For the past five seasons, Mayo has lit up the small screen as Chicago Fire’s Stella Kidd, an aspiring officer in an on-again, off-again romance with Taylor Kinney’s Lieutenant Kelly Severide. When the series took a six-month break from filming during the pandemic, she redirected her creative energy into making music and pitching a new TV pilot, Here She Comes, about therapists who lead the next sexual revolution. Now that the 30-year-old’s beloved Firehouse 51 crew is back together — albeit with strict safety protocols — here’s how she fuels all her passions without burning out.

Mental Cleanse

“My mom began teaching me to meditate when I was 10. I try to practice every day for at least 10 minutes, usually in the morning. I sit with my feet planted on the floor — in my trailer, in makeup, or on my couch — and focus on my breath. My best work happens when all the noise has been processed and I’m able to connect.”

Training Routine

“Playing a firefighter involves heavy gear and lifting things, including people. After seeing every single member of the truck company cast have an issue with their neck or back, it was important to get into a routine, training my body so it’s strong and injury-proof. I work out four to five times per week — two to three spin classes, sometimes an outdoor run or a treadmill walk, and one or two strength-training sessions. I do circuits with lower body moves like hex-bar dead lifts and, for upper body, triceps and shoulder presses. We’ve been working on pull-ups for two years. I hate them and still can’t do one on my own, but afterward, I always feel like a badass.”

Eating Plan

“Days when I’m on set, I get picked up by 5 a.m. I’ll have oatmeal with berries or green juice for breakfast at 6 or 6:30. Later, I might snack on almonds and fruit or some hard-boiled eggs. We’ll have lunch around noon — veggies and protein, soup if it’s cold, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which is my favorite. One recent dinner was a big salmon salad and a couple glasses of Chardonnay. But as it says on my Instagram, I am a self-proclaimed hurricane disguised as a human. There’s very little consistency. If I feel like having pancakes or rice, I’m gonna have it, you know?”

Caffeine Cycling

“My costar Kara Killmer gave me a book called WomanCode, about how to eat across the menstrual cycle. It says during our luteal phase, excess caffeine and sugar can make it difficult for the kidneys and liver to filter out excess hormones. If you can cut down, you probably will experience less cramping, mood swings, and other PMS symptoms. So I now alternate between regular coffee, decaf, and green tea. I mostly like coffee in the morning because of the smell of it and the ritual, so if having decaf helps my flow and functionality but I still get to drink coffee, that’s amazing.”

Mind Games

“I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2018. In addition to training my body, I worked on mental training and visualization. When my hips would start to hurt, I would think, What if they didn’t? What if the sensation is actually what it feels like when you got a massage? I take those same techniques on set. Any fires you see happening indoors on the show take place on what’s called the burn stage. We’re in full gear, wearing masks, our tanks are about 30 pounds, and there’s smoke everywhere. When you hear ‘OK, we’re going again,’ it can be discouraging. I’ll take a deep breath, and I’ll think, What if everything is OK, right here, right now?”