5 Best TED Talks for Anxiety (Inspirational)

5 Best TED Talks for Anxiety

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*Editor's Note: This article was originally published on 2/25/19. It has been edited to include more helpful information and downloadable content. 😊


​​​​​​​​​​​​More than 40 million people have some form of anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

But, sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’re not alone.

That there are other people out there who are going through the same thing.

I find that hearing about other people’s anxiety helps me to cope with my own.

If you’re that way too, you should definitely give these TED Talks for Anxiety a watch!

They’re all pretty short (6-19 minutes each).

Each of these 5 speakers has a fascinating, inspirational story to tell and a unique perspective on how you can use anxiety to your advantage

Here are 5 of the best TED Talks for anxiety:

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1.) Brave Over Perfect: A Full Life Beyond Anxiety and Depression - Susie Rinehart - TEDx Boulder

When Susie Rinehart was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she was given two choices:

1. Undergo an emergency surgery (during which she would probably die), or
2. Forego the surgery and face certain death within 5 months

This came as a shock to Susie who, just two weeks prior, had completed an ultra-marathon in the Rocky Mountains (shout-out to my fellow Coloradoan!) and won the master’s division.

As the otherwise healthy and strong mother of two struggled with this impossible decision, she began to ponder why the tumor had wrapped itself around not only her brain stem but also her vocal cord.

Susie realized that she had always done what she was supposed to do and said what she was supposed to say.

But those actions, those words weren’t truly coming from her. She stayed busy to avoid facing her inner fears and insecurities. She wasn’t living an authentic life.

Chasing External Goals 

“I was hollowing myself out in the name of reaching external goals”, she said.

If you’ve read any of my articles on setting and achieving big goals in life or reaching your goals without getting stressed out, then you know I am a proponent of setting internal goals deeply rooted in your “why”. 

Trying to attain external goals rooted in approval or status is a huge goal-setting mistake. When you don't stay true to your purpose, you sell yourself short and make your anxiety worse.

Regarding her decision to have the surgery, Susie said she chose joy over fear and brave over perfect.

Learning to Do Less

After the surgery, Susie, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, asked her speech therapist what she could do to be more productive and speed up the healing process.

The speech therapist’s answer was profound – nothing.

For the vocal cords to heal you must do less, she was told.

So, for four months while she waited for her voice to return, Susie decided to say less and listen more. Do less and become more.

She learned to say no to things she thought she had to do so she could do things she loved to do.

She realized that the opposite of joy is not sadness, but rather perfection.

The core of Susie’s message is clear: The world will not wait while we hesitate and perfect. We must each find our own courage to live our lives to the fullest – what are you waiting for?

2. Addicted to the Answer - Anxiety in the Age of Information - Sheva Rajaee TEDx UCLA

Sheva begins this TED Talk for anxiety with a personal story I think a lot of us can relate to.

An unexplained pain in her shoulder prompted Sheva to seek a diagnosis.

Not from a doctor. From the internet. 

Obsessively Searching for the Answer

Hour after hour, day after day, Sheva searched online for the answer.

By the end of the week her obsessive, WebMD-fueled thoughts had spiraled way out of control – Sheva had convinced herself that she was dying.

She even began to think of how she would break the dreadful news to her family.

(Sheva was later diagnosed with OCD of the obsessive thinking variety.)

After a “thoughts aren’t facts” epiphany, she came to the conclusion that just because we don’t know something doesn’t necessarily mean we should go looking for it.

Sheva is now a psychotherapist who helps others give up what she calls the quest for certainty that never comes.

Some interesting statistics from this TED Talk on Anxiety:

  • Studies show that young people are more anxious than those who lived through the Great Depression, the Cold War and even WWII
  • A University of Florida study suggests that our insatiable appetite for the internet mimics an impulse control disorder

We’re more anxious today than any time in human history. Sheva attributes this widespread spike in anxiety to “the age of information”, in which the answers to all our questions are literally at our fingertips.

We're More Distracted, and More Anxious, Than Ever

The internet provides an omnipresent distraction from our real lives.

We’re hooked on instant answers, we fear not knowing and we can’t stand being out of the loop.

And we don’t -ever- have to be – it’s a 24-hour data buffet!

As Sheva puts it: More access => more consumption => more anxiety.

And it’s no accident – there are those out there who capitalize on our fear and profit from our addiction.

The truth is, we can’t really escape anxiety. We must tolerate it. Work with it. Use it to our advantage.

Sheva’s message: We don’t have all the answers – we’re not meant to. Discomfort is a necessary part of being alive and the unknown is a fundamental part of the human experience.

3. Living with High-Functioning Anxiety – Jordan Raskopoulos -TEDx Sydney

Jordan Raskopoulos has quite the stage presence!

She’s a comedian, writer, actress, singer and speaker… she also has anxiety.

Which to me, seemed like an oxymoron... how can you perform for a living and suffer from anxiety?

After all, it doesn’t look like Jordan has any anxiety at all. She seems so confident and comfortable in front of the audience (which for this TED Talk was about 4,000 people!).

Well, that’s because she is.

"Life Fright"

Jordan says that being on stage is the only time when she’s really able to relax. She explains how she suffers from “life fright” instead of stage fright.

This particular type of anxiety is apparently common among stage performers – “shyloud”, as Jordan’s friend likes to call it!

While Jordan’s not scared of public speaking, she is scared of day-to-day personal interactions like:

  • Getting a chatty Uber driver
  • Having to converse with the hairstylist
  • Talking on the phone (ME TOO!)
  • Showing up to parties too early
  • Her TED Talk really gave me a new perspective on the nuances of anxiety! I don’t think I ever realized just how situational it can be.

    Different Types of Anxiety

    Some people have general anxiety. Others have social anxiety.

    Some are surprisingly confident in some situations while suffering from debilitating anxiety in others (situational anxiety).

    Those with high-functioning anxiety are still able to work and do many “normal” tasks.

    But, because they are such high-achievers and because they are so scared of failure, even simple tasks require a huge amount of mental energy.

    Jordan shares how her anxiety causes her to procrastinate – something I think a lot of us can identify with.

    People With Anxiety are Often Misunderstood

    This procrastination often causes her to leave important things until the last minute, which she says makes her feel like she comes across as arrogant.

    She also worries that her anxiety causes her to come across as rude and aloof in social situations.

    But, Jordan is not arrogant, rude or aloof - she just has anxiety.

    And she just wants to be understood – something we can all identify with, whether we have anxiety or not.

    Jordan encourages us to notice the unique strengths we have because of our anxieties. 

    For example, she’s great at taking charge in moments of crisis and performing on stage.

    So, she channels her unique, anxiety-born strengths into activities that engage her brain and allow her to focus on one thing at a time like painting, roller derby (in which her name is "Judge Booty", lol!) and games of strategy.

    Jordan’s message: People with anxiety are often misunderstood. Identify the unique strengths you have because of your anxiety and channel them into productive pursuits

    4. Anxiety: It’s the New Adventure - Paula McGuire - TEDx Glasgow

    OK, first of all I LOVE Scottish accents. So, I really enjoyed listening to Paula talk!

    But, I also found a lot of value in the content of her speech.

    Paula struggled from debilitating social anxiety as a child.

    She tried everything – counseling, medication, hypnosis.

    None of it worked.

    The Importance of Mindset

    What eventually did work was changing her mindset.

    (If you’ve been with me on the blog for a while, you know how much importance I place on abundance mindset, self-efficacy, and empowering beliefs!)

    Paula’s story is such an inspirational example of how “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

    success mindset quote- when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change

    Now, Paula – the child who struggled to leave the house and couldn’t eat in public – has accomplished a long list of brave pursuits, including:

  • Skydiving
  • Wrestling an Olympian
  • Training like an astronaut
  • Trying all 17 Commonwealth sports
  • Completing a triathlon (without knowing how to swim!)
  • Re-Frame Anxiety as Adventure

    She learned to embrace her anxiety. She re-framed the way she looked at it and decided to use it to her advantage.

    To Paula, it wasn’t anxiety anymore, it was adventure.

    She realized that it’s ok to be scared. In fact, she says we should be terrifying ourselves constantly.

    And I definitely agree. When you step outside of our comfort zone and use your fear as fuel for success, you can accomplish almost anything.

    You could tell Paula was nervous during her talk and to me, the candid, raw account of her experience with anxiety (which she still deals with) is what made her so relatable.

    She was obviously having some anxiety, but she didn’t let that stop her. She even asks the audience if they had noticed her tick, explaining that drawing attention to your flaws takes away their power.

    "Own them and they won’t own you", she says.

    Nervous ticks, social anxiety, self-doubt and all, Paula still gave her TED Talk and in doing so, was able to convey a powerful message –

    Don’t ever think that adventure is not for you. Or that you can’t afford adventure. Or that you don’t deserve adventure. Adventure is already a part of you –take it with you wherever you go.

    Paula’s main TED Talk for Anxiety takeaway: How can you turn your anxiety into adventure?

    5. Sound Therapy for Anxiety and Stress - Jonathan Adams & Montana Skies - TEDx Telfair Street

    This is one of the most entertaining TED Talks for Anxiety I've seen!

    Jonathan Adams approaches anxiety from a scientific perspective.

    He suggests sound therapy as a natural remedy for anxiety. This guy really speaks to my heart!

    Jonathan notes how brain waves are measured in Hertz (Hz), just like music.

    Music Influences Brain Waves

    Our state of anxiety or relaxation can be controlled to some extent by matching the Hz of the music to the Hz of our brain waves. 

    Brain Waves

  • Alert/active: 14-30 Hz
  • Relaxed/daydreaming: 8-13 Hz
  • Light sleep/meditation: 4-8 Hz
  • Deep sleep: up to 4 Hz
  • Sounds in each of these frequency ranges cause our minds to adjust to the corresponding physical state.

    So, if you listen to sounds/music that resonates at a frequency of 8-13 Hz, your brain will become relaxed.

    During the TED Talk, Jonathan and Montana played several sound therapy songs using Tibetan bowls, a Native American flute, nature sounds, guitar and cello (I love me some cello!).

    Sound Therapy for Relaxation

    The sound of this type of sound therapy will actually:

  • lower your heart rate
  • slow your breathing
  • relax your muscles, and
  • reduce blood pressure.
  • Music tuned to other frequencies like 432 Hz and 528 Hz are also helpful for relaxation, healing, productivity and even DNA repair.

    I discovered my love for classical music a few months ago (Vivaldi obsessed!).

    Since listening to it regularly, I have found that it helps tremendously with anxiety, and also with concentration & productivity.

    benefits-of-classical-music-infographic-1

    Attribution: Take Lessons (takelessons.com)

    When we’re anxious, our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol – two harmful toxins that can cause a whole host of health problems.

    But, just like we can work ourselves into a frenzy, we can elicit a state of relaxation called the relaxation response.

    It counteracts our fight or flight response and causes a physiological state of relaxation – reduced blood pressure and heart rate, improved digestive functioning and stabilized hormonal levels.

    Listening to music, breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), yoga, visualization and mindfulness meditation are just some of the ways in which we can induce this response.

    The main takeaway: You are both the producer and experiencer of anxiety and fear. But, you are also the producer and the experiencer of joy and love. Choose your reality.  


    👏 Which of these TED Talks for Anxiety resonates with you the most? 

    Have any of them inspired you to action? Let me know in the comments!


    *Also, be sure to check out these 5 Best Motivational TED Talks on Confidence.


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    About the Author

    Kalliope Archondis, JD, LLM. 👋Hi! I'm Kalli, lawyer turned freelance writer and founder of 3dsuccess.org, a personal development blog dedicated to helping you reach your goals and achieve your definition of success - without all the stress & anxiety. You can read more about me & 3D Success here.