For decades, Leeza Gibbons has entertained millions with her sunny smile on Entertainment Tonight, and then on her talk show, Leeza. But the beloved TV host, author, and motivational speaker has seen her fair share of life’s storms, including doubt, anxiety, and being the caretaker for her mother after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Here, she talks about how self-care and leaning on loved ones have kept her confident, calm, and smiling
Settling in with her second cup of coffee, Gibbons takes a deep breath and smiles her trademark smile as she hangs up the phone. “That was my dad,” she says. “He’s 91 and was in the hospital recently with pneumonia. Obviously, it’s not a great diagnosis, but thankfully, he’s getting better.”
This is not the first time the veteran entertainer has found herself dealing with a family health issue — or caring for a parent. After years tending to her mother Jean’s Alzheimer’s disease before her eventual passing, Gibbons knows the toll it can take to be a caregiver — and just how much support someone in that position needs.
“You shouldn’t have to give up on your life because you’re caring for someone you love,” she says. “When you care for someone, it’s easy to put your needs last.” Inspired by her experience, Gibbons wrote a book about caregiving called Take Your Oxygen First (buy on Amazon, $14.95) and started a nonprofit organization, called Gibbons’ Care Connection, to provide support to the caregivers of aging or sick relatives.
Today, brain health is the cornerstone of Gibbons’ passion for wellness, and the 63-year-old mother of three says that keeping an alert and healthy mind is vital to wearing her many hats. “Coffee is great for that!” she says with a smile. “Research shows that it helps you concentrate, and the caffeine and antioxidants are great for the brain! But I’ve also been doing this thing I call a ‘close-up’ of my life, where I keep myself accountable for new feelings and fears. It’s helped me process and shed a lot, emotionally and physically. Once I stopped focusing on achieving and opened myself up to receiving, my self-esteem soared — and I feel great!”
Below are Leeza’s tips to beating stress and being at your best.
Write down your toughest feelings.
One consistent element of Gibbons’ life over the past three decades has been writing. “It’s helped in overcoming difficult times,” she says. “I think writing a letter to yourself is a good place to start — you really begin to see patterns. I go back and reread certain sections now and can see how I’ve grown and the things I still need to work on. Just write it all out, then release it. If we don’t give ourselves an outlet, we can’t get the benefit of our own wisdom inside of us.”
Find your own ‘sanity sanctuary.’
“I’m really big on finding ‘sanity sanctuaries’ throughout my day where I can reset my mind,” Gibbons shares. “I found yoga when I turned 60, and now meditation. ‘I try hard and I care deeply’ is the mantra I’ll repeat.” Morning stretches are also part of Gibbons’ breaks. “It gives me a peaceful place to exhale and remind myself that everything will be all right.”
Love your own vulnerabilities.
“I’m kinder to myself now than I ever was before,” Gibbons reflects. “I’m more aware of my vulnerabilities, and instead of being ashamed of them, I’m proud of them! I think forgiving yourself, being consistent, and developing resilience strengthens you. And so does cherishing your relationships. I really think when we take time to do good things for ourselves and focus on those things, we strengthen ourselves.”
Share cherished memories.
Lately, Gibbons is acting as the archivist for thousands of her father’s poems. “I started getting them printed into books and have been going through family videos,” she says. “When we share our stories and see what we and our ancestors have been through, it reminds us that we have the resilience to get through anything!”
Rest with a soothing bedtime ritual.
“Before bed, I love to soak in a hot bath with Epsom salts and lavender. It helps me sleep better,” she says. “I’ll also bring in a good book with strong female characters like one I recently finished, Diana, Herself by Martha Beck. The act of caring for myself while surrounded by positive female characters helps ground me in my own strength and create a soothing bedtime ritual.”
Slash stress by doing ‘five more.’
“I’ve come up with a plan that has five things I want to do more of to help me with stress—I call it ‘Five More,’” Gibbons says. “First is ‘laugh more,’ then ‘move more,’ ‘plan more,’ ‘break more’ and, finally, ‘connect more.’ These little shifts help ease stress and give us energy and courage to live healthier lives.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.