Tag Archive | "TED"

Stress Is Your Friend

I recently watched a brilliant TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, a popular health psychologist. What I learned has largely changed the way I think, not only about stress, but also about my everyday worries and habits.

One of Kelly’s points is related to a recent stress study conducted by the University of Wisconsin that tracked 30,000 adults in the US over a period of 8 years. Researchers asked how much stress people perceived in their lives, and whether or not they thought that experiencing stress was harmful for their health.

“Here’s the bad news”, McGonigal says “people who experienced a lot of stress had a 43% increased risk of dying…but that was only true for the people who also believed that stress was harmful to their health. People who experienced stress, but did not believe that it was bad for their health, did not have any increased risk of death. In fact, their risk of death was lower than those who had little to no stress in their lives.”

The rest of the talk was also brilliant, and you should certainly take 15 minutes today to watch it. This particular point, though, is the one that stuck with me.

What we believe dictates what our body does.

What we believe impacts our daily thoughts and actions in a very practical way.

What we believe can be the difference between life and death.

This makes me rethink the actions, thoughts, and beliefs that I carry around every day. What do my daily reactions to stress and circumstance tell me about what I believe?

Watch the full talk below:

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TED Gets Personal

About a month ago, my boyfriend suffered a stroke. Strokes are normally caused by either clotting or hemorrhaging, but in his case, he had both. This complicated the decisions the doctors needed to make about how to help him, but in the end they removed the clot, and then removed more clots and even put in a stent, all the while monitoring the hemorrhage to make sure the blood thinners they gave him didn’t make it worse. And that was all on the first day.

All told, Lawrence spent over two weeks in the hospital including about a week in the ICU. He’s since been moved to a rehab center for about three weeks. He’s there now, as I write this.

In the days after he had his stroke, I recalled Jill Bolte Taylor’s powerful TED talk and rewatched it. She is a neuroscientist who viewed her own massive stroke as an opportunity to do research. I remembered that from when it was screened at a TEDxPeachtree a number of years ago. But what I had forgotten was that it took her eight years to recover. Eight.

Lawrence’s was called a moderate stroke. His damage was all on the right side of the brain, affecting the left side of his body to varying degrees. It also led to different cognitive issues than he would’ve experienced had the damage been on the left side of his brain. Lawrence’s speech was initially difficult to understand and he was very sleepy, but neither impacted his ability to connect meaning and language. In fact, when I pulled out a pad and pen and asked him – while still in the ICU – if he thought he could write, he did — “I haven’t had any problems organizing thoughts or writing messages.”

But at the same time, as I’ve alluded to in the daily blog I’ve been keeping on his progress, he’s had moments of confusion. Truth is, he is sometimes convinced he is at home, and when I show him he is not, he understands logically, but…

I wanted to find other TED or TEDx talks that could help explain. And what I found was interesting. But it also pointed out how much more there is to learn.

In Vilayanur Ramachandran’s talk on three clues on understanding your brain he gives examples of what we’ve learned from specific kinds of damage. What he found out about phantom limbs (that they’re actually learned paralysis following the period of time of non-movement before the limb is removed) and that visual input has a critical role, actually has an application for stroke, and I’m wondering how I can apply his findings to my boyfriend’s as yet unresponsive left arm, that magically moves whenever he yawns.

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In Iain McGilchrist’s presentation on the divided brain, (above) he dispels the myth of reason vs emotion residing in different halves of the brain, but makes the point that the left brain is more connected to the concrete and specific and the right to relationships and how we fit into the world. I am not clear on how what is happening to Lawrence works with this, but found it fascinating nonetheless.

I understand that the moments Lawrence is experiencing should go away within a few months as the brain “rewires” itself, but I had no idea how amazingly adaptable the brain is. Michael Merzenich’s talk on the growing evidence of brain plasticity spends most of the time explaining how the brain adapts for each of the specific skills we gain and how that makes us unique, but also shows how damage and natural age-related deterioration can be staved off by exercising our brain more. Hmmm…that got me thinking…just how much we could all gain by watching more TED talks and by attending this year’s TEDxPeachtree.


Wendy Kalman attended the 2009 TEDxPeachtree event and became hooked, volunteering each year ever since. By day, she works as a Proposal Manager, and by night, her alter ego as involved parent, engaged volunteer, music lover, and Facebook addict emerges.

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10 TED Talks Curated to Inspire Your Year

As you get into the thick of January and attempt to face the cold and keep the dreams for this year alive, here is a playlist curated by TED to help you refocus on your values and fan the flame of creativity. Highlights include a talk by Kelly McGonigal about how to make stress your friend. She will turn your fear of stress into a motivation to use it to your advantage. Verna Myers shares about walking boldly towards overcoming bias and embracing diversity. To finish the series, Andy Puddicombe encourages a mindful practice and how even just 10 minutes can change your outlook.

Prepare to be inspired, challenged, and engaged. Ready, go!




Nia_Baker_BioPicNia Baker has been thrilled to serve as the TEDxPeachtree Content Manager this year. Having roots in Atlanta almost ten years, she has worked in the nonprofit sector for the last five, focusing on effective systems and creative communication. She will complete her Masters in Professional Counseling and Trauma Specialization this spring and believes in the dignity of each experience. Nia enjoys running past Atlanta street art, steaming French press coffee, and a really effective adjective.



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Illuminating Global Healthcare Solutions: 50 Cent Microscopes to Save Millions of Lives

Accurate and prompt diagnosis of diseases including malaria, giardiasis, African sleeping sickness, and chagas is critical if we are to reduce the millions of deaths per year that these illnesses cause. The most essential piece of equipment to illuminate rapid diagnosis is the microscope.

Two little boys doing biochemistry research at the lab. Isolated

First introduced in 1800, it hasn’t changed much since then, it’s still heavy, awkward, clunky, difficult to transport, expensive, and requires training to use. It’s a piece of equipment that is clearly not well suited to work in developing countries with limited budgets and rough working conditions.

Two of physicist Manu Prakash’s students in his Stanford University research lab took on the challenge. They developed a paper-based foldable microscope that costs just 50 cents. Perhaps even more amazing is that it is infinitely more durable than a traditional microscope. And they took it even further, developing more than one kind to provide access to multiple lens types for a variety of diagnoses. Their engineering ingenuity illuminates lifesaving opportunities for millions of people worldwide, for mere pennies.

They didn’t stop there. The students produced this with no written instructions to circumvent language barriers and instead used simple color coding to illustrate how to put it together. The microscope accepts standard slides just as any other microscope would.

Instead of a box, or crate if several traditional microscopes were being shipped, the read to assemble punch out microscopes can be delivered in an envelope or a mere file folder, and no complex use instructions are necessary. At the time of his TEDtalk, June 2012, they were going to press with thousands for the first time to use in trials around the world, astounding, ingenious, and lifesaving all for a price less than a cup of coffee.

Watch Manu Prakash’s talk below to hear about this life-saving creation.


Melissa Galt_072213_0429



A success strategist, speaker, and author, Melissa Galt inspires, leads, and coaches entrepreneurs into achieving outrageous success and building an awesome life.



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