Zen and the Art of Beth Behrs

Zen and the Art of Beth Behrs featured image
Photography by Frankie Batista
This article first appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

In the history of summer Fridays, having an early call-time for a photo shoot doesn’t necessarily hit the top of the wish list, especially when the number of oh-so-sweet weekend segues that remain can be counted on one hand. But Beth Behrs is, for lack of a better descriptor, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and completely unfazed by what day of the week it is, even if this given Friday is her only day off.

Dressed in a casual jumpsuit (which she later admits she accidentally put on backwards) without a stitch of makeup, she somehow manages to look exactly like she does on TV as she breezes into the studio—early, no less—ready and raring to go.

“I’m so excited to be here,” Behrs says, as I take a second to sheepishly tell her the hot Earl Grey tea we ordered for her from the café down the street, and reordered a second time just to be safe, has somehow shown up as an iced, watery mess.

“Stop it!” she scolds. “Do not get me anything! I’m serious. I’m totally fine—as long as some Dolly Parton is playing.”

A fast shoot day, some Jolene on rotation and a few 9-to-5s later, Behrs and I connect via phone for our interview. We’re now on opposite coasts, different time zones and part of two decidedly different industries, but watching her sage-burning series on her Instagram stories has brought me (and her 1 million–plus followers) some unexpected solace during an otherwise stressful day.

“It was a long one yesterday and today…I think 13 hours,” shares the 35-year-old, who, by all accounts, with two successful sitcoms—Two Broke Girls in regular syndication and The Neighborhood, which just hit the hard-to-achieve fourth season this fall on CBS—has “made it” in Hollywood. “But I’m not complaining; I love it. This is a great job and I never take it for granted.”

Photography by Frankie Batista

You’ve kind of become a spokesperson for mental health and dealing with anxiety. Has the message changed for you this past year?

This past year was the hardest one I’ve ever experienced in terms of my anxiety, and I’m sure a lot of people felt that way. I’ve always suffered from panic attacks, but they were happening more and more often—at astronomical levels—especially at the beginning of the pandemic. It was tough because nothing from my normal bags of tricks was working. What I realized was that, for me, it’s best if I let go and accept that this is the way of the world right now. I need to take it one breath at a time—sometimes, one hour at a time.

I discovered gardening, which I never did before, and it has become a big part of my self-care. I was at home, so I just started growing one pot of poppy flowers on my balcony the first day we went into lockdown. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself because I’ve been working nonstop for 10 years! But the nurseries were still open, and now it’s turned into an entire hobby that’s been such a lifesaver for my anxiety.

Also, I ended up getting my teacher training certification in a meditation practice called Yoga Nidra, which I’ve been practicing for years. It is the easiest, most beginner-friendly meditation practice I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve tried them all. I fell madly in love with it; I was doing that practice multiple times a day when my anxiety was at its height during the pandemic. Those few things, plus my animals—seeing my horse and spending time in nature—and accepting that we can’t control what happens and we can only stay in the present moment, got me through.

How does putting self-care first work with being in the spotlight?

Well, it didn’t always. For my entire 20s, self-care was not even a part of my vocabulary. I barely prioritized anything, and then my body shut down; I got this terrible rash all over, and no doctors could figure out what it was…they biopsied it, they kept examining it, all these things. Finally, they were like, “It’s just a stress rash. You are so stressed out that your immune system has completely shut down.” That was when I discovered that I can’t be working 24/7 without prioritizing my mental and physical health.

Part of that process was also learning how to say no and to have boundaries, which I never had before. I’m such a people-pleaser and I never want to let anyone down or have anyone think that I’m ungrateful…but I’ve realized that, if I don’t put myself first, my body will shut down. And if that happens, I won’t be the best version of myself to give to my work, my family or my friends. I make that a priority now; I have to.

And now, you’re burning sage in your set trailer…it seems like you have a good routine.

Yes, lunchtime on-set is key for me! We have 30 minutes to an hour for a break, depending on the day. I’ll take 15 minutes to eat, and then the rest of the time I do a meditation or yoga, or, if I have calls or meetings, I just sit and follow my breath for five minutes. I’ve also completely changed my wake-up and sleep schedule. On days I need to be at work early, I wake up at 5 a.m., which I never did before.

Sticking to that schedule helps me get in a 20-minute meditation, and that is better than getting that extra sleep. It also forces me go to bed earlier. If I know I have an early day on-set the next day, and I want to prioritize my routine, I just say no to dinner plans, and that makes me feel centered and grounded and ready to serve my day. Of course, it doesn’t always work out according to schedule. The secret is not beating myself up if things don’t go as planned.

Photography by Frankie Batista

Beauty, According to Beth

I am such a basic bitch when it comes to beauty, and I am such a bad actress when it comes to treatments. I need to do more! I wear sunscreen when I’m going to be with my horse or if I’m going to be out gardening. But I’m not someone who knows how to do my hair and makeup, and I would just prefer to have absolutely nothing on my face.

But, I’m getting older, so I really need to being doing more facials and things like that. I’ve always had such sensitive skin, and I’ve found that, for me, the more natural, the better. I love KORA Organics and Living Libations. I don’t even wash my face anymore; I just do this oil cleansing with seabuckthorn oil, which I love, and some sunscreen, and a sun hat if I’m going to be in the sun. That combination has worked for me for a long time.

I also dream of playing very character-driven, very ballsy roles as I age as a woman. I feel like the more character I have and the more lines I have on my face, the better acting roles I’m going to get, so I’m down. Bring it on.

Photography by Frankie Batista

Do you think the conversation regarding “prioritizing yourself” has become easier to have?

We live in such a capitalistic society…in that we live to work, as opposed to working to live. I like to think that the one good thing about this past year was that we all were forced to slow down our bodies, our nervous systems, our brains. We all got a little taste of what it’s like to be in the moment, to be with our families, to be at home, and to realize what’s most important, which is pretty much our health and for the people we love to be healthy.

Those are all things I’m sure all of us took for granted before. Once you feel what that’s like for your body, or at least for me, once I felt what it was like for my body to slow down… I don’t think I’ll ever go back to burnout—I really hope not. At the very least, I hope I can catch burnout before it crashes, even if that’s only, “Oh, I need to cancel all my plans on Sunday and take a rest day, turn my phone off and get my body back on track to go back to work Monday morning.”

Does being married to someone in the same business make that easier?

Oh my God, he’s the best. [Behrs is married to Michael Gladis of Mad Men fame.] He totally understands and he’s a meditator, too. We both finally slowed down during the pandemic, and the other side of that is that we got to spend so much time together. We’re lucky because, at the moment, he’s at home. Sometimes, he travels and that’s hard, but COVID has kept him home, and I selfishly like that. We’ve always been very supportive of each other’s self-care. That’s something I do not take for granted in my relationship. I’m very lucky.

Photography by Frankie Batista

I’m sure many people think they know you because you show up in their living rooms. How do you keep your personal life private?

Honestly, it’s not very difficult for me to do, mainly because I’ve had the same group of friends since I was 18. My best friends from when I moved out here to go to UCLA are still my best friends—only now that includes their husbands and their families—and that circle has not changed in years. My personal life is so, so private. I had a “pod” before the term even existed.

Keeping those kinds of people in my life and treasuring those relationships is huge. I know how lucky I am in this business to have that kind of female support and friendship. It’s also what allows me to feel comfortable, be open and stay vulnerable in a lot of ways.

When you have a platform like I do…I want to be able to help people and to do good. That’s why I’ve been so open about my struggles with mental health and anxiety. I feel honored that I get to be in the public eye and do that. I feel a responsibility to tell my story.

Knock on wood, I haven’t ever felt compromised; I feel like I have a pretty safe, healthy balance of being as open and raw as I can be to help others, all while being able to cherish and keep my friendships and relationships private.

When you look at your life so far—coming to California for the first time until now—how does that play out?

I still can’t believe it. Every time they ask me to show my ID card to get on the lot where I work to film every day…just the idea that I get to wake up every day and I get to have an ID card that says “CBS Studio Center” is crazy. I get to go be on a film set all day, and I’ve been dreaming about that since I was 5 years old.

It’s still not lost on me that I don’t have to budget how much Ramen I’ll need to eat and how much gas I’ll have to put in my car so I can get to and from my three jobs…I think a lot about those three jobs I was working at before I booked Two Broke Girls when I was trying to make my dream come true. It isn’t lost on me that I am very lucky to only fill up my car to get me to one job now. I think about that a lot…

I always feel for anybody who’s pursuing their dream; I get what it’s like to have to make all those sacrifices. All I can say is, it was definitely all worth it, so keep dreaming.

Photography by Frankie Batista

What’s next?

If you look at women like Jean Smart and Jennifer Coolidge, who’s a dear friend of mine and whose tour de force in White Lotus has exploded the world…I dream of continuing my career in comedy the way that these two women have. And then there are Tina Fey and Melissa McCarthy, two more women I look up to!

I genuinely love to make people laugh. Talk about a beauty secret! I laugh all day long. We were peeing ourselves on-set today making each other laugh. Max Greenfield and I were literally spitting and almost peeing our pants laughing. I hope that in the next however many years of this career I have—or however many years I have of this life—I try to find humor in every situation. I like to think that is me.

Anne Lamott has this quote: “Laughter is carbonated holiness,” and it is the best quote ever. I got it embroidered on a thing to hang in my dressing room because I just feel like it’s so true. I just hope whatever is left for my career has a lot of laughter. It’s what we need.

Photography by Frankie Batista; Makeup: Andre Sarmiento using Chanel at A-Frame Agency; Hair: Aviva Perea using R+Co Bleu at A-Frame Agency; Styling: Kendall Marsh

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