Content creator, entrepreneur and mental health advocate: Lexi Hensler

In recent years Lexi Hensler has propelled herself to the top of the influencer game. With more than 15 million combined followers across all platforms, the 25-year-old business graduate established a career in social media. Next to content about travel, comedy, and the beauty of life, Lexi also uses her voice to destigmatize mental health with her new wellness brand HUGZ. Her brand launched last November and was sold out within 24 hours of its debut.

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We had the opportunity to talk to Lexi about her exciting 2022 with lots of changes, her new brand, mental health, and why life has new meaning for her.

Please share with our audience what Hugz is about and why you created it.Hugz is a brand devoted to promoting mental health and wellness, beginning with our first product of weighted stuffed animals that simulates the feeling of being hugged and calmness. I struggled with depression and anxiety from an early age, encountering stigma and shame about my mental health from peers and others when I tried to seek support. I was also severely bullied in school. One of the things that made a huge difference in helping my anxiety was weighted blankets. I conducted research into why weighted blankets work to promote relaxation of the parasympathetic nervous system, and 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 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 mental health charities. What do you like most about your job as a content creator and what is the most challenging part?As my brand is about positivity, one of my favorite parts of being a content creator is that I get to connect with millions of people to share helpful information on mental health and promote well-being mixed with comedic relief – giving people a break from their daily stressors. Although social media has some negative effects, it also has a way of bringing people together. I have strived to use my platform to inspire others to feel confident and believe in themselves. Through social media, I share my authentic self, including my ups and downs. I have shared my personal story about being bullied in school and struggling with depression and health issues. It is an incredible gift to be able to let people know that they are not alone and they can get help, if needed. Who would have thought that a phone and apps would make all this possible? I hope people feel that we are more connected and not alone.

2022 saw some big changes in your life. As the year comes to a close, how do you look back on the past year?You’re right! This was a year of some big changes, one of the biggest including me deciding to not renew my contract in the content group I was a part of (AMP) and embarking on my new journey in Los Angeles. This year held some of the biggest challenges in my life thus far and many of which were scary, but I found the strength and followed my dreams. Looking back, I am so glad I took the leap to move to LA and focus on myself. I look back at the past year as a time of growth, reaching possibility, and finding my own authentic voice to be myself. I am so fortunate that I’ve been able to inspire others to do the same. I feel very grateful to be where I am and excited for what 2023 has in store for me!As a voice for mental health, how do you take care of yourself and your mental health in your everyday life? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with our readers?I have struggled with numerous mental health challenges for years, including depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I found my best practices through research, as well as trial and error, discovering what works best for me. One of the things that makes the biggest difference for me is exercise. Exercise has been found to release chemicals in the brain to help improve sleep, anxiety, depression, etc. When I discovered the impact exercise made in my mental health, it became a huge priority. If I don’t have time for a workout or the motivation, I’ll at least go on a long walk with my dog and I always feel better after. Other things that have helped me include a cleaner diet because gut health has been directly linked to improving mental health issues. I also practice gratitude and write/read in my gratitude journal. It helps me to remember how much there is to be grateful for and that the bad times won’t last. Lastly, surrounding myself with truly good friends. I’ve focused my energy on friendships where we can be our authentic selves and lift each other up!When you were younger, you had to spend some time in the hospital and almost lost your life. How did this experience affect your view on life and the decisions you make today?It had a profound impact as it ignited a fire in me that completely changed my perspective. I realized that life is precious and we are not promised tomorrow. I remember promising myself that, if I survived, I wanted to make a difference. I decided to speak out on mental health, shattering norms on this topic prior to the pandemic, and took the risk of pursuing social media rather than completing college. It has been so gratifying to receive messages from youth and adults that my story and social media posts have been able to help people. And, it is even better when I see others begin to post about mental health and well-being, spreading awareness! Goodwill begets goodwill. If I can help save one life, then I know that I have made a difference in the world. I strive to be intentional in each of my content decisions on my personal and Hugz brand platforms in helping others as my guiding framework.

January marks the release of BELLA’s Wellness issue. What does “wellness“ mean to you personally?Wellness is vital to a life well-lived. I have learned that wellness is much more than physical health. It encompasses physical health, along with mental health, emotional health, social health and other dimensions. I think that we need to shift the paradigm from medical health only to a more optimal state of overall well-being. Without mental health or positive social connections, there is no physical health. It is unfortunate that it has not always been defined that way, but I’m so glad that we are finally starting to normalize the conversation on, not only mental wellness, but overall state of health.What are your plans for the future with Hugz? Do you set personal and professional goals for the new year?I am so excited for the future of Hugz! We plan to continue releasing new weighted stuffed animals and collaborating with mental health charities. Our line of Hugz weighted friends can be found on our website at Givehugz.co. We share information on mental health and wellness on our website, as well as our Instagram page of @giveahugz. Stay tuned to see how Hugz will expand in the future! In terms of personal and professional goals for the new year, I love to organize my goals and plan ahead. I set goals for our Hugz brand and content development, in particular. I feel it helps me if I have a visual project plan with timelines that I am working towards and can measure progress. In 2023, I am hoping to further my brand Hugz, reach new goals with YouTube videos on lifestyle and travel, including learning about and traveling to more exotic places and share what I experience, and finally release music.

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