Tess Holliday on Why Our Mental Health Matters Now More Than Ever

In our Sleeping With… series, we speak to people from different career paths, backgrounds, and stages of life to find out how they make sleep magic happen. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re expanding these conversations to ask some of our favorite people how they’re taking care of themselves right now.

Tess Holliday is a force to be reckoned with. The author, model, SELF cover star, and activist is known for going against the grain, disrupting long-outdated societal norms and replacing them with a focus on mental health and wellbeing. Holliday created the viral hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards after strangers continually badgered her on social media for her weight (and her confidence); now, she’s a leading voice in the body positive community. “[People] can’t look past what personal hang ups they might have about fat hate, and so I sometimes feel like they don’t really hear me,” she tells SELF. “Which is fine, because I’m not going anywhere.”

Holliday is quarantining in her Los Angeles home with her three-year-old son, Bowie, and her best friend. Her older son, Rylee, 14, is also living in Los Angeles, but with his father—Holliday sees Rylee a few times a week, meeting outside in public places. “In the beginning I had a really hard time because my kids are out of school, so I was finding everything overwhelming. And now that we’re in what I guess is our new normal—for now—I’m just making the most of it,” she says. SELF spoke with Holliday last month; read on for more on what life is like for Holliday as she navigates her children’s mental health, as well as her own, while social distancing.

First off, how are you doing?

For the first part of quarantine, I didn’t really leave my house. I would eat breakfast outside, I would play with my little one outside for a bit, but I didn’t do much. And my best friend was like, you need to go for walks. I was really active before; I had my trainer that I was working out with, and my job was my life—my life was active. I was hardly ever home. So now, I think I do more cardio than I ever have in my entire life. I walk 3.8 miles every day—that’s my route. I love a challenge, and I didn’t think I could do it. Once I found out I could do it, I have been. And obviously it’s helping me so much.

When I started doing my walks, I shared on Instagram stories, “Hey, I’m doing these daily walks and they’re helping me and that’s how I’m showing love to myself.” So I asked [my followers], “How are you showing love to yourself today?” Now, it’s been a daily thing where I do my walk and then after I get home, I go on my stories and I ask my followers, “How did you show yourself love today?” That has been really wonderful. It’s been everything from, “I stayed in bed and cried and ate Oreos,” or, “I dumped my partner.” Yesterday, someone said they had a baby. That’s probably the best part of my day, for my own mental health.

Do you bring Bowie on your walks with you?

I do not. Because we live in southern California, I see a ton of kids out riding their bikes. [Bowie] has not left our yard in a month and a half. And I am definitely struggling with a little bit of Mom guilt. I’m like, “Oh, he could ride his bike, and he could do all this.” But it’s always better safe than sorry.

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