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Carson Daly opens up about his struggles with anxiety—and the tools he uses to cope


Thumbnail for Carson Daly opens up about his struggles with anxiety—and the tools he uses to cope
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Photo: Instagram/@todayshow

Remember rushing home from school just in time to catch Carson Daly on MTV? The longtime host of Total Request Live always stood in that famous, glass-windowed Times Square studio, waving to fans outside while chatting up the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Mandy Moore on the inside. So basically, Daly had the best. life. ever.

But at that time, no one knew Daly was suffering from a serious mental-health condition—one he still struggles with today. Last week, Daly—who, since leaving TRL, has gone on to host The Voice and become an anchor on NBC’s Todayopened up to his Today co-anchors about his ongoing struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and how he manages his symptoms.

“At times I feel like there’s a saber-toothed tiger right here and it’s going to kill me and attack me and bite my head off.” —Carson Daly, on what it’s like to experience a panic attack

“I was a worrywart kid,” Daly explained. “My father died when I was 5. I had an ulcer when I was in high school. I’ve been nervous my whole life.” Daly said his first panic attack came when he was hosting TRL, minutes from going live. “I had a hard time breathing,” he said. “I was terrified for no apparent reason.” Another anxiety attack led Daly to the hospital because he was afraid he was actually having a heart attack. “At times I feel like there’s a saber-toothed tiger right here and it’s going to kill me and attack me and bite my head off,” he explained. “I’m scared as if that’s really happening. You feel like you’re dying.”

So how does he deal? Daly is a big proponent of seeing a cognitive therapist, who helps him better understand the anxiety and gather tools to cope. “I got the help I need and I have the tools now to get beyond those tough moments,” he said. One tool Daly has found to be especially helpful is muscle retention relaxation, a technique that involves clenching certain muscles (like your fists) to help feel what he calls “an ocean of relaxation.”

Though Daly still struggles, well, daily, he said getting help and accepting his situation have been key—and he’s even found a silver lining to the condition: His anxiety has made him more sensitive. (maybe that’s why he can’t get enough of those crazy-talented and ultra-emotional performances on The Voice.) And, he’s not ashamed to speak his truth. “I really wear the way I am like a badge of honor,” he says. “This is who I am, and I’m proud of it.”

Daly is among many celebrities who aren’t afraid to speak out about mental health. Here’s how Lucy Hale deals, why Bella Hadid doesn’t love social situations, and what Lo Bosworth says not to say to someone who suffers from anxiety

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