14/05/2015 8:25 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Anxiety And The Internal Balancing Board

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Anxiety affects the best of us. As much as we try to stay calm, meditate and find avenues to learn to relax, we often fall prey to this vicious beast. For all the external agents that exist almost custom made to affect us, there is a lifejacket that shields us from drowning -- our internal balancing board.

Recently, I had gotten overwhelmed. My life seemed to be unfolding in front of my eyes, but I felt I had no control over the situation. Having secured good health and maintaining a positive attitude, I had learned how to protect myself from the disruptions. But under my smiles and my continued willingness to be there for others, there brewed an imbalance that no level of discipline shielded me from.

The imbalance manifested itself in physical ailments. As I went from patient to patient preaching about the importance of letting go and not allowing our travails to overtake our system - I was doing just the opposite. I may have learned how to stay afloat but the water I was swimming in was getting deeper and more dangerous. While my breathing kept me in check, my body was getting tired of the added weight I was willingly choosing to retain. Claiming that I was doing it for others was an easy excuse but the reality was that I was setting myself up for sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

"I had to learn that selflessness shouldn't compromise the necessary selfishness needed for balance in our lives."

And that moment almost happened. The anxiety that I thought had left my body with my cancer came back in a flash, as my mind and body were no longer in sync. I watched myself take off my lifejacket and quickly see my head immersed under water. I began to recite the Navkar Mantra realising that my time was coming to an end. The irony of having reversed an end-stage metastatic cancer diagnosis and then falling victim to a fatal anxiety attack played in my mind. But somewhere between countless recitations, I noticed that I was improving. In essence, coming to peace with my fate rescued me from my own demise.

For me, in that moment, I was once again in control. My internal balancing board had given me the strength and energy needed to return to safer waters. But I had to make changes to correct this imbalance. Of course, saying is easier than doing and I am still a work in progress.

While I found the cure for my anxiety, it was my responsibility for my mind and my body to not go to these extremes again. I went to the doctor to make sure that a physical condition wasn't masquerading as anxiety. As expected, my tests were all normal. I knew I had to write my own prescription.

The first pill I took was learning to say no. The second pill was a maintenance dose of accepting that I couldn't control everything. The third and final pill was probably the most potent and hardest to swallow. I had to learn that selflessness shouldn't compromise the necessary selfishness needed for balance in our lives. Too often we invest too much time and energy in others forsaking our own health in exchange. But without being in good health ourselves, we can't be there for others.

In truth, the anxiety I had added wasn't mine. In the name of healing, I was actually adding the stress of others on to my life. It perhaps was the easiest way to provide comfort but it actually backfired and left me drowning.

We are all interconnected and we can't just stay on our own island. But whether we choose to swim in our own rafts or not, we all need to wear our own lifejackets. We can only control our own internal balancing board so it's vital that whether its anxiety or its depression we must not just keep breathing but stay afloat in the sanest and tamest of waters - letting the stream heal us.

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