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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.
With career talents that span from executive producer to coffee-shop barista (more on that later), Issa Rae is anything but typical. So, it should come as no surprise that her approach to relaxation is also a bit unconventional.
"I actually love to get on a long plane ride toward a destination that I've never been before," Rae tells Yahoo Life. Spending hours in the air may not be the ideal downtime scenario for most people, but taking the path less traveled seems to be a reoccurring theme for the Los Angeles native.
Rae hit the mainstream with her breakout series Insecure in 2016 but made initial waves with her YouTube comedy series Awkward Black Girl in 2011.
Beyond jetting off to her dream destinations, she is also a fan of more traditional methods of managing her mental health, describing therapy as a "preventative" measure she took on early during her career to make sure she was able to handle the unique pressures of superstardom and the adjustments that would come along with it.
"I was in a more unique position where I couldn't relate to my friends in a way," she says, explaining that as her star began to rise, she worried she would begin to burden her friends with "unrelatable" problems.
"I felt like I was holding a lot inside. And so I went to therapy to be able to kind of talk these things through to not feel like I'm burdening anybody with my petty problems," she says.
Her friends would have been more than understanding and willing to listen, says Rae, but therapy was a way to assuage her own "guilt" and allow her to vent without getting in her head about whether or not she was coming off as ungrateful or out of touch.
She is also a famously private person, shocking fans in July 2021 when she shared photos from her wedding, as many fans didn't even know she was in a relationship. While her reserved nature has allowed her to keep private moments special, she says that not being an "outwardly expressive person" can make it difficult for her to truly process her feelings.
"I don't like to talk about myself. And so that's something that I've had to get comfortable doing and not deflecting and taking the time to just really process with my feelings," says Rae. "I'll keep things moving and therapy is the kind of a space that forces you to confront what's making you uncomfortable," she says.
She is also partial to a good sweat sesh and says getting active is a major key in her self-care routine. Sure, hikes may have been a big part of Issa and Molly's Sunday Fundays on Insecure, but IRL, Issa says nothing beats a good old-fashioned treadmill.
"I've been taking these guided trainer, treadmill runs, and I've never been a runner before. But now I'm running miles in the morning. And that's something I've never been interested in," she says.
Having a variety of self-care activities that she can dibble and dabble in at her leisure is imperative for someone as booked and busy as the Barbie actress who, in addition to working in the entertainment industry, owns a coffee shop, Hilltop Kitchen + Coffee, with several locations in Los Angeles. She's even been spotted working a shift or two there.
"I got involved with Hilltop specifically because I wanted a coffee shop in my neighborhood. But in order for those coffee shops to continue to exist, and in people's neighborhoods, you have to support them," she says, adding that this facet of her career led her to partner with TAZO teas recently, in order to encourage locals and creatives to support their local cafes. The TAZO Cafe Collective will offer financial and marketing support to participating cafes — who can apply to take part beginning Sept. 29 — and product collaborations including the pink TAZO Passion Twist that will be served at Hilltop locations and on TAZO.com.
"That was so essential for me," she says, referring to the importance of coffee shops to her during her early days of writing.
Still, while tea is a big part of her wind-down routine, Rae also admits to like a special kind of iced version now and then — with a splash or two of Prosecco.
"I love good iced tea," she says, "sometimes with a little mix, if you know what I mean."