean it can be everything from just those feelings of anxiety that I’m never going to get everything done or I haven’t done something well to total catastrophizing [thoughts like] Goops going to go out of business and I don’t know what I’m doing. So, I can go to extreme catastrophe. I don’t do it a lot, but when it happens, it happens. And I’ll be awake at 3 a.m. in the morning thinking of every mistake I’ve ever made, and it’s not productive.
How do you overcome them?
I have tools, like breathing tools, and stuff to help. But sometimes I’ll think, Is there a positive reason that sometimes we all do this? Why do we do this? And maybe it’s to spur innovation or to think about a different way we should be living our lives or a different way we should be working. So, it’s trying now not to resist it so much and being like, OK, worry. What are you here to teach me? What are you here to tell me? What can I change?
So, I interviewed Brené Brown for my podcast once and she taught me box breathing, which is inhaling slowly for four [counts], holding for four, exhaling slowly for four, and holding for four. And it’s very good to kind of calm the body down, calm the nervous system down. And then I’ll do, [an exercise] where you lie down and [relax your body]. It’s making your toes feel really relaxed and heavy. And then the arches of your feet and the tops of your feet, and your heel, and you lie there and you just let every muscle in your body that you can think of as you travel up get heavier and heavier and more relaxed. And that’s a really good thing to do too. All the way up to the head.