Oliver Hudson gets candid about anxiety: 'I am as privileged as you can get, but that doesn't mean that I don't have my s***'

Oliver Hudson opens up about anxiety, fitness and fame. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
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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.

"Being a celebrity or in the public eye, there's this perception that you have a lot of money and life is just great," actor Oliver Hudson tells Yahoo Life. "And yes — there's a lot of fortune. I was born into an amazing family. I had amazing opportunity. I am blessed. I am as privileged as you can get, but that doesn't mean that I don't have my s***. And that doesn't mean that these big stars and people who you perceive to have everything have their mental health in perfect order because we're all human beings, you know?"

In Hudson's case, a longtime battle with anxiety and overwhelming expectations about measuring up to mom Goldie Hawn, stepdad Kurt Russell and younger sister Kate Hudson's acting success have taken a toll, something he has "no shame" in discussing.

"It bugs me a little bit sometimes when I hear comments like, 'Oh, what do you have to worry about? You've got everything,'" he admits. "Like, yeah, from the outside, but you don't f***ing know what's going on in my head and in my heart and what I've been through and whatever it is that I'm feeling. We're all human beings. So I just think I have no problem, I have no shame in talking about any of that stuff. I think, if anything, it's relatable and maybe can help someone not feel alone."

And so the actor and podcaster is speaking candidly about his current struggle, dealing with withdrawal symptoms as he weans off antidepressants. Here, the father of three opens up about his "gnarly" experience with anxiety and shares how getting back in shape with a personal coach by partnering with Future has benefited him both inside and out.

How important is fitness to your overall well-being?

Extremely... This conversation couldn't have come at a better time for me because I have some issues with anxiety right now. I've been on Lexapro for five and a half years and I have decided to go off of it. And the withdrawals of coming off of that have been pretty gnarly, for lack of a better word. There's different iterations of it, from the physical to the emotional, to this generalized anxiety. It's been a bit of a journey the last two and a half months, trying to maintain [my life]: be a dad, be a husband, take the kids to school, focus on my career, all while just feeling like s***.

And enter Future — enter fitness just in general — and that's been a big part of my recovery, if that's what you want to call it, or my journey through the withdrawal symptoms. Honestly, fitness in general has always been a part of my life one way or another. My problem always has been: I go hard for six weeks, I see some results and then I'm done. The consistency for me has always been a problem, and Future has sort of helped me with that consistency. You are being held accountable, because you have a coach who is on your ass all the time, making sure that you stay true to your commitment. Literally before we got on [the phone], Matt — my guy, my trainer — [called]. I missed my workout yesterday and he was like, "What's happening, dude?" Like, "What's up?" And I'm like, "Oh, s***, I'm gonna let him down." So it really has been amazing for me in that capacity, just holding me accountable, making sure that I get [a workout[ in, even if it's eight, 10, 15 minutes, whatever. Just get it in.

You mentioned your experience with Lexapro and going off that. What made you get to a place where you felt you didn't need it anymore, and what, besides fitness, is helping fill that void?

For me, it's circumstantial. I was on Celexa in my twenties. I had major, major anxiety in my 20s, for about a year and a half, actually. It was gnarly. It was nothing like I'd ever experienced and I've had bouts with it as I've been going through my life, but this was really consistent. It was sort of quarter-life crisis-y stuff. It was hard to leave my house. It manifested in my stomach. I would throw up on the street; my chest would get heavy. I went to every doctor just to rule out anything medical, because it feels so real. I had to go audition in New York City with Laura Linney and read with her — traveling, flying from L.A., puking on the f***ing streets of New York. I mean, I was a mess.

I was trying to get through. I would still surf, I would still do my stuff, basically having panic attacks where I went. Meditation was really big for me. And then journaling was really big for me in my 20s. And then I had this sort of residual feeling and went on Celexa and it sort of evened me out. I came off of it, and then I was doing a TV show called Nashville. I was away from my family for basically two years back and forth, and that took its toll and this started to happen again so I went on Lexapro. And it's been five and a half years and I just feel like I don't need to be on it anymore right now. I decided to wean off it and it's been a bit crazy.

But again, meditation is what I'm trying to get back to. Writing, having some sort of a creative outlet and honestly, just talking about it. It's amazing what kind of medicine that provides, the relief sometimes that you feel when you're tight-chested, tight-throated and then you actually have a conversation with someone. You're open. You're not holding it in. You tell them how you feel, you tell them what you're going through. There's nothing to be ashamed of. And just that expression alone alleviates a lot of symptoms. There's a lot that I do: I'm trying to eat better, I'm trying to work out and just get my head in the right place.

Your family seems so close-knit. How important has that been in terms of keeping you grounded?

Family is number one for me, for sure. Being a father is definitely my number one priority in my life. Family is extremely important to me, and to my family. We all live 10 minutes from each other; we're lucky. We get to be in each other's lives almost every day. My mom and Kurt were over here last night; we had Chinese food, lit a fire, we hung out. It's special. And it's just about being communicative.

It all seems great from the outside, especially when you're in the public eye. You see Mom and Kate and what our relationships are like, and that's all real — but there's s***. There's always s***. you know? So we're just trying to be mindful of how we make people feel in the things that we say and not being afraid to communicate our displeasure sometimes with the way things are going, which isn't easy because you don't know what you don't want to offend. Sometimes it's easier not to say anything, but then that resentment can build up, and then it comes out in different ways. So, I think we're mindful to be open with each other. But yeah, my family is pretty much, that's it. I mean, what else do you have? You've got your friends, for sure... but as long as that family stays tight, things are good.

Do you have any Father's Day plans? Do you like to be spoiled?

I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm not, like, a big holiday guy. I love when the kids make me stuff, and they're getting older now. I used to get all the cards and I'm sure I still will. And then it's my day, right, so I get to choose what I want to do. And I don't know; we'll see what that is. But it's a meaningful day, man. I think we're living in a dad-centric era right now. I think there's a sort of surge of people expressing how important fathers are and what they do now, and looking at modern-day fatherhood, modern-day masculinity and what it all means...

I'm developing a show right now with one of my best friends, Taye Diggs. It's an unscripted show about fatherhood, about the exploration of exactly what we were just talking about, and searching the world for fathers who do amazing things and sacrifice for their family. So it's a space that I'm heavily involved in right now, and it's important to me. So I think [Father's Day will] have more meaning this year than any other year, honestly.

What brings you joy?

Oh man. So many things. It's an interesting question, and there's a lot of answers to this question... I think you re-evaluate what brings you joy. Of course there are the material, external things, whether it be fishing — I'm an obsessive fisherman; that is my passion — or golf, all of those things. But really, coming out of this fog that I've been in, just being content, [having a] sense of normalcy, my family, being able to wake up every morning and be grateful for what I have and really feel that.

And then my kids, my wife... My wife is a saint — she's an impossibility, and she's sort of what makes me possible. And my kids are — that's it. Watching them grow up, being a part of their lives in every way, being their father, being their friend... just that bond, the cohesion of family. That's really what brings me joy.

Is there a piece of advice or mantra that's stuck with you?

[When I was] 24 years old, Kurt — my stepdad, my dad, however you classify him, the man made me the man that I am today — [gave me advice]. On my 24th birthday, I was trying to be an actor. I wasn't an actor yet but I was trying to make it happen. And ironically, this was exactly when I was going through this anxiety. And my family was, you know: Kurt's a star, Mom's a star. My sister was a star at the time, and I was sort of just trying to make it happen. The expectations that I put on myself were pretty, pretty gnarly, and I think that really sort of broke me in a way.

But he said, "Look, you have the talent. You you have to stop giving a s*** what people think about you." It's just so true. It's so freeing. And it's something that I strive for. There's ways to get to that place. You don't do it by being aloof and an a**hole, but you just have to not put so much value in other people's opinions and what they think and how they judge you. Who gives a s***? I've tried to do that. My brother Wyatt [Russell, also an actor] — who is one of my best friends — he has that attitude genetically. He's just like, "No, this is what I do. Love me or hate me, this is who I am." And that's something that I've tried to live by, even though it's not easy for me.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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