'Law & Order' star Camryn Manheim says being organized is her form of self-care: 'Just get it done, and you will be free from those burdens'

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Camryn Manheim shares her pragmatic approach to keeping stress at bay. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Camryn Manheim shares her pragmatic approach to keeping stress at bay. (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.

If Camryn Manheim ever tires of acting — unlikely, given that the Emmy winner's show, NBC's Law & Order revival, has just been renewed for Season 22 — she'd make a pretty capable life coach. Ever the pragmatist, Manheim's approach to staying stress-free isn't about meditating or unwinding with a massage; it's about doing the prep work to ensure she doesn't find herself in stressful situations. She's punctual. She believes bills should be paid the day they arrive (because otherwise "you've wasted all that time" thinking about paying it). She's finished with her Christmas shopping by October so she doesn't have to worry about supply chain hiccups or gifts not arriving in time or being generally on edge during the holiday season.

"Just get it done. You know what they want," Manheim laughs. She tells Yahoo Life that "being organized is a huge part of self-care as far as I'm concerned."

"I'm never late because I hate that sick feeling of making somebody wait for me," she adds. "And listen, there's a lot of things that I could be doing better, but when it comes to being organized, that's one thing that I think really serves me and my mental health. It doesn't cost any money to be organized; that's the beauty of it. Just get it done, and you will be free from those burdens."

Beyond planning her way out of anxiety-inducing, down-to-the-wire drama, the 61-year-old star — who is involved with a number of charities and has previously worked as sign-language interpreter — also swears by what she calls "mitzvah therapy," a.k.a. being kind to oneself by being kind to others and giving back. Along with service, she also credits gratitude with keeping her mental health "in check."

"I am one of the more joyful people I know, and I try to move toward joy," she says. "I try to find the joy in everything. ... I can't be happy all the time because the world is suffering; there's so many people who are suffering and to be happy all the time would be to not recognize how hard it is for so many people. But what I try to do in my life is to string as many joyful moments together, as closely as possible."

Those joyful moments could mean visiting a friend's new baby or catching the latest Broadway production with friends. Manheim, mother to actor Milo Manheim, can be found in the theater most nights, something that gives her more pleasure than, say, a spa day or a trip to the beach.

"I find more comfort in getting things done than I do in relaxing," she says. "I know that's crazy, but that's who I am. You know, people always inviting me to a sandy island or a beach, and I'm like, 'No, I want to be in London and I want to see theater!' I'm a doer. I get satisfaction from completing things and doing things."

Given her personal go-getter attitude, it's fitting that Manheim was cast as Lt. Kate Dixon, the commanding officer on the Law & Order revival, which airs its season finale on Thursday, May 19.

Manheim as Lt. Kate Dixon with Law & Order co-star Anthony Anderson. (Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Manheim as Lt. Kate Dixon with Law & Order co-star Anthony Anderson. (Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

"What is starting to be revealed is that she had a bit of a tough childhood," Manheim says of Dixon. "She wanted to right many wrongs and became a police officer and rose up through the ranks and became a detective and eventually got promoted to become a lieutenant. And she's just an everyday person and wants to represent the everyday people who often are abused by the system or overlooked or are underdogs. I think that she's very sympathetic in that arena, and I think she is the perfect person to be in that position."

Manheim has no problem commanding respect off-screen either. She's a firm believer in nipping future angst in the bud not only by being organized, but upfront about her feelings and personal boundaries too.

"One of my favorite mottos that I seem to use quite a bit when I'm helping other people through hard times is: 'you teach people how to treat you,'" she explains.

"One of the good and bad things about me is you will never have to guess what I'm thinking because I will tell you," she adds. "And one of the things I will tell people is that I don't like to be treated that way, and that is meaningful to people. But if I don't tell them that and I'm passive-aggressive about it, they'll continue their same pattern. And then I continue to let that fester and become a real source of anxiety and frustration. I think people like to have boundaries and know what the limitations are. So, I'm not mean about it, but whether you work for me or you're a friend or I just met you, I gently guide people to treat me the way I'd like to be treated."

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