Ryan Reynolds revealed that his young children are a major motivation for speaking up about his experience with anxiety.
“Part of it is that I have three daughters at home,” Reynolds told ET Online, “and part of my job as a parent is to model behaviors and model what it’s like to be sad and model what it’s like to be anxious, or angry. That there’s space for all these things.”
The actor has three daughters with his wife, Blake Lively: six-year-old James, four-year-old Inez, and one-year-old Betty. He said that he wants to set a healthy example of emotional regulation and facing mental health challenges for his children because that’s something he himself missed out on as a kid. “The home that I grew [up] in, that wasn’t modeled for me really,” Reynolds said. “And that’s not to say that my parents were neglectful, but they come from a different generation.”
Reynolds, who opened up about his “lifelong pal, anxiety,” in an Instagram post for Mental Health Awareness Month in May, told ET Online that beyond showing his own kids how to cope with difficult feelings, he shares his own experience to “model things for anyone who might need to hear it.” He used to feel isolated in his own battles with anxiety, the 44-year-old said, and today he wants to help “destigmatize things and create a conversation around [mental health]” for the benefit of anyone dealing with mental illness.
Back in 2018, Reynolds discussed some of the other coping mechanisms he’s used in his lifelong struggle with stress and anxiety. For instance, when he was a kid, Reynolds said he did chores around the house to try to ease his father’s stress (and, in turn, his own anxiety). In his 20s, Reynolds said, he self-medicated and partied. Since then he’s shifted to other strategies, including using acting as an outlet, continuing to channel his character Deadpool during interviews and public engagements, and using the meditation app Headspace. Reynolds also shared that during times of high stress and anxiety, he feels lucky to be able to lean on the support of his partner, Lively.
“I know that when I felt at the absolute bottom, it’s usually been because I felt like I was alone in something I was feeling,” Reynolds told ET Online in the new interview. “I don’t necessarily dwell on it or lament on it, but I think it’s important to talk about it. And when you talk about it, it kind of sets other people free.”
Reynolds is well aware that as a famous actor, his own life looks very different from the lives of most people who are dealing with similar challenges. But he also believes that the common experience of a mental illness such as anxiety can also cut across some of those disparities. “Other people feel like, ‘Oh, he’s feeling that and so am I,’” he said. “And even though we might be in two completely different fields or we might have two completely different lives, it connects us in a way.”