Billy Porter on tuning out the 'mania' of the holiday season: 'You have to be self-aware of what makes you panic'

·4-min read
Billy Porter on holiday stress and self-care. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Billy Porter on holiday stress and self-care. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

In addition to being a performer with a Tony, Emmy and Grammy under his belt, Billy Porter is an advocate for underrepresented voices in the media. It’s a commitment that has led the actor to partner with Amazon in their effort to highlight diverse small businesses, notably Black-owned and women-owned shops, for his holiday gift guide on the shopping platform.

Here, Porter shares about his self-care rituals, striving to be mindful and present during the busy holiday season and how he finds comfort in taking naps to shut the world off for a while.

Tell us about your partnership with Amazon and how it’s spotlighting Black-owned and women-owned businesses this holiday season.

There’s a need for those big conglomerates to reach back, especially post-COVID, when we lost so many of our small businesses. Small businesses are our power link. So it is very, very significant that a business as huge as Amazon has the presence of mind to reach back. My personal point was to uplift and spotlight voices of color, female voices, LGBTQ+ voices and create a curated list. Those are the ones that I gravitated to not only for those qualifications but also because the product is exemplary.

How can someone give the gift of wellness this holiday season, whether it's through one of those businesses that you're highlighting or in a different way?

Just being present for the people around you will help to understand what they need. I think we have to be present for what everyone needs, specifically and individually, and that's different for everybody. Being present, understanding and perceiving what the needs are of others.

What's your top tip for having a mindful and wellness-centered holiday season without becoming overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done between now and the new year?

I've always been able to be mindful and present through the season. You know, the daily meditation to block out the noise of the mania. It's something that is really powerful for me. The mania exists.

You know, last week, I was in Starbucks and they were putting up Christmas stuff at the beginning of November and I had to turn around and walk out. It was just too much. I was like, this is too much. It made me panic. You have to be self-aware of what makes you panic.

What is your approach to mental health?

My approach to mental health is that it’s the most important muscle in one’s body, and it must be exercised every single day, in some way or another. I listen to a lot of podcasts. You know, I read a lot about mindfulness, and I engage with it every day.

You mentioned listening to podcasts and being mindful of what's going on during your day. Do you have any other self-care rituals that help to brighten your day or help you to reset after something that might have been a little challenging or hard during the day?

I've recently learned that I can just take a nap and shut it all down. I didn't understand that for a really long time. And it was COVID that taught that when we couldn't go anywhere, we couldn't do anything and we were shut up in the house. I would find myself getting to a moment and I would just have to lay down.

What brings you joy?

Practicing my art brings me a lot of joy. Enjoying my family in my new home. The peace that this space has that we created for ourselves is lovely. That's joy.

What's one thing that stresses you out?

Politics. The lack of leadership exists in the entire world. You know, it's not just America and it stresses me out.

What’s your mantra for life?

This too shall pass.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Never wait for anybody to give you permission to practice your art. You should always be doing it even when no one's listening — and most of the time, no one's listening.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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