Image Source: Getty / Paul Archuleta
Sarah Michelle Gellar knows that everything is connected. “It's all a big cycle,” she tells POPSUGAR. The mom of two is talking about the interdependent relationship between mental, physical, and emotional health, and she explains that when it comes to her own family, she “[makes] sure that we're well balanced in all of it — that we're eating well, that we're getting outside time, that we're getting family time, that the emotional side of it is also fulfilled.”
Like it has for the rest of us, Gellar's relationship to health has changed a bit over the past three years, and she's had to accept that she doesn't have everything under control. Her kids 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 that they're about to be exposed to new viruses and “understanding that there's potential for real sickness this year” is part of what inspired her to partner with Rite Aid to promote flu shots.
“We've been so focused on one singular disease for so long that sometimes your brain just forgets that there's other ones out there that are also really serious and need attention,” she says. Contagious diseases remind us that we're all connected to each other and responsible for each other's well being, she adds. “It's not just about us. I'm asthmatic, my son's asthmatic. Any virus that has respiratory components to it is much more dangerous for us than necessarily someone else. At that same time, we're young and relatively healthy, and you don't know about the person next to you. We have a responsibility as a society, if we have the chance, to lessen the degree of an illness. Sometimes you've got to take one for the team.”
Rite Aid's Flu Flex initiative lets anyone schedule flu shot appointments online or just walk right in. That approach, Gellar says, allows her to honor the side of her that wants to “make an appointment and have all my information and all the paperwork filled out ahead of time,” as well as the “crazed mom in me” who wants to run in with five minutes to spare.
Gellar has been looking forward to sending her kids back to school — and not just because they won't be “interrupting me every 10 seconds” on Zoom, she says with a laugh. “I love my kids. But I know the importance of school. I know how much they've missed in the last couple of years by not having that social interaction,” she says. “I worry so much about some of these older kids who missed out on that important teenage time where they could connect with friends and be youthful. You can see it in rates of depression right now and loneliness and isolation.”
In recent years, rising rates of teen mental illness have ballooned into a full-blown crisis that some doctors have called it a “national emergency,” per The New York Times, and the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the problem.
In Gellar's opinion, “the biggest solution that we have right now is to talk about it and to be able to communicate and address it and acknowledge it. That's always half the battle — just acknowledging that there's a problem.”
Teen mental health is at the forefront Gellar's mind at the moment because her oldest child, Charlotte, entered her teenage years on Sept. 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 kids' mental health, Gellar focuses on fostering an open dialogue. She also acknowledges that sometimes, trying to fix everything doesn't actually help. “It's about making home a safe space where they know that they can be heard and listened to and not judged and not given advice on the days they don't want it, but given advice on the days when they're open and receptive to it,” she says. “That's a big lesson that, as not just a parent but as a person, I had to learn. 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 in knowing the difference.
As she's someone who's a bit of a perfectionist, learning she doesn't have to have all the answers has been critical for the actor in terms of her approach to her family. “I think my hardest challenges are the ones I put on myself and the pressure that I put on myself to get it all right and be everything to everyone,” she says. “Sometimes when you do that, you're nothing to anyone, and you're spread too thin.”
The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum knows that self-acceptance and relaxation are critical for all aspects of well-being. “When we feel good, we look good. When we look good, we feel good. It's about keeping all components healthy,” she says. “Whether that's diet, whether it's exercise, whether it's relaxation, they all go hand in hand.”
As her kids return to school, she's focused on teaching them how to stay organized in a fast-moving world. “Our back-to-school routine was me working all night, flying in, getting everybody ready . . . and then hopping back on a plane to go back,” she says. She's recently returned to acting in a big way, appearing in “Do Revenge” alongside Maya Hawke and Camila Mendes and starring in the forthcoming “Teen Wolf” spinoff “Wolf Pack” — hence the many plane flights.
Her packed schedule has given her plenty of opportunities to show off her time-management skills in front of her kids. “Pack your bag at night so that you have it for the next morning. Don't leave everything 'til the last minute,” she says, listing her rules for a successful morning. “If you have an assignment that you know, get it done.” She's “just trying to teach those healthy habits, which I think, in the long run, are life lessons.”
But she also knows she doesn't have all the answers and realizes that sometimes the most important thing is setting aside the constant pressure to achieve and just taking time to be in the moment. “We live in a very, very busy, digitally connected society,” she says. “Sometimes you just have to take that step back and take a walk as a family or go to the beach and collect some seashells. Those breaks that you need — you take them.”
After all, she says, sometimes the moments spent collecting seashells with your kids wind up being far more important than achieving some elusive idea of perfection. In terms of her favorite recent memories with Charlotte, Rocky, and her husband of 20 years, Prinze Jr., “I think every moment you get is memorable for different reasons — and sometimes it's not the memory you think. It's just the simple things,” she says, growing reflective. “I lost a dear friend this week, and it was really sudden. It just always reminds you that tomorrow is not a guarantee.”