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Sunday, 12 July 2015





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Anxiety - another name for challenge

During my second year of the University of New Delhi, a chance came up for me to spend the summer holidays working on a dairy farm located in the foothill of Mount Kinabalu, East Malaysian state of Sabah. My friends used to tell me that the farm offers one of the most amazing scenery one could envision, with the majestic Mount Kinabalu overlooking miles of beautiful green pastures.

The idea of spending six weeks on this fabled farm was exciting. After two days, however, I began to have second thoughts. What would it be like in a strange country? What about the language? And besides, I had promised a friend that I would spend the holidays with him in his home-town in Bangalore. The more I thought about it, the more the prospect daunted me.

In the end I turned down the proposition. A couple of weeks later, I visited Bangalore. It was a spoilt holiday. I felt very low. I had a guilty and nagging feeling for turning down something I wanted to do because I was scared, and had ended up feeling depressed. And it didn't help when I went back to university after the vacation to discover that my replacement who went to Malaysia had a terrific time.

In the long run that unhappy summer vacation taught me a valuable lesson out of which I developed a rule for myself: do what makes you anxious. Don't do what makes you depressed.

I am not, of course, talking about severe states of anxiety or depression which require medical attention. What I mean is that kind of anxiety we call fright, butterflies in the stomach, a case of nerves - the feelings we have at a important job interview or when we are giving a big party where VIPs are in attendance or when we have to make an important presentation at the office.

Three Ways to Break Free from Anxiety for Good:

(1) Fix it

If you are plagued by anxiety then fix it. Don't delay because that keeps your body in 'fight or flight' mode. Anxiety results in feeling out of control so identify what you do have control over and act on it. Only self-doubt will keep you from taking action but taking action builds self-trust - and self-trust reduces anxiety. For example if you're worried about finance apply for that job or reduce your outgoings; if you're worried about your health, see a doctor or enrol with a health coach. Facing the fear is empowering.

(2) If it can't be fixed then let it go

Sounds too simple? Don't complicate it. The art of letting go will serve you well if you take it seriously. If there's something that's creating a lot of anxiety that you have no control over, write it down and put it in a special place and ask the 'future' to take care of it.

This is radical acceptance and a way of engaging the compassionate self to bring about more clarity and self-love. Accepting the way things are stops inner conflict in its tracks and replaces it with a healing presence that lays in the sacred space underneath our thoughts.

(3) Bring your attention into this moment

Now you've either fixed the anxiety or let it go, bring your focus into the present moment. Become aware of your current thoughts and feelings. This brings clarity into why you focus on the future and helps to reframe your intention to strive for a more peaceful mind.

As you are reading these words take all your attention from your over analytical mind and escort it to your breath. Focus on your breath for one minute. Hear the anxious words as if you were listening to someone else but know they are an old habit and you no longer have to obey them. Know that, in this moment, everything is fine and just as it should be.

The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard believed that anxiety always arise when we confront the possibility of our own development. It seems to be a rule of life that you cannot advance without getting that old, familiar, jittery feeling. Even as children we discover this when we try to expand ourselves by, say, learning to ride a bicycle or going out for a school play.

Later in life we get butterflies when we think about having that first child, or uprooting the family from the hometown to find a better opportunity half across the country. Anytime, it seems, that we set out aggressively to get something we want, we meet up with anxiety. And it is going to be our traveling companion. At least part of the way, into any new venture.

Since I've practiced these steps I've discovered lightness and ease that has replaced the anxiety. I now see that my need to try and control the future left me no room to enjoy today.

The drive to control every outcome has left me, yet nothing outside has changed. I had been trying to find happiness but instead I've learnt to be free of unhappiness. My greatest achievement has been to embrace uncertainty and learn to trust that everything is, and will be,

Final point

The point is that the new, the different, is almost by definition scary. But each time you try something, you learn, and as the learning piles up, the world opens to you. I've taken so many risks and challenges in life. Few have failed. And I know I am going to go on doing such things. It is not because I am braver or more daring than others. I am not. But I don't let butterflies stop me from doing what I want. I have accepted anxiety as another name for challenge.

If you can do that, nobody can stop you accomplishing those wonders.


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