Playlisted The Best Audiobooks for Soothing Anxiety From nonfic to meditations to memoirs and more, these listens offer resonant relief in worrisome times. By Alanna McAuliffe Apr 23, 2021 According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults currently lives with mental illness. Of them, 19% of adults in the United States have struggled with an anxiety disorder in the past year alone and more than 30% will experience clinical anxiety in their lifetime. Still even more of us face day-to-day worry and stress—compounded by burnout, pandemic concerns, and systemic factors like racism—that can quickly mount into panic. Despite the overwhelming prevalence of mental health concerns, conversations about our emotional states and well-being are often tinged with shame and discomfort. Though the stigma of such struggles has been gradually chipped away by ongoing cultural dialogues, it can still feel impossible to talk about. But hope and community begin with the courage to share our stories. From my own struggles with generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and the bouts of depression that accompany them, I can attest that seeking support makes everything so much more manageable than carrying such a burden alone. The care of family, friends, and a trusted therapist, practicing mindfulness, engaging in calming hobbies like yoga, journaling, walking in nature, or listening to music—these are just a few of the strategies that can ease the overwhelm. And while anxiety is best managed with the help of a professional, it’s always good to have a few resources handy to support your journey towards healing. We’ve handpicked some of the best audiobooks that can soothe the symptoms of anxiety, break patterns of negative or unhealthy thought, and help ground or comfort you when things get tough. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy stop Cognitive Behavioral Therapy By Jason M. Satterfield, The Great Courses Narrated by Jason M. Satterfield 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a series of half-hour lectures by acclaimed professor Jason M. Satterfield that offers a systematic approach to changing detrimental thought patterns, moods, and behaviors. These techniques, collectively known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), have been praised by psychologists for decades as tools to improve mental health. Expertly delivered by Satterfield himself, this audiobook is one of the most comprehensive explorations of CBT available today. Many testify that CBT is one of the best forms of therapy for those struggling with anxiety and compulsive thoughts and behaviors. This listen is especially helpful if you’re considering in-person CBT, as Satterfield’s exploration can serve as a great way to familiarize yourself with the practices before entering a therapist’s office. Beginner's Mind stop Beginner's Mind By Yo-Yo Ma Narrated by Yo-Yo Ma 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. One listener called Yo-Yo Ma’s Beginner’s Mind the most beautiful thing I have ever listened to, and quite honestly, it’s difficult to argue with that summation. A journey into the personal journey and creative process of one of the most talented musicians living today, this Words + Music selection is also a phenomenal tool for centering yourself and escaping the vicious cycle of anxious thoughts. Ma’s inspiring, heartening reflections on human connection and curiosity offer a deep sense of tranquility and an invitation to envision a brighter, kinder future—but its his guiding, gentle narration that makes this listen especially soothing. As an added treat, exclusive recordings showcase Ma’s extraordinary musical talents, and it is an immense relief to sink into these arrangements, letting each rise and fall resonate. Feeling Good stop Feeling Good By David D. Burns Narrated by George Newbern 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. Depression and anxiety frequently appear in tandem, a pairing that can feel quite difficult to conquer. In this thoroughly researched guide to overcoming anxiety and depression, psychiatrist and author David D. Burns takes listeners on a path to a complete mindset shift. Even total skeptics will find themselves drawn to Burns’s scientifically proven methods for building self-esteem and feeling good on a daily basis. The step-by-step instructions are delivered with a steady tone, making the daunting task of pulling yourself out of a depressive episode feel manageable. As explained by Earphones Award-winning narrator George Newbern, the technicalities of changing your perspective seem easily accessible and applicable. Listeners can walk away feeling not only good but also fully equipped with the life-changing tools to develop a positive outlook that lasts. Furiously Happy stop Furiously Happy By Jenny Lawson Narrated by Jenny Lawson 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. Sometimes, the most effective balm for anxiety is laughter, especially when it comes in the form of some much needed comedic commiseration. In Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson proves that laughing at the absurdities that come along with our struggles can be rather empowering. From taxidermy to medication to middle-of-the-night notes to self (“Are asparagus just artichokes that haven’t grown properly?”), Lawson brings a little lightness into the conversation on anxiety, depression, and everyday life with mental illness. If you find that Furiously Happy strikes a chord, you'll be glad to know that Lawson has also gifted us with two subsequent memoirs, Let's Pretend This Never Happened and the recent release, Broken (in the Best Possible Way), both of which are equally comforting to the chronically anxious. She writes in a way that encourages a sense of comradery with her listeners, offering an ever-helpful reminder that you’re not alone—and it’s all going to be okay. Wishful Drinking stop Wishful Drinking By Carrie Fisher Narrated by Carrie Fisher 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. While we’re on the topic of stigma-shattering takes that deliver laughs and wisdom in equal amounts, I’d be remiss not to nod to the work of Carrie Fisher. Fisher was not only a hero on the big screen as the inimitable Princess Leia—her openness about living with mental illness made her a light for so many who were struggling with the same. Fisher, who lived with bipolar disorder and battled addiction throughout her life, was an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness and treatment. Though her recollections in Wishful Drinking do not specifically pertain to anxiety, there is an immense comfort in hearing someone share their story without reservations. In this memoir, Fisher directly confronts mental health stigma, detailing her own treatment (from diagnosis and therapy to ECT and medication) in the same casual, blisteringly hilarious way she recounts the dizzying drama of being born into fame. Getting to spend a bit more time with the late actress through her impeccable narration is a remarkable comfort and a helpful reminder: there is absolutely no shame in your struggle. Pass Through Panic stop Pass Through Panic By Dr. Claire Weekes Narrated by Dr. Claire Weekes 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. The title comes as a recommendation from friend and fellow Editor Madeline, who shares: Like so many people (maybe now more than ever), I have struggled with anxiety and being a very sensitive, highly emotional person. At just under two hours long, and narrated by the woman who herself pioneered research in cognitive therapy, Dr. Claire Weekes's Pass Through the Panic is one of the most useful audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. Her calming (Aussie) voice, combined with her obviously well-researched and firsthand knowledge, reassured me and helped me hold onto ideas that have been hugely beneficial ever since. Dr. Weekes offers nonjudgmental, no-nonsense lessons on how to cope with a variety of anxiety-related issues while demystifying the symptoms many people experience. Don’t get me wrong—Pass Through the Panic isn’t a catchall anxiety cure, but it’s a wonderful jumping off point for understanding what you’re dealing with, and figuring out first steps to help yourself navigate life’s rough patches. Honor Yourself stop Honor Yourself By Diddy Narrated by Diddy 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. For many, mindfulness and meditation practices are essential to avoiding anxious thought spirals; mindful breathing and focus techniques can curtail anxiety and help you stay in the moment. In the guided meditation Honor Yourself, Grammy Award-winning musician Diddy lends his measured and mellow delivery to this reassuring, relaxing meditation. One of our Audible Original meditation titles, this brief but powerful listen provides a soothing series of affirmations to help you decompress and rest in a way that's properly restorative. How to Be Yourself stop How to Be Yourself By Ellen Hendriksen Narrated by Ellen Hendriksen 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. Narrated by social anxiety and confidence expert, clinical psychologist, and podcast host Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, How to Be Yourself is an unforgettable listening experience that may help lead you toward a place of self-assuredness. Hendriksen shares powerful science-backed tips based on years of personal experience empowering patients to overcome anxiety, including anecdotes to keep listeners engaged from start to finish. By trying Hendriksen’s simple techniques, listeners can quiet their own inner critics and rewire their brains through behavioral changes. As someone who struggled with social anxiety for years, she is empathetic and realistic—and she offers some welcome comedic relief along the way. If You Feel Too Much stop If You Feel Too Much By Jamie Tworkowski Narrated by Jamie Tworkowski 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. As a teenager and college student struggling with my mental health, I found solace and solidarity in the community behind To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a nonprofit that became a mainstay in the alt-rock scene of the mid-2000s and 2010s. Today, they continue their life-saving work of connecting those in need of help with resources and battling the stigma of mental illness and addiction with invaluable outreach campaigns. In If You Feel Too Much, TWLOHA founder Jamie Tworkowski extends a hand to anyone who might be feeling overwhelmed, lost, or completely alone. In blog-post style vignettes, Tworkowski shares his own story and underscores the significance of finding solace in another, championing self-compassion and vulnerability. Life on Earth stop Life on Earth By David Attenborough Narrated by David Attenborough 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. There’s something comforting in grounding yourself in the limitless fascinations of animal life and the natural world. And as far as nature documentarians go, natural historian David Attenborough is unparalleled—the softness of his voice and his empathetic tone demonstrate the genuine awe and respect he has for our planet and the plants and animals that inhabit it. His audiobook Life on Earth captures the same magic as the BBC and Netflix nature programming he’s written and narrated, and wildlife soundscapes interspersed throughout the audio create a sense of peaceful immersion with the environments Attenborough describes. It’s a great choice for anyone who might find comfort in Earth's vast and varied ecosystems and our fellow creatures, but it's Attenborough's gentle performance that makes this listen perfect for unwinding. Rewire Your Anxious Brain stop Rewire Your Anxious Brain By Catherine M. Pittman PhD, Elizabeth M. Karle MLIS Narrated by Susannah Mars 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. Rewire Your Anxious Brain is a well-researched, fascinating look at anxiety from the perspectives of two experts in the field of psychology. As the title suggests, the authors offer neuroscience-based practical tips to rework thought processes that lead to anxiety, obsessing, and ruminating. Thanks to skilled narrator Susannah Mars’s delivery, this audiobook is an enjoyable listen, even as it delves into the more technical, nuanced aspects of neuropsychology. Her narration is equal parts engaging and educational. Listeners seeking a better understanding of how humans both initiate and respond to emotions such as fear, anxiety, and worry will be thoroughly satisfied by this in-depth examination of how the brain works. For many, a better understanding of physiology and why anxiety occurs may afford a deeper, more nuanced connection with their thought patterns that's entirely free of shame or stigma. The Fellowship of the Ring stop The Fellowship of the Ring By J. R. R. Tolkien Narrated by Rob Inglis 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. When a particularly fierce bout of anxiety rears its head, it can be comforting to return to storylines and settings where you feel most at home. From rewatching episodes of a sitcom you’ve seen time and again to settling in with a favorite book, that kind of familiarity can offer great solace. For me, there are few listens more comforting than J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. A timeless tale of good triumphing over unthinkable evil that also encompasses a massive imagined world, this listen is made all the more quieting with Rob Inglis’s narration. Inglis brings Middle-earth to life with the same wonderment and hushed dramatizations that made the bedtime stories of childhood such an effective remedy for sleeplessness. Whether you also find a sense of calm in the journey of Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship or if your idea of a comfort listen is worlds away, a good-old fashion repeat listen might help ground you after a flare-up. The Anthropocene Reviewed stop The Anthropocene Reviewed By John Green Narrated by John Green 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. Though John Green is best known as the author of stellar young adult novels that often meditate on themes of grief, mental health, and belonging, like Looking for Alaska and Turtles All the Way Down, he also hosts two outstanding podcasts: Dear Hank and John and The Anthropocene Reviewed. The latter is an incredibly soothing, deeply contemplative listen that sets out to “review different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale,” and in each expertly researched and brilliantly in-depth episode, Green muses on everything from plague to velociraptors to Diet Dr. Pepper. Though more than a little existential, these contemplations are reassuring in lieu of distressing, suggesting new ways of looking at our everyday life that help find beauty and meaning in the world we inhabit. For the anxious amongst us, Green’s steady, lulling voice, set to placid musical accompaniment, is a welcome consolation. The Ojibwe Dreamcatcher stop The Ojibwe Dreamcatcher By Linda LeGarde Grover, Bois Forte Ojibwe Narrated by Keke Palmer 00:00 05:00 Update RequiredTo play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. For many, anxiety is at its worst when we should be at our most relaxed. At night, with the lights switched off and the quiet of a dark room, it can be all too easy to slip into patterns of rumination and doubt. If you have trouble falling asleep, our sleep collection might be a helpful resource. With guided meditations, ASMR recordings, and bedtime stories from some of today’s most gifted performers, it offers a host of tools and exercises to help you clear your mind and drift off to sleep peacefully. In this listen, film and television’s Keke Palmer shares the folktale of the Ojibwe dreamcatcher with a tone that’s tender and serene, crafting a performance that will break even the most stubborn minds out of the cycle of nighttime overthinking and the restlessness that follows. No matter how insurmountable your struggles may feel, please know that you are not alone. If you find yourself in crisis or if you should need to reach a mental health professional immediately, you can reach the confidential Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Hotline at 1-800-622-HELP, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The following organizations also offer helplines manned by specialists who will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and share next steps for seeking treatment and recovery:The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Call 1-800-950-NAMI. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 or chat live online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Crisis Text Line: Text “CONNECT” to 741741. 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