Jonathan Van Ness hopes to encourage others to find moments in their day to "shake off the tension and pressure"

By Georgia Slater
October 10, 2019 07:24 PM
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When it comes to taking care of his mental health, Jonathan Van Ness always has a few go-to tools — and not just the ones used for hairstyling.

Since recently opening up about his struggles with addiction and mental health in his memoir Over the Top, the Queer Eye star, 32, is sharing the ways he has found light in dealing with the “really dark, more difficult times” in his life, he tells PEOPLE.

One of the ways Van Ness stays healthy is by being aware of the resources around him and opening up to someone he trusts.

“I have an amazing therapist, who I talk to at least once a week,” the grooming expert explains. “I’ve been working with her for years, since I was 27.”

Another integral part of the author’s health routine includes staying “physically active,” which Van Ness says “really helps [him] feel better.”

To celebrate World Mental Health Day and encourage others to find moments in their day to “shake off the tension and pressure,” Van Ness teamed up with Zumba, a dance fitness program.

From personal experience, the star has found Zumba to be a great mental and physical break and a “gorgeous” way to sustain his mental health.

“Zumba is a gorgeous tool that I used in many different cities that I’ve lived in over the years,” he shares with PEOPLE. “It’s like if you’re going to take some other class, you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting into, if people are going to be nice, or if it’s going to be inclusive.”

“But every time I go to Zumba class, it is community, it is fun, everyone is there to have a good time. It’s so non-judgmental. It’s so inclusive,” says the Fab Five member.

However, Van Ness added that Zumba is just one of many avenues people can take to keep their minds healthy.

“Anytime we can literally move our bodies, I think that it helps us to get out of our head,” he adds.

Credit: Courtesy Zumba

“Like if we have a critical piece about us inside of our head, or it can help us deal with anxiety, depression or loneliness. I think that moving our bodies in a community space can be really healing and fun.”

Ahead of the release of his memoir on Sept. 24 — in which Van Ness reveals he is HIV positive — he told The New York Times that he struggled with “compounded trauma.”

While the hairdresser shared that putting out his book was “all really scary,” receiving “so much support and love” has pushed him to want to continue his work in advocacy and ending the HIV stigma.

“It’s been very heartening for me to have that support and that love, but also there’s been a pretty big indicator that this has been the tip of the iceberg of the work for me,” Van Ness reveals to PEOPLE.

“This is just the beginning of my work in advocacy,” he says. “For equality, for access to medicine for people living with HIV, for advocacy for people that are surviving sexual abuse, for people who struggle with disordered eating.”

Credit: John Shearer/Getty Images

“There’s just so much misunderstanding and continued sensationalizing around these subjects that are just scary,” he adds. “Until someone who can have the profile that I have and can come out with their HIV status when there’s not 17,000 headlines that say like ‘devastating HIV diagnosis’ we aren’t there yet.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.