Tia Mowry has a counter-intuitive tip for managing anxiety

In "Pep Talk," Buster talks to celebrities about finding lightness in times of loss. This month, Tia Mowry talks busyness as a defense mechanism, fantasy TV and her new cookbook .

When Tia Mowry was in college, she and her twin sister Tamera studied abroad in Florence. One weekend, they took a ferry to Sardinia on Italy's west coast and found themselves on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean, eating cheese, olives and grilled fish in a "shoebox-sized restaurant." Morrie remembers thinking: "Are they catching it straight from the sea? Picking vegetables from a hidden garden?" It was a moment that has stayed with her ever since.

Morrie shares this memory in her new cookbook , The Quick Fix Kitchen , her second following 2017's A New You . It offers 65 recipes, some of which are Italian-inspired, such as creamy Alfredo-style pasta and stuffed pesto chicken. The cookbook's name reflects her weekly YouTube cooking channel , Tia Mowry's Quick Fix , which promises delicious meals that are easy to prepare. Morrie also devotes a section of the book to food shopping tips and pantry organization ideas.

"A lot of these recipes are inspired by how I operate in the kitchen as a working mom," she tells Bustle. "The recipes focus on practicality and reducing mess, so there are a lot of sheet pan dinners and one-pot meals. I want to encourage people to get into the kitchen, not feel overwhelmed, and create memories through food."

Last year’s award-winning actress— sister, sister , anyone? —cementing her status as a true Renaissance woman. She launched a line of vitamins and supplements called Anser, is preparing to launch a line of cookware called Spice, and is celebrating a multi-year licensing deal for her YouTube series. (Beginning this month, 80 episodes will air on CLEO TV.)

Below, Mowry talks to Bustle about slowing down, making gnocchi from scratch, and finding zen in a chaotic year.

It sounds like you've been busy during lockdown. Is this a coping mechanism for you?

A lot of people are overly productive during quarantine, almost like a defense mechanism. I'm definitely one of those people, but over time I've learned that, to a certain extent, not being productive is being productive. I've learned how to relax and prioritize self-care, whether that's meditating, taking a nap, or indulging in some red velvet cupcakes. Once I started focusing on this, I had a better handle on my daily life, which made me feel less anxious.

Was there any silver lining for the family during that time?

The biggest positive is spending quality time with my family. Before 2020, I had never spent that much time with them in a row. There has been so much self-care and therapy, as well as deeper communication with my husband and kids. I'm a very go-getter person, but if you want to keep doing what you love, it's important to take care of yourself. The pandemic has helped me find that dance and now I can confidently say I have it under control.

Did you pick up a new hobby last year?

I made gnocchi from scratch and it was much easier than I thought. I wanted to learn more about working with flour since it is so delicate so I decided to delve into gnocchi and it was delicious.

Have you ever gotten bored in the kitchen when you're constantly testing recipes for your recipes?

It doesn’t feel like work! Although due to food shortages it was impossible to find yeast and flour. I have always viewed food, cooking and being in the kitchen as a unity. That's how I grew up. In fact, my husband [Corey Hardrick] and I were just talking about Thanksgiving and he said, "You've been making Thanksgiving dinner for the last five or six years. I had my aunt come down and cook for everyone." I said just Just be able to cook three or four dishes. He said, "Oh my gosh, you don't understand. You need a break." I had to tell him, "You don't understand! Cooking is my safe place."

You currently star as Coco on Netflix's House Party . Can you talk about your personal TV viewing habits?

I'm a huge fan of Stranger Things. I love the nostalgia it gives me, like I did as a kid growing up in the 80s. I recently devoured Shadows and Bones . The storyline is not only fun, magical, and interesting, but it also breaks stereotypes. The heroine appears to be Asian, but her lover is not. There's another character who's a samurai, and she's [South Asian].

What are your favorite snacks to eat while watching these shows?

Hippia! They're an organic snack made from chickpeas, so they're healthier than eating an entire bag of chips. They come in many different flavors, but my favorite is BBQ.

To put it another way, what are you most grateful for in the past year?

I'm just grateful for life. These days, I am grateful for giving and receiving love. I appreciate my family unit. I feel very lucky to have the life I have.

Last question: This past year has been really hard. What would you say to someone going through a hard time right now?

A friend of mine provided me with a different perspective on the pandemic, which was really helpful. "When you get hurt as a kid, whether it's a broken ankle or a scraped knee, you give yourself time. You're forgiving. You don't rush the healing process. You trust the process and you allow yourself to heal," she said.

Don't get too ahead of yourself. Focus on taking one step at a time and putting one foot in front of the other. Forgive yourself for how you feel. It's normal to feel overwhelmed. Know that this will eventually pass and everything will be okay.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.