Favorite: 10% Happier

In 2004, ABC News anchorman Dan Harris had a panic attack on live television during a Good Morning America newscast. 

In 2015 I had two major anxiety episodes: a stress reaction that mimicked a heart attack, and months later, a scary panic attack. 

In February that year, I ended up spending the eve of my 53rd birthday in the hospital, under observation for tightness in my chest and shortness of breath. It seemed to be a heart attack. After a full cardiac battery of tests was run, the doctor told me that I had the heart of a 30-year-old!  That was very welcome news. But what had caused that gripping tightness in my chest? Stress.

Several months later, I was driving up Afton Mountain on Interstate 64 in Central Virginia. I was alone, in my car.

Even though I had driven that route many times before, I always felt anxious about it, and on that day I found myself going up the five-mile incline of the road with an irrational and magnified sense of dread and fear. My breath became shallow, I had to repeat out loud, "You're ok. You're ok" as I drove, and by the time I reached the top and the road leveled off, I could barely feel my hands on the steering wheel and I was an emotional wreck. I thought I would calm down as I remained on level ground but the sense of panic actually got worse. I pulled into a rest stop and spent 30 minutes going through a panic attack calm-down exercise I found online. I still had 20 minutes to my destination, and even when I had calmed down sufficiently to drive again, I couldn't handle being on the highway anymore. I got off at the next exit and drove the local road, slowly. Over the next few hours I recovered and was able to make it home without any problem, but the adrenaline and anxiety that this episode had stirred up actually stayed with me for several days after this event. 

These two incidents showed me in no uncertain terms that I had to make serious changes. 

In 2016, I started counseling, in part to deal with my stress and anxiety and overall unhelpful reactivity. My counselor told me that it's likely I have had anxiety going back to childhood, and since I can't remember being any other way, I just accepted that as my state of being. I didn't know there are other ways to respond. I was also moderately depressed. She suggested I get a prescription for a mild antidepressant, which did help give me some relief almost immediately. 

I also reignited my daily practice of yoga and meditation. I had not meditated in a very long time, and found some resources that have helped me immensely.

This brings me back to anchorman Dan Harris. Since I love listening to podcasts on my morning commute, I searched for "meditation" podcasts and found "10% Happier."  Dan considers himself a "fidgety skeptic" and his approach to meditation is non-religious, making it easy for people of any faith or no faith to connect with the content. New episodes are released every Wednesday and generally feature interviews with active meditation teachers, researchers and well-known people who meditate. The podcast is expertly produced by the ABC News podcast team, so it's always enjoyable to listen to. And Dan, of course, is an excellent interviewer. 

Thank you Dan Harris for helping me in my journey to overcome anxiety and become at least 10% happier.  

You can learn more about Dan's story, his book, podcast and 10% Happier meditation app here.  


Connie Kottmann