Sarah Michelle Gellar knows it’s all connected. “It’s all one big cycle,” she tells POPSUGAR. Discussing the interrelationship between mental, physical and emotional health, the mother-of-two explains that when it comes to her own family, she “[makes] sure that we are well balanced in all of this – that we eat well, that we have time outside of time, that we have family time, that the emotional side of it is fulfilled too.
As with the rest of us, Gellar’s relationship with health has changed a bit over the past three years, and she’s had to accept that she’s not in control. Her children with husband Freddie Prinze Jr., 13-year-old Charlotte and 9-year-old Rocky, are finally returning to full-time in-person school “for the first time since March 2020.” Knowing they will be exposed to new viruses and “understanding that there is potential for real disease this year” inspired them to work with Rite Aid to promote flu shots.
“We’ve focused on a single disease for so long that sometimes your brain just forgets there are others out there that are also really serious and need attention,” she says. Communicable diseases remind us that we are all connected and responsible for each other’s well-being, she adds. “It’s not just about us. I am asthmatic, my son’s asthmatic. Any virus that contains respiratory components is much more dangerous to us than necessarily to anyone else. At the same time, we’re young and relatively healthy, and She doesn’t know anything about the person next to you. We have a responsibility as a society when we have the opportunity to mitigate the extent of an illness. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.
Rite Aid’s Flu Flex initiative allows anyone to schedule flu shots online or simply walk in. This approach, Gellar says, allows her to honor the side of her that “wants to make an appointment and have all my information filled out and all paperwork out ahead of time,” as well as the “crazy mom in me” who has five minutes to spare wants to enter.
Gellar has been excited to send her kids back to school, and it’s not just because on Zoom they don’t “interrupt me every 10 seconds,” she says, laughing. “I love my children. But I know how important school is. I know how much they’ve been missing out on over the past few years because they haven’t had that social interaction,” she says. “I worry so much about some of these older kids who missed that important teenage period where they could connect with friends and be youthful. You can see it in depression and loneliness and isolation right now.”
In recent years, soaring rates of mental illness among teens have spiraled into a full-blown crisis that some doctors have dubbed a “national emergency,” according to The New York Times, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.
In Gellar’s opinion, “The greatest solution we have right now is to be able to talk about it and be able to communicate and address it and acknowledge it. That’s always half the battle – just acknowledging that there is a problem.”
Teenage mental health is a priority for Gellar right now, as their oldest child, Charlotte, entered her teens on September 19. The mother-daughter duo marked the occasion with a spa-themed birthday party, which Gellar commemorated on Instagram.
When it comes to managing her children’s mental health, Gellar focuses on encouraging an open dialogue. She also acknowledges that sometimes trying to fix everything doesn’t really help. “It’s about making the home a safe place where they know they’re heard and listened to and can’t be judged and get advice not on the days they don’t want it, but on the days they where they are open and receptive,” she says. “This is a big lesson I had to learn not just as a parent but as a person. I always want to find a solution. I don’t want to be a problem identifier, I want to be a problem solver. But sometimes people just want to be heard.” The key, she says, is knowing the difference.
As someone who’s a bit of a perfectionist, realizing that she doesn’t have to have all the answers was pivotal for the actress in how she approaches her family. “I think my biggest challenges are the ones I set myself and the pressure I put on myself to do everything right and be everyone’s everything,” she says. “Sometimes when you do that, you’re nothing to anyone, and you’re spread too thin.”
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer graduate knows that self-acceptance and relaxation are critical to all aspects of well-being. “When we feel good, we look good. When we look good, we feel good. It’s about keeping all the components healthy,” she says. “Whether nutrition, exercise, relaxation, everything goes hand in hand.”
As her children return to school, she focuses on teaching them how to stay organized in a fast-paced world. “Our routine for back to school was I would work all night, fly in, finish everyone up…then get back on a plane to come back,” she says. She’s recently returned to the big role of acting, starring opposite Maya Hawke in Do Revenge and starring in the upcoming Teen Wolf spinoff Wolf Pack – hence all the plane trips.
Her busy schedule has given her many opportunities to show off her time management skills in front of her children. “Pack your bag at night so you have it for the next morning. Don’t leave everything until the last minute,” she lists her rules for a successful morning. “If you have a task that you know: do it.” She’s “just trying to teach these healthy habits, which I think are life lessons in the long run.”
But she also knows she doesn’t have all the answers, and realizes that sometimes the most important thing is to put the constant pressure to perform and just make time to be in the moment. “We live in a very, very busy, digitally connected society,” she says. “Sometimes you just have to step back and go for a walk as a family or go to the beach and collect shells. The breaks you need – you take them.”
After all, she says, the moments you spend with your kids collecting shells are sometimes far more important than achieving an elusive notion of perfection. Regarding her favorite recent memories with Charlotte, Rocky and her husband, 20-year-old Prinze Jr.: “I think every moment you get is unforgettable for a variety of reasons — and sometimes it’s not the memory you’re thinking about . It’s just the simple things,” she says, becoming thoughtful. “I lost a dear friend this week and it was really sudden. It’s just always a reminder that tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.”