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.
Peter Facinelli knew the best way to help out when his fiancée went into labor last month: hypnotherapy.
The Twilight and Nurse Jackie star, 48, says he made use of the hypnotherapy skills he acquired during the pandemic to help his fiancée, actress Lily Anne Harrison, through childbirth.
"When she was going through labor pains, I sat her down, and we would do hypnotic suggestions. And honestly, it helped. I put her in some deep relaxation states," Facinelli, who can currently be seen in Roar on Apple TV+, tells Yahoo Life. "She pre-labored at home for like eight or nine hours. And then we went to the hospital, and within two to three hours she was giving birth. It just helped bring the pain down."
The couple went on to welcome a son, Jack Cooper Facinelli. It's the first boy for Facinelli, who has three daughters with ex-wife Jennie Garth. But the childbirth experience wasn't the first time Facinelli had explored hypnotherapy. The practice was originally used to help him deal with crushing anxiety, which was so severe in his teen years that he couldn't even go through the cafeteria lunch line.
"I was really shy in high school," says Facinelli, who admitted it took three years of high school before he could go up and order food. "I just didn't like people looking at me."
By the time he reached college, he discovered he felt freer to explore himself through characters. he turned to hypnotherapy to help gain the confidence to perform in public, and hasn't looked back. Flash forward to the COVID pandemic, and the actor decided to delve a bit deeper into the practice and learn how to perform hypnotherapy himself. He completed an in-depth, three-month course, and now frequently uses the practice for himself and others. In fact, he used it on his sister to help her stop getting out of bed and eating peanut better in the middle of the night. But hypnotherapy in practice is a far cry from the way it's depicted onscreen, says Facinelli.
"When you hear of hypnosis, you think of a carnival act," he explains. "But think of it more as like a form of deep relaxation and meditation to your awareness and consciousness. Just cut the stigma off of that."
Facinelli frequently records hypnotherapy tapes to play for himself when he's dealing with anxiety.
"It's like when the rides just go really fast, and then it stops — your mind is going all over the place," he says. "But if I listen to things like a guided meditation or self-hypnosis tape that I make for myself, it just puts me in a meditative state. It can be used for many things. If I'm doing hypnotherapy on you, I'm guiding you, but you already want those things. It's allowing yourself and your subconscious to let that seep in. So it's almost like a guide."
Facinelli finds maintaining his physical health to be deeply intertwined with his mental well-being. After gaining weight for a couple of acting roles, he found himself 30 pounds heavier when the pandemic began. Feeling sluggish, he decided to get a little creative to get workouts in.
"I started making my yard the gym," says Facinelli, who bought a pair of gymnastics rings and hung them from a tree.
"I lost 30 pounds, and I got into probably the best shape of my life," he adds. "And then from that point on, it's been trying to maintain that."
While he's an avid racquetball player these days, Facinelli says exercise was only responsible for 30% of his weight loss.
"The 70% was really like, 'what am I putting in my mouth?' Someone asked me, 'how'd you lose 30 pounds?' I used to joke and go, 'Well, there's a hole underneath your nose, and if I just don't put crappy food in it, it helped,'" he says.
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