The co-creator and star of Nora From Queens gets real about spending time solo during the pandemic, the book that "changed [her] life," and the skincare routine that "keeps [her] sane."

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SANTA MONICA, CA - JANUARY 12: Awkwafina during the arrivals for the 25th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, CA. (Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Credit: Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Let's face it: you don't need another reminder that this year's holiday season is going to be different. Masks are now part of the daily jig; socially-distanced waves are the new hugs; and celebrations, for the big 3-0 or Christmas, are a thing of the past (at least until a vaccine makes its way around...which is a whole other story). Sure, you get it, but that doesn't make the whole situation any less frustrating. And Awkwafina knows that first hand.

The award-winning actress, who’s currently quarantining in Vancouver, wasn’t able to celebrate Thanksgiving with her loved ones. “But that’s okay because I think there are bigger things at hand right now that should dictate what we want to do this year,” she tells Shape. "You know, some people are saying that this year doesn't count. Maybe it just doesn't count for us — it's still a year and we need to do what we need to do."

And while she hopes to go back home to New York for the holidays, she continues to maintain a realistic (and, TBH, motivational) mentality: "It's just about being prepared to continue to spend more time at home," says Awkwafina, who, BTW, is teaming up with Heineken to help friends stay connected despite the distance this year as part of their "Bestie Giftie Ever" campaign.

So what has all this home-time looked like for the 32-year-old over the past few months? "A lot of reflective and introspective things," she shares. "You're forced to look at yourself, what really matters, who are the people that matter in your life...what are the things that I've always wanted to do but maybe I was too scared or wasn't ready but now I am?"

All of this "reprioritizing" and "time for thought" — as well as reading the "book that changed [her] life," 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' by Mark Manson (Buy It, $25, bookshop.org) — ultimately encouraged a "kind of mental health awakening."

That awakening wasn't necessarily a sparkly, rainbow "a ha!" moment, but rather learning to take her emotions and thoughts — even the negative ones — in stride. "I would oftentimes feel very selfish when I felt down or depressed. I would feel like, first of all, I shouldn’t be feeling down or depressed. I’m fine," she shares. "But also knowing that chances are other people are going through these problems too, that everyone feels down in a way that they can't really put their finger on it, helped me a lot. Just knowing that we're not really in this alone. We're all kind of in it." (Related: How My Lifelong Anxiety Has Actually Helped Me During the Coronavirus Panic)

There are a few things that Awkwafina credits for helping her continue to manage her mental health — and no, meditating is not one of them. "Every time I ask someone for advice, it always ends up with, 'you need to meditate,' and I feel like it's another way of telling me to shut up," she says, half-jokingly. "Maybe it does work, though. I'm going to try it."

Instead, however, the actress writes it out or, rather, down. "I get to a point where I feel like I need to kind of like purge [everything that I'm feeling]," she explains. "I heard a long time ago if you're ever stuck mentally, just write it down and it really does help." (Also known as a "brain dump" this type of strategy helps Emma Stone manage her mental health, too.)

Also helpful? Having routines that she can stick to, no matter what. "I have a skincare routine that kind of keeps me sane. Like if I don't have it, it throws me off balance." More specifically, she loves the Aesthetica Brown Contour Kit (Buy It, $30, amazon.com), which she's been using for keeping her eyebrows looking ~fab~ (seriously, though) over the past months.

"And then, also, regular oral health care is a big thing for me," she adds. And no, despite what many might think, Awkwafina did not say that jokingly. (As someone who's similarly passionate about oral health, I'm here for it.) "If you're not doing anything, you can just eat and not brush your teeth at night," she says. (And if you've accidentally made it through a week of quarantine without showering, you know what she means.) So, I make a point to regularly floss and I even have this kit that has a water pick." Namely, the Waterpik Sidekick Portable Water Flosser (Buy It, $100, amazon.com).

"Just having these regular routines [is important] because no matter what, even if you're not going out to a red carpet, you're still going to want nice skin and good teeth. You know, that will serve you in any way."

And that includes staying home (and socially distanced) for the holiday, trust.