Camila Cabello Shares the 'Life-Changing' Way COVID-19 Forced Her to Evaluate Her Mental Health

The star gets honest about burnout and the crippling anxiety that hit her once her whirlwind life stopped for a moment.

Photo: Getty Images / Apple

"I'm like my dog, I need to be walked at least twice a day."

That's how Camila Cabello's new Time to Walk episode on Apple Fitness+ begins. And fair warning: If you didn't already have a soft spot for this down-to-Earth, goofy, Latina pop star, you're about to find one.

ICYDK, Time to Walk is an audio experience for Fitness+ subscribers in which you "go on a walk" with a famous guest who talks about life lessons, personal stories, and more while you stroll. Cabello joined Apple in a newly released episode to talk about all manners of personal topics. But despite her sunny social presence and the jokes she cracks at the beginning of the episode, Cabello's life isn't perfect — and she's not afraid to talk about it. As the award-winning singer and songwriter walks through her Miami neighborhood, she recalls what it was like to cross the border into the U.S. as a 7-year-old Cuban-Mexican immigrant, how she overcame shyness and "outsider" feelings as a kid, and how she now deals with anxiety and imposter syndrome (yes, even as a three-time Grammy nominee).

And though the last couple of years have presented obstacles for seemingly everyone, "The Great Pause" that was ushered in with COVID-19 completely threw Cabello for a loop. One day she was in London filming the ballroom scene for Cinderella, and the next, she was home in Miami for the first time in what felt like forever — and it was the first time she truly took a break since starting her rocketship career at 15.

"Before the pandemic, I felt really burnt out," she says in the episode. "I was working pretty nonstop since I was 15, and the rigor with which I started working, there was just no time off. I was barely home. I didn't have time to get to know who I was outside of my career. Pile that onto struggles with mental health, with anxiety, with these toxic levels of stress. It wasn't even a meltdown because I would just work through it. I didn't know what work-life balance was, and I was just exhausted in every way."

But when COVID-19 took off in early 2020, "I definitely felt like I was this freight train going like 90 miles per hour, and then I just halted," she says. "I would just break down crying once a day, at least. I felt so anxious, cripplingly anxious. I just felt really unstable, and I just felt a mess because suddenly this thing distracting me — work and filming — was not there. And so I was just left with my anxiety and my mind. And it was getting in the way of my relationship, it was getting in the way of my friendships, my time at home. And I think I was like, I can't even say this is performance anxiety or work stuff, because I'm not working. It's just how I feel."

Camila Cabello, Time to walk Episode

"I can't even enjoy the good things in my life because I feel so burdened by these thought patterns that just aren't serving me."

— Camila Cabello, Time to walk Episode

So, for the first time since she hopped on the wild ride of international stardom, Cabello took a break and actually focused on herself, on her needs, and on healing. "I really put everything on pause and was like, 'okay, what's going on here?'" she says. In turn, she asked for help, took time, and tried a variety of different tactics to get back to feeling good: "...different kinds of therapy, meditation, exercise, changing the way I eat, definitely changing the way I schedule my time and making sure there's balance and that I have time for friendships and connection with people, and that I'm not just 'nose to the grindstone,' and not paying attention to my body and my needs."

So while COVID-19 wasn't a good thing at face value for anyone, there was indeed a silver lining for Cabello. "It was pretty life-changing for me, just having the first moment, I feel like since I was 15, to cry, to feel the negative emotions without feeling like I had to bury them and perform in five minutes, and to be in the same place for more than two weeks because I hadn't been home in such a long time." (See: How Coronavirus Quarantine Can Potentially Impact Your Mental Health for the Better)

In the episode, she continues to reflect on how she looks at her mental health and social life differently now. "My relationships and my friendships are the things that bring me the most joy," she says. But for a long time, she was so focused on independence, she tried to do everything herself. This pandemic-caused pause taught her that these connections are actually powerful tools. "I can rely on other people. I can ask people for help. I can vent to people. I can download and regulate my emotions with other people. It doesn't have to be this thing that I have to 'beat' and I have to overcome by myself," she says. "[I don't need to] feel like until I don't have anxiety and until all these mental health issues are done I'm not worthy of hanging out with other people and having a social life, because I think that's what I felt before; that I needed to fix something in myself before letting myself have connections with other people."

In a way, Cabello says shebelieves this forced recess saved her — and it's a lesson that hopefully everyone can take and apply even when a pandemic isn't there to pump the brakes. "I think that paradoxically for my mental health, taking this moment was really healing for me and really transformative. If it hadn't been for that moment, the train would have had to come to a halt in another — probably worse — way."

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