Welcome to Thriving Mind, a resource to help you understand your individual signs of stress, take small steps to recharge, and unlock better mental health.

Jeannie Mai gives new meaning to being an optimist. The co-host of the Emmy award-winning talk show “The Real” tells Thrive she starts every morning by thinking of a gift she’d like to receive that day — whether that gift is more energy when she’s a bit depleted, or something that makes her smile if she wakes up feeling sad. Then, at the end of the night, she’ll think back to what she wished for, and “every single time,” her wish was granted. “It almost makes me feel like I was manifesting it,” she says.

Developing strategies (like Mai has) to ward off stress and boost well-being is key to maintaining a thriving mental health. But before we can fully cope with our stress, we need to develop awareness of what our stressors are in the first place — and actionable steps that support our mental well-being. A new Thrive Global survey of over 2,000 Americans ages 18 to 85 shows just how desperately people want and need that knowledge: 91% of respondents said not knowing or ignoring their personal signs of overstress had a negative impact on their mental well-being, 72% wish they knew more small everyday steps to improve their mental health, and nearly half said when it comes to managing their stress, they don’t know where to start.

Because there is power in sharing our stories, Mai is opening up about her own stressors, her signs of overstress, and the small, everyday steps she takes to take care of her mental well-being.

Thrive Global: What are the things you know cause you stress? 

Jeannie Mai: There are a ton of things: people who talk about themselves, really bad traffic. I also get anxiety when a lot of people come up to me at the same time and I’m not able to spend quality time with them. I learned that I’m an empath, so I require a connection with people. It’s important for me to actually be present to what you’re saying. When I can’t give that, I start having this guilt about it, and it stresses me out.

TG: What signs tell you that you’re dealing with too much? 

JM: My voice raises. I start getting real hood and street. I almost want to fight somebody. My heels want to come off. That reaction isn’t good, especially toward the people I love. I’m really working on it. But I’m aware that when my voice raises, when I start swearing, when I start heaving sighs or wanting to walk away or hang up the phone — that’s when I’ve gotta stop, drop, and roll.

TG: What are some steps you take to recharge and practice self-care?

JM: I stop and actually check myself. I do a little bit of breathing or tell the person I’m talking to, “Hey, I need a moment. I need to be aware of my boundaries.” That’s what I’m working on right now: creating those boundaries so I don’t get pushed to my limit. I’ve learned that setting up those boundaries means when I say yes and when I say no. I like to remember this phrase: “Saying yes to you cannot mean saying no to me.” 

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