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.
Before Olivia Culpo was a model, influencer or actress, she was a pageant queen, winning the titles of Miss Rhode Island, Miss USA and Miss Universe. These days her crowning achievement is being able to use her platform to talk about things that don't get enough airtime — like periods.
Part of that work has involved joining Midol on their new "No Apologies. Period." campaign and mission to destigmatize periods and push back against the infamous "period apology," a.k.a. the mea culpa most menstruators engage in when they're dealing with period symptoms.
"At the end of the day, it's a level of internal turmoil if we don't feel confident showing up as we are," Culpo tells Yahoo Life. "That's something that I know affects every other every other area of your life.
"We don't want that for our younger generations. We want to create a better world for them and we have the means to do it," she adds. "It's just opening your mouth and talking about it."
Culpo shares here her experience with endometriosis — and how it inspired her to speak up about periods — as well as other self-care practices that keep her feeling her best both mentally and physically.
What made you want to lend your voice to this conversation about the "period apology"?
For one thing, it hits close to home for me because of my experience with endometriosis, and my own shame and guilt around my symptoms which kept me from really advocating for my health and getting the help that I need. So on one level it's the physical health, and on the other it's definitely the mental health and how this minimizing behavior that we practice sometimes as females affects every other area of our life, whether it's periods or not. It's the idea of minimizing our symptoms because we don't want to be a bother, or we don't want to stand out, or we don't have the confidence to show up and take up space. At that level, it's really important to me as well.
Was there a moment when you decided to be public about your struggles with endometriosis?
It was a battle. I really did go through a lot of emotions. I was ashamed to talk to my doctors about my symptoms associated with my endometriosis. My symptoms were very uncomfortable and I had them for a lot of my life but I didn't take them seriously because I didn't want to believe that I was different. I was ashamed. And I'm someone that has access to good health care and resources and a computer to Google my symptoms. It really made me understand my privilege, and if I waited so long to get the help that I need it, I can't imagine what it's like for people who are in different situations. That's something that I take very seriously.
Looking more broadly to your wellness practices, what's your approach to mental health?
I love to journal. It's my release and a form of meditation for me. And I do have to say it's always hard getting yourself to work out and maybe do a little bit of cardio, but it helps me feel significantly better, especially when dealing with anxiety or feeling like the day is running me down. It's really nice to just get those endorphins going first and foremost and take a little time for yourself. It's hard, but it pays off.
What brings you joy?
So many things bring me joy: friends, family, food, pets.
On the contrary, what stresses you out?
I've thought about this a lot. I feel like stress happens when you feel like a situation is out of your control and/or you're not living your life for yourself — whatever that means for you in that particular moment. I always feel my best when I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be doing something I know I'm supposed to be doing and also when I feel like I'm in control, to a certain extent, of a situation.
You mentioned journaling, but are there any other self-care rituals that you like to incorporate when you're feeling burnt out?
I'm actually reading this book called Burnout. I love to read. Reading always makes me feel calm and like I'm making a decision that's going to make me show up better for myself and the people in my life. My friends always say that my right bedside table looks like the self-help section of Barnes and Noble. But journaling, meditating and laughing is also so important. Being around somebody that can make you laugh or throwing something on the TV that makes you laugh is so important. Exercising, just getting fresh air and drinking a lot of water is great for your mental and physical health. Also going to the beach, going in the water, getting a little bit of sun... I know that's not an option for everyone, everywhere, all the time, but I find it to be very helpful and rejuvenating.
Do you have any kind of mantra that you live by or find yourself repeating?
I live by a mantra that my mom said to me when I was going through one of the hardest times in my life. It was a long time ago but at the time I was like, "Oh my gosh my world is ending." It was a breakup. My mom said, "All you have to do is work hard and be a good person." I think about that on a daily basis. I put so much on myself to be a certain way or to deal with things in a certain way, but at the end of the day, if you just work hard and be a good person it's all going to work out. Everything is going to be fine.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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