I give myself permission to ...
During Buffy the Vampire Slayer's seven-year run, Sarah Michelle Gellar fought evil 16 hours a day and worked almost every weekend. Now Gellar, 34, who has a 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, with her husband, actor Freddie Prinze Jr., is back on TV with a new CW thriller (she's the star and coexecutive producer)—and a new attitude. "I've learned that you've got to take life a little less seriously. All my priorities have changed." How? we wondered. Gellar let us in on her list, one we can all learn from. Every item on it starts with these five glorious little words: "I give myself permission to…"
... enjoy my job, but not let it take over.
I was 18 years old when I started Buffy, and work was my everything. Back then, no actor had worse hours than I did. Now I don't work on weekends anymore. Everybody knows you can't sway me on that point, so nobody even tries. Plus, my perspective on work has changed: Work doesn't define who I am. I love what I do, but I don't feel a burning pressure anymore. And because I'm working for fun, I get to enjoy it. I'd watch Ringer if I wasn't on it! Of course, it's not as much fun when you know what's going to happen. It takes some of the excitement away.
... let myself eat (birthday) cake!
I've been doing the birthday-party circuit with my 2-year-old. Every weekend, we're at two or three parties. Now, I'm not going to eat the cake at every one, but when it is homemade or looks particularly good, I'll indulge. I like Carvel ice cream cakes a lot. And really, how is eating a piece of cake bad? Being bad is murdering someone. That's bad. Don't do that.
... work, out how I want, when I want, where I want.
I still work out, but not five days a week. I dopilates, I run on the treadmill, I walk to the soundstage rather than taking the cart. I wish I could say I was in the best shape of my life right now, but I don't put the same pressure on myself that I used to. So I don't rock a bikini on Wilshire Boulevard—but I don't know many people who do! I don't think people turn away in horror when I walk by. I figure I'm doing something right. I do whatever I can whenever I can, but if I'm tired, it's OK to just be tired. You know what's really annoying, though? How much better I feel when I do wake up early enough to work out!
... never step on a scale.
You can't live your life by the scale. We don't even have one in our house. I've never believed in them, because your weight fluctuates. It's more about how my clothing fits than a number. Besides, if you deny yourself everything because you're so focused on the mirror or the scale, then when do you get to enjoy life?
... make time for myself and for my marriage.
Charlotte is my best friend, and any free time I have, I want to spend with her. But while it's easy to forget yourself, I can't define myself as only Charlotte's mother—one day, she's going to be an adult, and then where am I? Like in any other relationship, you have to remember who you are through all this. After she goes to bed at 7:30, I might take a bath or read. And Freddie and I get our time together, too. Relationships are like flowers: They need attention to grow and develop. You have to make time to be there for the other person. Luckily, Charlotte's a sound sleeper, so once she's down, we can have friends over and have dinner and conversation and not worry.
... refuse to obsess over my body.
As an actor, I'm incredibly scrutinized. If you wear one bulky sweater, you're pregnant or you're fat. When you're 5 foot 4 like me, any weight gain can look like a lot. People dissect you for 2 pounds. That can be incredibly difficult, but I don't take it as personally anymore. We all have good days and bad days, and since you can't please everybody, try to please yourself first. I care only that I'm healthy. Besides, I'm not an actor who is known for her body necessarily. I hope I have a few other things going for me!
"I had to work out like crazy for Buffy, to physically handle the role. For Ringer, I only have to handle walking in heels!"
... spend a little time unplugged.
Everybody is on text and Twitter. People don't have conversations. I turn off my iPhone every evening, and my games aren't on it. I keep my games only on my iPad, so I don't have to hear the buzzing of Words With Friends all the time.
... buy the best food (for cheap!).
Freddie and I go to the supermarket probably every day, because we like to eat fresh,organic and local. People think it's so expensive to eat like that, but there are ways to do it so it's not as pricey. We shop at Whole Foods, but we ask which fish is on sale. On sale doesn't mean it's bad! It probably just means it's overcaught. And I clip coupons all the time. Why should you pay more for something that someone else is paying less for?
... fit in time for friends.
Even if it's between scenes, I make the time for my friends. They understand that sometimes the best way to see me is to come to work and meet me for lunch. I also have a little book club there. We just finished The Hunger Games trilogy. I loved it! Now, we're reading Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me. Talking books together is so much fun.
... not waste time on gossip.
I never Google myself. There has to be something better I can be doing than reading about myself!