By Chntan Girish Modi
Anxiety can rob you of health, peace of mind, and happiness. Here’s how to heal and take back your life
To get rid of anxiety, you have to work on it. Think of the root cause of your anxiety. You must analyse it well, and ask yourself – can I do something myself? Do I need the help of a friend, guru, doctor, or psychiatrist? Once you recognise what the problem is, and get ready to deal with it, the road is easy. Life is meant to be blissful – full of relaxation, love and lightness. Here are some specific measures you can take to reduce and eliminate the feeling:
• Removing your attachment to status and position will set you free.
• Taking life as it comes puts you in a meditative state. People expect things to remain the same. They are resistant to change. To be free from anxiety, you must be ready to accept change.
• You have to learn to be courageous. This will remove your tendency to get anxious for every minor thing.
• Faith helps a lot, whether it is in God, your guru, or your own self.
• If you surrender to a higher being, it takes away the feeling of responsibility. You feel calm.
• Acceptance is very important. Going with the tide comes naturally to some people. Others have to cultivate it. Accept your life with confidence. This will give you the inner strength to be able to withstand any kind of calamity.
– Deepa Kodikal
Author of A Journey Within the Self, and Teachings of the Inner Light
Arnav Kapur (name changed), in his late 20s, is overcome with anxiety when faced with exams, interviews and performance. Despite his innate intelligence and capability, his overwhelming feelings have sabotaged his education and career. He finds excuses not to apply for jobs. Thankfully, Arnav recognised that he should do something about this. He is coping better with professional help from psychotherapist and soft skills trainer, Ameeta Sanghavi Shah.
During the process of therapy, Ameeta found out that Arnav grew up in a middle class background. His parents are very education-oriented, but since they were busy during his schooling, Arnav was entrusted to a certain tuition teacher to be disciplined. Due to his lack of assertiveness, Arnav was often at the receiving end, while the mischief-makers went scot-free. He was not only shouted at and humiliated, but also beaten up. Therapy is helping him to be comfortable with himself. Ameeta Sanghavi Shah is helping him build his confidence, and heal past memories using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and regression.
Anisha Deshpande (name changed) is a young mother of two toddlers. She is what you might call chronically anxious. She gets worried about every little thing concerning her kids, even a common cold. Her reaction is generally out of proportion to the situation, and seems to emerge from a dread of losing her kids. Her extreme anxiety affects her throat, and prevents her from expressing herself effectively. With professional intervention from psycho-aromatherapist and life skills coach Minoo Ratan, she has learnt to recognise her triggers for anxiety, and is now getting healed through aromatherapy and bio-energy treatment.
Anxiety comes from a perceived inability to deal with uncertainty. One becomes insecure about oneself. It involves feeling helpless and ill-equipped to handle a situation. A number of reasons can trigger off anxiety in individuals – examination pressure, finding a life partner, having a baby, discomfort with one’s looks, being compared to others, waiting for medical test results, old traumas, guilt, etc. It often comes up at transition time – whether it’s a job, house, relationship, or changes in life cycle – because one is stepping into the unknown. In the case of a person prone to anxiety, the reaction is generally out of proportion with the magnitude of a situation.
Ameeta Sanghavi Shah understands anxiety as a feeling of uneasiness, often indicating the onset of fear. According to her, it is related to concerns about perfection, performance, roles, tasks, and the future in general. It is associated with expectations, desire for certainty, and wanting to feel good and secure. She says, “In fact, a little bit of anxiety is helpful. We can use it to cope better.” This is quite true. Many of us get anxious before an exam, a public speech, or a business presentation, but this does not impair our functioning. The anxiety is short-term, and it helps us to prepare ourselves to act according to the situation, evaluate things for ourselves, and react to danger. It holds the potential for bringing out the best in us. Even seasoned performers do go through anxiety before going on stage.
How to spot the difference between healthy concern, and potentially disabling anxiety? According to John Illman, in the book, Use your brain to beat Panic and Anxiety, an anxiety disorder may be indicated if a person has experienced some of the following symptoms more often than not during the past six months (when triggered by anxious feelings):
• Restlessness, or feeling on edge
• Tiring quickly
• Inability to control feelings of anxiety
• Difficulty concentrating, or inability to focus on anything
• Short temper/frustration/irritability
• Muscle tension
• Disturbed sleep patterns (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless sleep).
Alternatively, if a person feels anxious most, or all of the time, over a prolonged period in the absence of any of the above additional factors, this may also indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder.
Forms of Anxiety
Anxiety occurs in individuals at different levels. For some, it may be short-term, but it can cause long-term problems for others. Some people can alleviate their anxiety on their own by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Others are severe cases and require treatment, without which their anxiety will become progressively worse. The kind of anxiety that threatens physical and mental health is usually persistent, excessive and prolonged.
When anxiety becomes intense, it can manifest in the form of panic attacks and phobias. According to Illman, a panic attack is a sudden devastating bout of acute anxiety. One experiences sudden, intense fear and feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath and chest pain. Phobia refers to an intense fear of a particular object or situation. Illman also draws attention to agoraphobia, the fear of leaving a place of safety. This can lead a person to avoid places or situations from which he might find it difficult or embarrassing to escape. Anxiety can also sow the seeds of depression.
A very extreme form of anxiety disorder is the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There are two parts to it – an obsession which is an anxiety area, and a compulsion which is a repetitive action giving you a sense that you have acquired control. Of course, this is not real control. It is only a sense of temporary relief. For instance, someone who is obsessed about preventing himself from disease might feel compelled to wash his hands frequently. This ritualistic activity gives him some reassurance, but it does not last long.
In general, anxiety has adverse effects on the body, mind and spirit. The body tenses, leading to muscle tension. Increased palpitation, headache, acidity, indigestion, nail biting, dryness of the mouth, restlessness, sleep disorders, addictions and skin disorders are common occurrences. People suffering from anxiety disorders are at an increased risk from a heart attack. The person suffering from anxiety may engage in avoidant behaviour. He may also become irritable, because anxiety disrupts the normal functioning of his routine, and does not let him concentrate on work. If the mind is not clear or stable, one tends to make wrong and hasty decisions. It saps him of energy, and affects the people around. He can also get into deviative behaviour patterns like smoking and drinking.
Freedom from Anxiety
Incorporate these suggestions in your life, and you will certainly say goodbye to anxiety.
• Making lists of tasks to do will help you remember and prioritise.
• Use a diary or timetable to keep track of deadlines and appointments.
• If your anxiety comes from being overworked, try delegating responsibilities. When someone else takes it up, don’t fuss too much as long as the work is being done efficiently. People have different ways of doing the same thing.
• Practise self-talk. Tell yourself that you can cope with the current situation, despite the challenge it poses. Simultaneously, take a deep breath and breathe out slowly. Imagine all tension draining away as your body fills with new energy.
• Anxiety is motivated by thoughts related to the past and the future. Allow yourself to enjoy the present moment.
• Get more information on things that trouble you. That will deal with your unreasonable fears, and help you make better-informed choices.
• Take a break, and allow yourself to recuperate at your own pace.
• Carry on with your life, but suspend unnecessary concerns. Begin to ignore and ruthlessly discard what isn’t strictly your business.
• Louise Samways, in the book, The 12 Secrets of Health and Happiness, suggests that turning anxiety into specific fears is helpful. If you feel anxiety as a generalised sensation, turn it into a specific fear, and do what you can about that. She writes, “If you are frightened of dying, work out exactly what bothers you about death. Is it the process of dying that worries you? Are you concerned about what will happen to your family? Do you have religious concerns? Are you bothered by the thought of your spouse marrying someone else? Get help to deal with the practical aspect of your fears; good counselling will help you with the spiritual or emotional aspects.”
• Nicola Jenkins, in her book, Learn to relax: How to feel calmer and more in control of your life, talks about creating a haven. She writes, “A haven can be found or built anywhere. It should be a space where you feel totally comfortable and secure, where you can control the sights, sounds and textures, and where you also have some control over who attracts your attention. In your haven, you can relax and recuperate from the daily grind.” In this space, use lighter colours and softer shades to keep you calm. Pick blues, pink and mauves over reds, oranges, and yellows. Try space-cleansing agents like wind chimes, or play soothing classical music to rest your nerves. Use dim lighting or candles. Add plants if you like. They take in carbon dioxide, and release oxygen during respiration. Increased oxygen helps you think more clearly. If possible, change things in the décor that disturb you. Get rid of clutter. If you need to have many things around, organising them will be useful. If your clutter involves paperwork and similar activities, set aside time to deal with it.
• Yoga teacher Shameem Akthar prescribes paschimottanasana (seated forward bend), uttanasana (standing forward bend), yoga mudra (psychic union), viparita karani mudra (inverted pose), and shashankasana – all forward bends ensuring that the blood flow to the brain is calming and soothing. Among pranayamas, the brahmari (humming bee) and ujjayi (victory breath) are anxiety-relieving, while among dhyanas, yoga nidra is commonly used as therapy for excessive anxiety. She emphasises that all poses must be done slowly instead of fast, to ensure that there is no sympathetic nervous system (or pingala nadi) stimulation.
• Meditation is a very effective way of managing anxiety. There are different kinds of meditation. Follow a technique that suits you. Kamla Tina, Ex-Transcendental Meditation teacher, elaborates on its benefits. “Transcendental Meditation helps you get in touch with your inner self. When you are in touch, your power is tremendous. You have the power to encounter anything because you know that you are not just an ordinary being. You know this not at an intellectual level, but at the experiential level. There is no anxiety. Instead, there is a confidence that you are being taken care of by an infinite power.”
• Creative visualisation is a potent method to beat anxiety. Imagine the anxiety producing situation, and how you will keep your calm. Visualise yourself in the situation vividly – the clothes you are wearing, the colour of the room, the appearance of the other people, etc. Visualise that you are calm, and in control, and that you were able to stand up to the situation. Repeat this procedure several times.
• Other methods of treatment include: counselling, psychotherapy, aromatherapy, autogenic training, homoeopathy, reiki, pranic healing, hypnosis, past-life regression, massage, music therapy, etc.
• Anti-depressant drugs may also be prescribed by a qualified professional.
Ameeta Sanghavi Shah: (0)9820746338 email@example.com
Minoo Ratan: (0) 9820428724
Deepa Kodikal: (0) 9821890619
Shameem Akthar firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicola Jenkins, Learn to relax: How to feel calmer and more in control of your life; John Illman, Use your brain to beat Panic and Anxiety: courtesy Crossword Bookstore.
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