“When I feel down, I remind myself, ‘You’re saving lives by staying home, so be proud of yourself,'" the actress tells HelloGiggles.

Claire Harmeyer
August 10, 2020
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Emma Mclntyre, Getty Images

As her Instagram bio reads, Sarah Hyland’s life is "kind of all over the place." The former Modern Family star is used to balancing a jam-packed schedule of filming TV shows and movies, not to mention planning her wedding to fiancé Wells Adams. But for the past five months, the 29-year-old's days have been rooted in one place only: her home. As an immunocompromised person (Hyland has kidney dysplasia, a chronic health condition), she cannot safely leave her Los Angeles house right now, other than for routine check-ups or bloodwork. Yet although the star reveals that she's struggling to keep her head up during this difficult time, she says she's maintaining a positive attitude by pushing herself to be grateful.

"Every time I feel down, I remind myself that things could be so much worse," Hyland tells HelloGiggles, speaking over the phone in July to promote her partnership with Lightlife Plant-Based Burgers. "You could be in a hospital on a ventilator. You’re saving lives by staying home, so be proud of yourself.”

Hyland has been vocal in the past about her lifelong battle with kidney dysplasia, a condition caused by her kidneys failing to fully develop in the womb; over the years, she's undergone several surgeries and two kidney transplants, plus treatment for her endometriosis and a hernia. In November, the actress posted on Instagram about how living with invisible illnesses (a term for health issues that may not cause visible symptoms on the outside) affects her physically and mentally, saying that she and her fellow invisible illness "warriors" are "stronger than we think we are."

Considering her health and experiences, it's natural that Hyland says now that she's irritated by the people who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously or considering the well-being of others when they step outside of their homes. "Health is something that a lot of people take for granted," she notes. "I don’t think some people have had a situation put in front of them to make them really appreciate life, and to know how fragile life is."

Which is why, she adds, she's so adamant about wearing masks in public. “It’s frustrating to me that wearing a mask has become a political controversy,” Hyland says. “It’s unfortunate that our country is in such a divide. So many people are passing away from this virus, and millions of people are infected with it. We have the capacity to be in a better situation, but people aren’t listening to science.”

Reflecting on the events of the past five months, Hyland says the biggest thing she's learned is that "people don’t care about other people," calling others' refusals to wear face masks "one of the most shocking things I’ve ever witnessed." In an effort to drive the should-be-common-sense point home, both Hyland and her fiancé Wells Adams have repeatedly used their social media platforms to encourage their followers to wear a damn mask.

As her time in isolation treks on, Hyland relies on a simple pick-me-up: getting some Vitamin D by hanging out in her backyard. "It literally lightens your mood," she explains. "And it darkens your skin tone, so you look like you’re healthy instead of just staying inside nonstop."

On particularly tough days, though, Hyland doesn't deny herself much-needed lounging, saying she'll sit on the couch "literally all day and watch any streaming device possible." Her media of choice when down in the dumps? "I either watch funny things or really depressing things to really nail it in there how bad I feel about myself," she says dryly. Earlier this year, Hyland jumped on the bandwagon of one of the most popular quarantine shows—Netflix's Tiger King—and even dressed up as the stars with Adams for fun.

When she looks back on pre-pandemic life, Hyland says the activities she misses most include grocery shopping and taking pilates or yoga classes with her friends. “We would be tortured together in a workout class, grab lunch afterward, and complain about it the entire time,” she reminisces.

Right now, however, the star's main quarantine goals are working up the nerve to learn how to ride a bike, and staying as creative as possible even with the entertainment industry on hold. Recently, she partnered with Lightlife Plant-Based Burgers and Los Angeles restaurant owner Antonio Domingo to create a plant-based burger recipe called Sarah's Southwestern Smash. The recipe was for the Burger Showdown, a digital series pairing celebrities with chefs to create unique burger recipes and raise money for COVID-19 relief. Hyland, who's a pescatarian, says she's passionate about cutting back on meat for two reasons: "A: for my health and B: for the environment."

So when she's craving a hearty burger that isn't meat-based, Lightlife is her go-to choice. "It makes you feel like you’re having a cheat meal," she explains. "But it’s actually made of fresh ingredients from your fridge."

Grilling out in her backyard is part of Hyland's ideal summer night in quarantine, which she says she'd spend with Adams and their dogs, eating and listening to jazz music or Tom Petty. “And maybe I’d make a pie,” she adds. “Or try to.” Although Hyland and Adams were planning on tying the knot this summer, she says that rescheduling their wedding "takes a back burner to the issues we’re having in our country right now." However, the couple did celebrate their would-be wedding day, August 9th, by posing for pictures in a vineyard wearing white outfits, complete with a veil on Hyland's sun hat.

As summer winds down and the pandemic continues, Hyland says that her main concerns lie with the wellness of herself and her loved ones. "I'm trying to really focus on a healthier lifestyle," she explains. The easiest way to help her (and everyone!) on this mission? By wearing a mask.