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4 TED Talks to Help You Deal With Stress and Anxiety


This article orginally published Dec. 28, 2015. 

Stress is a killer. To say that it can ultimately do you in is no exaggeration. Experienced chronically, stress wears and tears at your body -- weakening the immune system, increasing blood pressure and even triggering heart attacks, which sometimes may be fatal.

But despite its bad rap, the primal stress response isn’t all doom and gloom. Often it’s a positive, motivating mechanism. Stress can help you perform well under pressure, pushing you to rise to the occasion. And that can be good thing when pitching a new product to investors, interviewing for a new job or speaking on stage before a sea of staring onlookers.

Related: 3 TED Talks That Will Convince You to Get More Sleep

Whatever’s stressing you out, these 4 TED Talks -- delivered by people who battled the stress of public speaking and won -- will help you chill out, at least for a few minutes. Press “play” and let the stress melt away.


Daniel Levitin: How to Stay Calm When You Know You’ll Be Stressed

Sure, when you’re stressed and on the verge of freaking out, taking a deep breath and counting to 10 sometimes works, at least in the heat of moment. But not stressing out in the first place is even better, says seasoned neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin. We can all agree on that.

His professional advice for fending off stress -- and the “toxic” cortisol rush it pollutes your bloodstream with -- is to plan ahead to avoid situations that trigger it. He calls the tactic a “pre-mortem.” The opposite of a post-mortem, where you reflect on what went wrong and why, a pre-mortem is when you forecast what could go awry, then put specific systems in place to prevent insert whatever stresses you out here. Easier said than done, but not impossible.

Related: Inspiring TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Should Watch

Kelly McGonigal: How to Make Stress Your Friend

In her rousing, 14-minute pep talk, Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal makes the scientific case for why stress isn’t public-health enemy number one. Stress, she says, is only bad for you if you think it is.

On a mission to help stress cases (basically everyone these days) “be happier and healthier,” McGonigal offers ways to change your mind about stress and, in the process, change your body’s response to it, too.

Pico Iyer: The Art of Stillness

Acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer has trekked the globe, penning some 10 books chronicling his farflung adventures along the way. What’s the paradise he desires to travel to most? “Nowhere” -- as in that magical, quiet and perfectly still place your mind drifts off to when you sit still and meditate.

And should you ever discover that peaceful, stress-free sweet spot, Iyer says, you’ll “find out what moves you most," which will help you "to recall where your truest happiness lies and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.” Whoa. Dude just got deep.  

Related: 5 TED Talks That May Change Your View on Life

Andy Puddicombe: All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes

Finally, we have millionaire mindfulness expert and entrepreneur Andy Puddicombe’s argument for unplugging from distraction to quell anxiety. A 10-minute mental-health break once a day is all it takes, he claims, to calm down and come back to center.

Of course, Puddicombe’s own break was more than a little longer than that. When he felt buried by stress, he didn’t drink or overeat or complain to friends and family. The co-founder of Headspace, a guided-meditation website and app, quit everything and headed for the hills of the Himalayas. There, he became a monk and intensely studied meditation. Luckily you don’t have to go that far and wide to unwind. Just hearing Puddicombe’s amazing story might do the trick, at least for its almost 10-minute duration. 

Related: 4 Motivating TED Talks to Help You Bounce Back From Failure