How News Anchor Robin Meade Confronted the Anxiety that Almost Ended Her Career

Photo of news anchor Robin Meade wearing a red dress

Photo courtesy of Robin Meade

Key Takeaways

  • The host of “Morning Express with Robin Meade” says that panic attacks nearly ended her career as a news reporter. 
  • Therapy and other forms of mental health support helped her find ways to manage anxiety and rebuild her confidence. 
  • She’s now the longest-running anchor at a national morning TV news program and has written books about her mental health journey. 

Tuning into HLN’s “Morning Express with Robin Meade,” it’s hard to believe that panic attacks nearly stopped the confident, vivacious host’s career in its tracks.

The first one happened on live TV when she was 26 years old. Meade, who was working as a local reporter in Chicago at the time, had been given a script for a breaking news story. Like many times before, she stood in front of the camera, ready to go on air. But this time, her mind zeroed in on one thought: “What if I screw this up?”

“I refer to it as the thought that ate me. I couldn’t breathe,” says Meade. 

This wasn’t a one-off. Anxiety and panic attacks began happening every time Meade had a live show, threatening not only her job, but her identity as an on-air news broadcaster.

“Anxiety can impair functioning in all domains of life, and our careers are unfortunately no exception,” explains Elisabeth Netherton, MD, a psychiatrist with MindPath Care Centers, a Community Psychiatry Practice. “People struggling with anxiety often describe their thoughts feeling out of control, with catastrophic thinking.”

While more public-facing than most people, Meade’s not alone in her struggles with anxiety. It’s the most common mental health condition in the country, and she’s one of a whopping 40 million adults who experience anxiety.

With the help of a therapist and some creative techniques (including mandala art therapy), Meade has spent the last two decades learning how to quiet her anxiety and stop its debilitating impact on her work. She has since written about her experience in the bestselling book, “Morning Sunshine!” and is now the longest-running anchor at a national morning TV news program. 

We sat down with Meade to learn more about her mental health journey. Here’s what she had to say.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Verywell Mind: How were you affected by your first panic attack?

Robin Meade: I can laugh about it now, but it was so demoralizing for me. It made me think I was crazy. This was before anybody talked about anxiety attacks or panic disorders. I actually asked for the next day off because I was so afraid it was going to happen again—and it did keep happening, but only at the start of new shows, not in the rest of my life. I defined myself as an on-air news anchor broadcaster. This was what I got educated to do, and here I was about to lose it.

It got to the point where I let my co-anchors know about it and told them that if I started having breathing problems, I’d tap them on the knee as a sign they should take over. As it affected me more and more, I started to worry I’d be the woman who went back home to my class reunion, having lost my job and my house. My brain went from zero to 60 in a matter of seconds.

Verwell Mind: When did you decide to get help?

Robin Meade: The first thing that happened was my mom made me go to a doctor to get my heart checked out. But there was nothing—my heart was perfectly healthy and there were no signs of anything in my brain, either. My doctor said he could send me to a psychologist, but I was very resistant to that.

The panic attacks kept being a problem, though, and my husband could see that we were in a heap of trouble. So he mentioned it to his chiropractor, who happened to be an expert in human behavior and had counseled people through anxiety. He told me I had to talk to her, and that she was coming over right now. 

Robin Meade

An anxiety attack about whether I was going to do a good job or mess it up also fed into whether I willing to tell anybody that I needed help.

— Robin Meade

That’s when the ’s’ hit the fan. I was so afraid of telling people and that the television columnist in town would get word of it and print it and it would ruin my career. Isn’t it strange how anxiety feeds upon itself? An anxiety attack about whether I was going to do a good job or mess it up also fed into whether I willing to tell anybody that I needed help.

I did end up meeting with her and she was able to help me identify what was going on. And for the past 20 years, I've talked with her every three weeks on Sunday mornings. People ask me why I keep going, even though I don’t have panic attacks anymore. But I've learned to look at therapy as the ultimate self-care. Therapy can be very difficult and painful, but its benefits are directly related to the amount of work put into it. The result can be a better understanding of yourself and your journey. 

Verywell Mind: What did therapy teach you about your anxiety?

Robin Meade: My therapist was able to help me see that I had this whole image of myself built up around what I do for a living. The panic attacks were about whether I was perfect enough to be this news anchor. 

At the time, if a consultant said that my hair was too long, I would chop it off. If they told me red lipstick wasn’t my thing, I would ban it. If they said my laugh was a little bit distracting, I would never laugh again. I was so busy filling the prescription of what other people were telling me was the perfect news anchor that I was throwing away little authentic bits of myself, instead of being myself.

She was able to help me understand why I do these things, and why something in my life that had so much meaning became this roadblock. I realized that it’s actually the mistakes I make and the authentic qualities about myself that people can identify with. To get to that place, I had to bend my brain and see the benefits of the very thing I feared: panic attacks. That gave them permission to stop coming. 

Verywell Mind: What techniques have you found to be most effective at calming your anxiety?

Robin Meade: I try to stay in the present. We have anxiety because we can't predict the future, so we need to find ways to keep our minds in the present moment. One way to do that is to be grateful. It forces you to look around and think about what you’re thankful for right now.

I’m thankful for my red Nikes that I have on right now, and that I’m comfortable standing here. Staying in the present doesn’t mean you can’t have plans, but sometimes with panic, you can really worry about the future, so it helps. 

Robin Meade

Drawing mandalas quiets my brain and helps me tap into stillness in a way I could not do with meditation. It makes me tune into myself. 

— Robin Meade

People talk about how great meditation is for their mental wellbeing and creativity. I try it, but all I hear is my own voice thinking and speaking to myself.

mandala drawing by Robin Meade

Courtesy of Robin Meade

But I’ve found another way to tap into the stillness—drawing mandalas. They come from Buddhism, and they can be helpful for anxiety. Drawing mandalas quiets my brain and helps me tap into stillness in a way I could not do with meditation. It makes me tune into myself. 

Verywell Mind: You’ve done so much with your career. What advice can share about striking a balance between pursuing your goals and taking care of yourself?

Robin Meade: When I defined myself in one way—as a journalist—that was what my entire life was. But there are seven areas of life: spiritual, mental, physical, familial, occupational, financial, and social. At any given time, you're going to be giving more to one area of your life. You can't be expected to be completely balanced in all of those things. Recognizing that you have different responsibilities and that you are different things at different times, combined with a little forgiveness, goes a long way.

Verywell Mind: What’s the top thing you hope people can learn from reading about your mental health journey?

Robin Meade: When you see someone in the public eye, it’s easy to imagine that their life is perfect. But it’s important to remember that we all have challenges, and most of them are within ourselves. I want people to know that it’s OK to reach out and ask for help and that you’re not alone. 

What This Means For You

Have anxiety or panic attacks made an impact on your career? You’re not alone. Anxiety affects around 40 million U.S. adults, including Robin Meade, the longest-running anchor at a national morning TV news program. Her first panic attack occurred on live TV in the late 1990s and she thought it would end her career.

Years of therapy have helped her uncover the root of her anxiety and find ways to cope with it. Drawing mandalas and practicing gratitude help still her mind and keep her in the present moment. She hopes others will learn from her story and understand that, with support, anxiety doesn’t have to stop you from fulfilling your dreams.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Facts & Statistics.

By Joni Sweet
Joni Sweet is an experienced writer who specializes in health, wellness, travel, and finance.