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8 Passport programs to help you destress

Baratunde Thurston in the desert

Welcome to WTIU's all-new Passport Picks blog series, where we'll continue to highlight all the best that Passport offers while digging more deeply into the characters, themes, and reasons behind each recommendation. Every month, we'll suggest shows that are among the staff favorites here at the station, as well as recommendations from you, our WTIU members. I invite you to share your own Passport picks by emailing me at WTIU's membership office. 

Today I'm focused on Passport programming that provides relief from the day-to-day stress that many of us feel especially keenly these days. April is Stress Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to think about the resources we can use to manage stress. Your WTIU PBS Passport member benefit is one of those resources, with content to help you relax and reset. So sit back, get comfy, and enjoy the breath of fresh air that comes with quality programming!

Happy Streaming!

Heather Kogge, Development Coordinator, WTIU/WFIU

All Creatures Great and Small James with cows

All Creatures Great and Small

Hands down, All Creatures Great and Small is my #1 go-to after a stressful day! And I am not alone in finding a sense of serenity in this world of charming characters, adorable animals, and lovely locales. More than any other program, All Creatures gets high praise from WTIU members for providing a calming retreat from the stress of today’s world. From the breathtaking scenery of the Yorkshire Dales to the welcoming warmth of Skeldale house, it’s easy to lose yourself in the world of All Creatures. But the thing I love most is the sense of community created by the characters in the little town of Darrowby—despite their differences, they take care of and support one another. Each episode of All Creatures is a warm hug every time, especially when I need it most. You can feel that hug, too, when you tune in with your WTIU PBS Passport benefit!




You might not expect a list of calming shows to lead off with a pair of drama series, but I just watched the first episode of Poldark, another favorite of Masterpiece fans, and I am hooked. Our Membership Director Eva Zogorski turned me on to it, and now I see what all the love has been about! Not only does Poldark provide a momentary escape as it delivers you seamlessly from your living room couch to a distant time and place, but it also delivers a true hero. Ross Poldark is the kind of good guy we don’t often see anymore in the world of premium channel antiheroes like Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Walter White. While not without his flaws, Poldark’s sense of justice, right, and honor in the face of corruption, greed, and meanness is a shining light that just makes you feel good. And, as Eva and I quite agree, his leading man looks don’t hurt, either! See if you concur when you stream all 5 seasons with your PBS Passport benefit.


Nez Perce girl with horse


Google “how to relieve stress” and your search results will, among other recommendations, suggest spending time outdoors. Research shows that being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and anxiety while increasing pleasant feelings. Perhaps this explains the popularity of the long-running PBS series Nature. I know it does for me and my colleagues here in the WTIU Membership Office. Eva, Darrell, and I all agree that any show featuring animals and the outdoors is an immediate dopamine rush, so of course we tune in to Nature anytime we need a boost! Eva loves the three-episode Cloud series, which chronicles the life of a wild mountain stallion from his birth to his life as a father and grandfather. As a tech-minded production guy, Darrell finds the high-definition filming of Under Antarctic Ice particularly fascinating. For me, nothing is more soothing than watching baby mountain goats learn to climb in First Steps: Born in the Rockies . Find these and your own favorite episodes with your PBS Passport benefit!


Italian coast

Rick Steves’ Europe: Why We Travel

I can’t help but notice that the first three series I’ve listed here appeal to me in large part because they have the power to take me away, to transport me to a world apart from my own, and in so doing, provide a virtual respite from the demands of daily life. What is it about the draw of escape that is so magnetic? What is this human need to leave home, even if only vicariously? For me, travel not only provides a break—a little R & R, if you will—but it also offers a reset button that, when activated, makes me more appreciative of the part of my world that is familiar and routine. This is what I love about watching Rick Steves’ travel programs. As he says in his special Why We Travel, we gain understanding and perspective when we travel. Even when we can’t travel physically, tuning into programs that show us the world makes our lives more meaningful. Develop your traveler’s mindset with Rick Steves and your WTIU PBS Passport benefit any time you want, from anywhere you are!



Simply Ming

Recently, we were chatting here in the WTIU Membership Office about how enjoyable it is to have cooking shows on while we work in our own kitchens—even if we’re not following along with what the TV chef is preparing. There just seems to be something very companionable about the experience. My colleague Darrell mentioned that Ming Tsai is one of his favorites. Ming was a new name to me—even though he has had his PBS cooking show for 18 seasons! But, boy, am I glad to know him now. For much of my adult life, cooking has been a stressful experience. Anything beyond PB&J felt complicated to me, and most cooking shows, with their sophisticated techniques and fancy ingredients, only made me feel more inadequate. It’s different with Ming. Chatting unscripted from a small workstation in his own kitchen that looks pretty much like mine, Ming uses straightforward ingredients to prepare meals in a way that is easy and fun. After a long hard day, cooking alongside Ming—and perhaps a glass of his Ginger Margarita—is the perfect way to decompress!


Peggy Cappy in yoga pose

Easy Yoga with Peggy Cappy

Last weekend, I practiced yoga in a class setting for the first time since early 2020. To be sure, I am far from being an expert yogi—I can’t even begin to do a headstand, and just keeping my balance in a simple warrior pose is a challenge! But this class reminded me how incredibly restorative it is to spend time intentionally thinking about breath, movement, and the mind/body connection. Following the class, my mind felt clear, my soul felt grounded, and my hip flexors actually felt flexible for the first time in years. Talk about stress relief! With your WTIU PBS Passport benefit, anyone at any age can get this same all-over restorative vibe with Easy Yoga with Peggy Cappy—on your own schedule and from the comfort of your own home. Find relief from stress and pain with Peggy’s series of specials including simple moves to soothe arthritis, help manage diabetes, alleviate stress, and increase strength and balance. Your mind and body will thank you!


Bob Ross

The Best of the Joy of Painting with Bob Ross

About five years ago, I noticed my then 14-year-old son and his friends developing an unexpected fascination with Bob Ross, a man who had passed away more than two decades prior. They had come to idolize the PBS fixture for his soothing demeanor, while also gently poking fun at his signature afro and use of iconic phrases like “happy little trees.” These youngsters, whose worlds went on to turn upside down during the pandemic (arguably more so than any other segment of the population), still revere Bob today. And, as it turns out, there is a very scientific reason for this adoration. According to research, Bob’s calming voice, combined with the repetitive task of painting, triggers an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), which is described as a tingling sensation that starts at the base of the neck and spreads down the spine, resulting in a sense of relaxation and well-being. Who knew? Apparently, the young people did. Tune in to your own ASMR with Bob Ross and your PBS Passport benefit!


America Outdoors

America Outdoors

For our final recommendation of this inaugural Passport Picks newsletter, here’s a series that checks all kinds of boxes for stress relief. In America Outdoors, bestselling author Baratunde Thurston takes us, well, outdoors. In addition to showcasing beautiful places across the country, Baratunde digs deep to build connections—connections to nature, to individuals, and to communities. I recently watched the episode entitled Death Valley: Life Blooms, which opens on our host seated in a meditative state on a desert plain in the hottest place on Earth, contemplating these connections and how they work to make us feel alive. He goes on to interview the sole inhabitant of a ghost town; a Black ultramarathon runner; an elder of the Timbisha Shoshone tribe, and others who could be considered loners or outsiders, but who, in following their passions, are building vital connections to the past, the future, and the present. Follow Baratunde’s journeys across America and decompress with your WTIU PBS Passport!


One more thought...

Sometimes we need more than a walk outside, a yoga class, or a good show to help us relieve stress. If you are experiencing stress that feels profound, never-ending, or debilitating, help is available. Reach out to your healthcare provider, a supportive friend or family member, or find resources at the National Institute for Mental Health website. Many employers, including Indiana University, also offer Employee Assistance Programs that provide free support, resources, and referral services.

WTIU PBS Passport viewers can also turn to the 2022 Stress episode of  Second Opinion with Joan Lunden  for a deeper look at the physical and mental health consequences of prolonged stress, as well as professional guidance for getting help.