Working with anxiety

Often, the best of us find ourselves in a place where nothing feels possible. Sometimes, it happens almost every day – and living life becomes toxic, like a constantly ticking bomb. Just yesterday, I came across this comic by Extra Ordinary Comics which illustrates the feeling just right.

17457284_10155030080395429_2435410614697264589_n

Someone on Facebook commented on it saying “Anxiety?”, which was the right word for it. Also, it is very important to be able to articulate what you are feeling – that’s half the job done. The comment did exactly that for me. It put into words what I feel almost every day – or on days that I want to accomplish something (which is every day).

I also came across a book review of the book Thin Slices of Anxiety on Brain Pickings. The illustration below gave me a new perspective on anxiety.

thinslicesofanxiety10

This illustration is a trick that can be used in our day to day lives to deal with anxiety in an effective way. I’ll give you a personal example. Every weekend, I have to travel for 2 hours to get home. Living in two places at one often takes a toll on my mind. Because there are so many things I have to remember to do and to carry that I often find myself worrying about not having some book or a particular pen with me. These things are supposed to make my life easier, and help me write.

Also, this scattered way of living makes me dread the train journeys home – though once I am home, I am happy. But on these dreaded train journeys I’d be worrying about things that I might have forgotten or of the plans I have made that might not work out because the stars won’t align at home. So, the trick that the illustration suggested is to turn your perspective from inside your head to the surroundings around you. Since observing the surroundings around you help with keeping yourself in the present, in the moment. Because you are not stuck thinking about something that happened in the past or some thing that could happen in the future – desirable or undesirable.

It is just like the trick I learned at Vipassana, a form of meditation I find very helpful in dealing with day-to-day living. The Vipassana trick is called Anapana meditation, which is, simply put, being aware of your breath. What being aware of your breath does to me is that it keeps my mind from overthinking – overthinking being one of the things that causes anxiety.

So, while dealing with all this anxiety and resultant stress, getting some actual work done can become almost impossible. But being patient with oneself and not getting disheartened; having some faith in the process and in yourself helps. And though training the mind is a technique that has guaranteed results, sometimes the chaos in our minds tends to get the better of us. There could be numerous reasons for it: being stuck in a difficult work situation, a dislike for the kind of work we’re doing, an inability to focus on the task at hand, distraction caused by social media, or simply a lack of motivation.

So when all else fails, there’s poetry. For more than a year, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Chand roz aur, meri jaan” has been a constant source of reassurance. Here is the complete text of the poem:

731195-Faizs-1404486251

चंद रोज़ और मिरी जान

चंद रोज़ और मिरी जान, फ़क़त चंद ही रोज़ |

ज़ुल्म की छाँव में दम लेने पे मजबूर हैं हम,
और कुछ देर सितम सह लें, तड़प लें, रो लें
अपने अज्दाद की मीरास है, माज़ूर हैं हम |

जिस्म पर क़ैद है, जज़्बात पे ज़ंजीरें हैं,
फ़िक्र महबूस है, गुफ़्तार पे ताज़ीरें हैं |

अपनी हिम्मत है कि हम फिर भी जिए जाते हैं
ज़िंदगी क्या किसी मुफ़लिस की क़बा है, जिस में हर घड़ी दर्द के पैवंद लगे जाते हैं?
लेकिन अब ज़ुल्म की मीआद के दिन थोड़े हैं,
इक ज़रा सब्र कि फ़रियाद के दिन थोड़े हैं |

अरसा-ए-दहर की झुलसी हुई वीरानी में
हम को रहना है पे यूँही तो नहीं रहना है

अजनबी हाथों का बे-नाम गिराँ-बार सितम
आज सहना है हमेशा तो नहीं सहना है |

ये तिरे हुस्न से लिपटी हुई आलाम की गर्द,
अपनी दो रोज़ा जवानी की शिकस्तों का शुमार,
चाँदनी रातों का बेकार दहकता हुआ दर्द,
दिल की बे-सूद तड़प, जिस्म की मायूस पुकार,

चंद रोज़ और मिरी जान फ़क़त चंद ही रोज़ |

For a complete word by word translation of the poem go here. It is quite sad that Mustansir Dalvi has not yet translated this.

Anyway, the poem to me is like an older, wiser person telling me patiently to be patient with myself. It almost feels like a parent who is explaining to me the way the world works and is giving me simple and straightforward advice. Of course it is up to me to take the advice or leave it. But even if I take the advice and try being patient with my failures and rejections, not keeping at the work at hand will bring the house down in no time. And anyway, one can’t really fail or get rejected without trying to get something done.

While all these things seem easier said than done, there is only one way to actually get to doing them – doing them. Instead of spending hours thinking about an undesirable thing that has to be done, just getting it done with will be effective and less time-consuming. It all depends on you – which is a very scary and a very liberating thing at the same time.

So here’s to doing things despite the fear and the anxiety of failure and the possibility of adversity!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s