In the blink of an eye, Lexi Hensler was on the brink of death. She reflected on what she would do with her future…if she was lucky enough to have one. “It had a profound impact on me – when I was laying in a hospital bed helpless and fighting for my life, it really has a way of putting things into perspective,” she says. “I realized that life is precious and we are not promised tomorrow. I thought about what I had not yet experienced and promised myself that, if I survived, I wanted to make a difference in the world. I decided to share my story about mental health and being bullied in school so that I could help others. It has been so gratifying to receive messages from youth and adults that my story and social media posts on well-being have been able to help people. And, it is even better if fans can then post about mental health and well-being, spreading awareness and destigmatizing mental health. My experience also led me to live a more thoughtful life. I no longer say ‘one day’; I choose a day and plan for it. It’s hard to always have a positive mindset, but my hospital experience has led me to be more aware and grateful for every day.”
Recovery brought quite the agenda. Life suddenly pulsated with magical moments that had once been mere wispy figments of her imagination. “Since I had plenty of time to think in the hospital, I began to create a bucket list of goals that I wanted to accomplish and it continues to grow years later. I saved up my tip money from my restaurant job to go on my first big trip and skydive for the first time. While my bucket list adventures initially started off slow, by 2022, I was able to accomplish almost 30+ things! I was able to learn how to make pottery and work on a new language, as well as tackle super adventurous outings like swimming with sharks, spending the night in an underwater hotel in the Maldives, and began to learn how to fly a helicopter!” Her bucket list items have given her the gift of believing in herself. “I have been so fortunate to accomplish quite a few adventures on my bucket list. The one adventure from my bucket list that impacted me the most was skydiving out of a hot air balloon! I have skydived many times out of planes, but there was something different about stepping out onto a very tiny platform hovering much closer to the ground than a plane and composing myself before leaping. It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time! I mustered up all the courage that I had and went for it. It is important to feel the fear and do it anyway. It’s this same lesson that I apply to life – whether overcoming the fear of trying something new, or challenging my anxiety. I have learned that, with my anxiety, I need to understand what is happening to my body and why; then I can ride through the waves of panic without judgment and return to a state of calm. I’ve also learned that I can eventually push past the fear and work through it. You can accomplish anything when you put your mind to it and believe!”
Mental health and mental illness have played central roles in how Lexi navigates the world. This created a stress that in turn led to loneliness. She never wants any other kid to feel what she felt. “I have struggled with my mental health from a young age. Unfortunately, I also encountered stigma and shame about my mental health from peers and others when I tried to seek support and understanding. I was also severely bullied. One of the worst parts was feeling alone or thinking I was the only one feeling this way. It saddens me that the California Children’s Trust recently shared a report from their Youth Advisory Board where high schoolers were booed by classmates for trying to hold a simple event discussing mental health. You know what the reality is though? Most of the kids booing are struggling with mental health too, but there’s so much stigma still that they don’t feel safe to come forward. We have to change that. My goal with my platform is to do my best to normalize the conversation on mental health by sharing my story in hopes of helping others. I tried to take my own life in high school as the pain got too much to bear. It would have made a huge difference for me growing up to know someone I looked up to also struggled with depressive thoughts or panic attacks, and to know that they got through it and are able to live their life! Mental health is health. It should be treated and viewed the same way as any other medical condition, whether it’s Asthma or Diabetes. For so long, mental health has not been considered that way and I’m excited to see that beginning to change and, hopefully, I can be a part of that change!” Children’s mental health is frequently ignored or overlooked. “Sadly, it does not get the same amount of attention. I can’t imagine why children’s mental health is often left out of the conversation because children should be the focus of the conversation. If we can help others understand and improve their mental health at a young age, it can prevent more severe struggles later in life. It is important to identify mental health needs early, so that parents, Primary Care Providers, teachers and therapists can intervene and provide treatment and support. By focusing on children, we can teach them coping strategies and reduce stigma in their generation.” Lexi chose to fill this empathy gap with Hugz, a line of soothing plushes. “Hugz is a brand devoted to promoting mental health and wellness through our product of weighted stuffed animals that simulates the feeling of being hugged. I struggled with depression and anxiety from an early age and one of the things that made a huge difference in helping my anxiety was weighted blankets. I conducted research into why weighted blankets work and found the science behind it. The weight promotes relaxation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and brings down stress and anxiety feelings. I realized that I wanted to create a more portable and affordable version that has led to my new mental health brand, Hugz! Hugz are weighted, super plush friends for all ages that you can take anywhere that help with symptoms from anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as aid in improving sleep. In an effort to normalize the conversation on mental health, a portion of Hugz proceeds goes to YourMomCares.”
She emphasizes the individual importance of each and every one of us. “Everyone matters. We each have our own unique contribution to give to the world. If one feels that they don’t matter, it leads to feelings of isolation – which I think our world has seen too much isolation from humanity as of late with Zoom and the increase in community violence. Isolation and ‘not mattering’ leads to feeling disconnected from others, sadness, depression and other social challenges. Instead, it is important to know that you matter. People have a fundamental core need to know that they are significant to others, and that your family and real friends care. We also need to speak more kindly to ourselves as we would speak to another person; stop beating ourselves up, overthinking and doubting so much. It is vital to our society that we all have a chance to contribute our unique gifts to make the world a better place.” Her work with YourMomCares fosters a sense of safety and community. “It is important to normalize the conversation regarding mental health and wellness. YourMomCares, founded by the moms of celebrities Jonah Hill, Beanie Feldstein, Adam Levine and Alicia Keys, is doing just that. It is important for people to know that they are not alone when it comes to their mental well-being. When I was in school, there was such a terrible stigma about mental health and there were no celebrities, sports figures, or others talking about mental health. I could not talk to my friends about my mental health as the topic was ‘taboo.’ I felt so isolated dealing with my anxiety and depression. It turns out that depression and anxiety are extremely common, much more so now after the pandemic, where one in three 18-24 year olds in a California survey recently reported feeling hopeless and contemplating suicide. 1 in 3! But people still don’t quite feel safe or comfortable to openly discuss mental health. So, I donate part of the proceeds from sales of my Hugz weighted plush animal to YourMomCares as they are leading the way to shed light on the youth mental health crisis and help kids.” She finds delight in simplicity. “I am grateful that I have a platform where I can spread positivity, post some comedic and traveling content, and increase awareness on mental health and well-being. In living life to the fullest, I want to help foster connection amongst people. I want to travel all over the globe to understand and learn from other cultures, and share that learning on social media as these platforms really do make it a smaller world in the ability to post helpful information and support people. I love Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote on the meaning of life; to paraphrase, ‘…To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…,’ this is what living life to the fullest is all about to me.” By encouraging strength, joy, and love between others, Lexi amplifies her light to those lost in darkness.
Read more Celebrity Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Lexi Hensler Cherishes Living Life to the Fullest. Photo Credit: Ben Cope. Stylist: Sophia Rahimi. Hair: J Michael. Makeup: Janice Daoud.