“My Mental Health Journey Is Such a Process”

“My Mental Health Journey Is Such a Process”

She may be coming off the heels of a very impressive FOX’s Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test win, but Hannah Brown is currently moving, and the boxes are taking her out. “I’m sorry that I’m doing this interview from my bed,” the former Miss Alabama USA, Bachelorette alum and Dancing With the Stars winner shares via Zoom. “It’s a mess everywhere else in this house!” Dressed in sweats and without a stitch of makeup, the 28-year-old New York Times best-selling author says she’s ready to talk skin care as she props up the pillow behind her—but she doesn’t want to dismiss what an all-encompassing subject mental health plays in her day-to-day. “It’s all such a process. But having to change my mindset about certain things is also awesome.”

You’re coming off of a pretty intense show. What did you learn during filming as it relates to mental health?

“My mental health journey didn’t start until, gosh, 2020, when I started digging into the weeds of it all. It has been such a process, and it’s changed over time for what I need. I think I’ve grown a lot. Being on this last show, Special Forces, was unlike other shows I’ve been on. It tested my mental health for sure, but it also proved to me that all the work that I’ve been doing has been working. It’s made me mentally stronger and sharper than I give myself credit for.

From that experience, I feel like I have taken more steps to dig even deeper. That’s changed even with the type of therapy that I’m doing. I’m doing more EMDR, which helps for different PTSD stuff that I need to work on. A lot of that seemed scary before…like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to open that door,’ but now I’m ready to dive in and dig deeper and do the work with connecting with my body and my emotions.

I could have never imagined doing this type of work a few years ago, but it’s exciting to tend to that part of myself, to love on myself more, and have the toolbox to be able to soothe myself and work through things. When I do struggle, it’s nice to know I have the tools; I’m so grateful for them because I haven’t had that most of my life. To be able to continue to talk about that with others who are going through something similar…it’s really cool that I have other people along the journey with me.”

Photographer: Perazna; Hair: Glenn Ellis; Makeup: Trace Watkins; Blazer: Almina Concept

Thank you for sharing that. I know that’s obviously all on the more serious side, but what do you do for self-care and fitness and diet to keep that center?

“Yes, all of that is part of the bigger work that I’m doing. But to have all that be successful, you’ve got to change your lifestyle in every way. That comes down to the type of foods that I eat; I try to be more curious about the food that I’m putting into my body. Before, I didn’t know the importance of listening and being in tune with what doesn’t make me feel good. It might be good for somebody else, but it’s not good for me. I am also learning to cook for myself. That was something that I was resistant to for so long. I didn’t find it enjoyable, but lately, I have seen that it’s necessary, because that’s the only way you know what’s in the foods that you’re eating.

For fitness, I used to go so hard on my body. I thought you had to be on the verge of passing out and throwing up, and that meant that you had worked hard. I had to change that because it was very obvious that wasn’t working. I wasn’t seeing the results that I wanted, and I didn’t feel good—my body basically made me stop. I’ve learned the power of a good walk, too. I’ve seen more results doing a five-mile, 10,000-step walk than running a half marathon like I have in the past! I think that the cortisol levels that I have, I’m putting myself in these stressful situations thinking that I have to go crazy. I realize that just hormonally, I was setting myself up for failure. Now, I focus on doing things that are not as high-impact…doing more low-impact workouts, and strength training. I was always scared of strength training and doing the heavier weights, but it’s been great for me.

My psychiatrist told me that strength training is so good for people who struggle with depression and anxiety—the benefits it has for your brain is the biggest reason why I do it. Also, you can exert a lot of energy doing a lift and then still come back down and regulate yourself so that after that amazing workout, you’re not completely dead the rest of the day. You’re getting that exertion that you need for your body, but in a way that is maintainable and sustainable to continue to do.

Changing my mindset on working out has been awesome for me. I love that power of connection and doing things with other people—whether that’s a walk or having a good relationship with another friend or your trainer or feeling safe and comfortable and connected in a class. They are all big things for me.”

That’s amazing. Those are all good things.

“Also, you think getting a massage or bodywork is a treat. No, I think it’s something that is necessary! I do acupuncture every other week, and I get a massage every other week as well to help my muscles. I think I hold on to a lot in my body. Acupuncture and massage both help flush everything out because that’s where all my stress, all my trauma lives. I’ve had to prioritize that in my regimen of wellness and change my perspective on that as well. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

Are there any beauty items you really love?

“I am a pretty minimal girl when it comes to skin care. I try to do different lasers. I don’t do it enough, probably only twice a year. I’m actually going on Thursday, so I’m going to look a little scary getting all the treatments done. As far as skin care, one product that I’ve used forever is Alastin’s Gentle Cleanser ($49). I struggled with acne for a long time, it was pretty severe. It happened when I was 23 years old, and it kept going until I was 25. I really, really struggled and did everything under the sun. That gentle cleanser saved me, and I’ve used it ever since. I also have used SkinCeuticals B5 Gel ($90) forever.

As far as my moisturizer, I use a Paula’s Choice daily moisturizer ($27). I had a dermatologist who suggested it to me. I have combination skin and my pores can get clogged super easily. I’ve learned for my skin, less is more, so I just hydrate it with the B5 and put on moisturizer. That’s all I need. It’s hard because I want to try everything, but when I start mixing in too much, it just doesn’t work as much as well for me. Also, Aquaphor for the lips. That’s all you really need.”

I have to ask: Where are you moving?

“I am moving to Nashville! I’m an Alabama girl, so I’m kind of moving back home. It’s a little bittersweet because I’ve loved being in Los Angeles, and I feel like I’ve found myself here—I have had so many wonderful memories, but I’ve always wanted to try Nashville. It’s a place closer to home that I can see myself possibly loving…so, we’re giving it a go! When I’m there, I’ve got a few things that I’ve been working. Hopefully, by the beginning of the summer, I can continue to facilitate authentic conversations with people, and build on my community. I’m excited to be able to share all of that very soon.”

Photographer: Perazna; Hair: Glenn Ellis; Makeup: Trace Watkins; Blazer: Almina Concept

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