Cheryl Burke is taking her mental health journey one day at a time.
The Dancing with the Stars alum, 39, recently spoke to PEOPLE about her newly launched podcast, Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans, and gave insight on how she’s approaching her ongoing mental health battle.
“I think what is overwhelming — and I can just say this from experience — there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s no end date,” she tells PEOPLE.
“We’re always, I believe I am at least, a work in progress ‘til the day I die because there’s always events happening in our lives, whether that’s death or meeting new people or a change, a transformation, a transition,” she explains, comparing it to her ongoing sobriety journey. “It’s one little step at a time.”
Burke says it’s not realistic to ever check “done” on her mental health battle and she’s moving forward with the goal of just feeling content rather than striving for happiness.
“Happiness, whatever that may be to you, is a lot,” she admits. “To feel that high is just another high and it’s like waves of the ocean, you’re bound to go from high to low because that’s just natural. Humans evolve naturally, whether you like it or not. You could fight it and be miserable or you can just ride with the wave.”
After going through a year of a lot of changes, Burke says one of the many things she’s learned is to be present because focusing on either the past or the future causes too much anxiety.
Although it can be difficult at times, she shares what’s helped her do that recently.
“What doesn’t cause anxiety? Actually, if you just sit in silence for a few minutes a day, just being present and allowing your thoughts. Just allow them, because thoughts, like feelings, literally happen. Doesn’t mean it’s the reality. Doesn’t mean it’s real,” she says. “It all goes in waves, right? It comes and goes, comes and goes, comes and goes. But don’t run away, because then you’re screwed and that’s where I was.”
“I still am trying to figure out how to grieve certain things in my life that happened decades ago that I never faced,” Burke continues. “And I’m telling you it’s so much easier just to face it, knowing it’s going to go away in a few minutes. Literally, just a few minutes.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.